Non•no vs. CanCam: Girls’ Girls vs. Boys’ Girls

Non•no faced a rough lead-up to the 21st century. From a peak circulation of 971,020 in the second-half of 1995, the famed biweekly female fashion magazine bled readers until reaching 324,736 in the bottom of 2005 (Audit Bureau of Circulation figures). After adding Tanaka Miho (田中美保) as mascot model in early 2006, however, Non•no appears to have stopped the readership hemorrhaging and has successfully moved back up to a 440,870 circulation (2007 printer-certified). The June 22 copy of daily fashion newspaper Senken Shimbun featured the front page article “Feminine & Layered: Young Brands are Recovering,” citing Non•no‘s revival and Tanaka’s popularity as key reasons behind the increased sales of young women’s casual brands.

Thanks to the tried-and-true technique of using senzoku models to create relatable personages who represent the magazine, Non•no has again become competitive to the “red-letter” (赤文字系) magazine genre represented by CanCam, JJ, and Ray. While the Non•no average reader age does not differ much from that of CanCam, the former attracts a broader range of readers than the narrow band of college students and OLs who read the latter. According to Senken, the brands featured in Non•no still attract women in their 30s who enjoyed a similar style of layered street fashion in the 1990s.

In terms of content and editorial, however, there could not be a wider gulf between the two magazines. Non•no has no clear overarching narrative in the way that the serious pursuit of an affluent boyfriend/husband underlies every single page of CanCam. There are almost no references to boys in an entire issue of Non•no. For example, two of the main Non•no models  visit Disneyland in the July 5 issue for an advertorial spread as a pair — rather than on a date. Overall, the contents of Non•no tend to create a private consumer world for young women where boys, occupation, and social pressure do not intrude.

This sets the tone for the fashion pages: Non•no mostly concentrates on “cute” but ultimately casual outfits, where skill is demonstrated through a mastery of complex layering techniques. The CanCam buzzword “elegance” is not an appropriate descriptor. There is a total lack of European luxury brands in Non•no, which almost seems to protect readers from such adult issues as social status and socioeconomic class. If CanCam is about the proper ascent into adulthood, Non•no is about the quiet avoidance of growing up. All in all, the editors of Non•no seem completely unconcerned with advising their readers on how to conform to the standards and tastes of other parties, organizations, or individuals. Girls just want to be girls. Wardrobes don’t fulfill functional roles of work or love — they just are fun.

Tanaka Miho perfectly embodies this more nonchalant and personal approach to fashion and lifestyle. She may not top the lists of Japanese men’s favorite model, but she is not positioned for such competition. She’s a girl’s girl. If Ebihara Yuri from CanCam represents the “perfect embodiment of Japanese men’s desires,” Tanaka Miho is the standout “every girl” who is cute in her “everyday way.” The Non•no look is often described as “feminine” — but this suggests “female-consumed ideas of femininity” rather than a construct for men’s desires. CanCam readers imitate Ebi-chan in their aspiration to reach her powerful levels of attractiveness, but Non•no readers gain self-confidence and respite from seeing Tanaka Miho’s unassuming charm as one close to their own.

This article originally appeared on the Diamond Agency blog clast.

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7 Responses to “Non•no vs. CanCam: Girls’ Girls vs. Boys’ Girls”

  1. Chuck F Says:

    I demand similar Psycho-analysis as to what the readers of EGG are aspiring for!(I have no clue how that subculture still manages to function, besides maybe there being a bunch of tribes of them roaming around the urban landscapes of Gunma)

    But anyway, more semi-releated extremly tangential questions that I don’t expect you to have answers for but since your article brought them up in my mind, might as well throw them out there, in case someone might.

    So who’s winning the war here for the clothing and make-up of the young women? I suppose we could throw in Soup and Spring with Non-No as being highly similar/ same fashion base? Then Can-Cam and JJ Ray and Vivi(might be pushing it a bit to include this though) can go together. Although your old numbers show it’s certianly the older sister group, hoping perhapes there is a change/prediction for one. Also who the bloody appointed Ebihara “to be the prefect embodiment of Japanese Men’s desires”? Is this just what CanCam would like it’s readers to belive?

    Can we trace any type of history as to why these Magazines with decades long history ended up targeting these specific fashion groups/images(or who exactly made up these image groups we have now? I also find It hard to belive, yet possible, that the magazines are just copying each other and building on each other’s style).

    Was Non-No alwayls for more independent types, even back in it’s around a millon copies a month time, while CanCam, campus days, was doing around 100,000-300,000?(just recalling from when I was looking at this really old data 6 months ago, it’s possible my numbers are entirely wrong). If so, can we say that Japanese youngsters have actually gotten less independent, self-confident in thier fashion and lifestyle, and instead need someone to aspire to be, that the media tells them is good(thus the success of senzoku models)?

    Which leads me into if you could give me any reading suggestions at all on what happended around the early 90’s to go from basically everyone looking the same(with a few subcultures) to the fact that we now have the privilage to be able to make comparsions like the one you just made in thie article, with mainstream fashion groups looking as diverse as One-kei vs Girly VS Ero-Kawaii(i mean these people look like they really did step out of entirely different areas with huge background differences), I would love you.

  2. Chuck F Says:

    One Blog Comment: a preview your post button or editing capabilities would be awesome, just realized how little sense my previous post made due to grammar and spelling errors Galore.

    Sorry about that

  3. W. David Marx Says:

    I demand similar Psycho-analysis as to what the readers of EGG are aspiring for!

    Demographically-speaking, Egg is most likely readers from non-urban Kanto – Gunma, Ibaraki, Chiba. Many have suggested they are working class. Definitely “delinquent” in a broad sense – at least with the function of their fashion. I don’t think readership sharing between Egg and a “good girl” magazine like Nonno is that frequent.

    I suppose we could throw in Soup and Spring with Non-No as being highly similar/ same fashion base?

    Spring strikes me as one-step more “artistic” or “fashion forward.” They’ve got tie-ups with Maison Martin Margiela.

    Also who the bloody appointed Ebihara “to be the prefect embodiment of Japanese Men’s desires”?

    This is how she is sold, and I think the message resonates to a certain degree.

    If so, can we say that Japanese youngsters have actually gotten less independent, self-confident in thier fashion and lifestyle, and instead need someone to aspire to be, that the media tells them is good(thus the success of senzoku models)?

    I wouldn’t go this far. Senzoku models aren’t that new – they are just being used more efficiently. Nonno started in the 70s, and I am sure this current editorial voice is based on the needs of readers today, rather than a legacy of the early days. There used to be the “An-Non-zoku” of female consumers, but I don’t see the current incarnation of Nonno inspiring anyone to much action.

    if you could give me any reading suggestions at all on what happended around the early 90’s to go from basically everyone looking the same(with a few subcultures)

    The 90s really saw the explosion in subcultures in both female and male fashion, but there were definitely differences between taste and class cultures before that. The difference was, rural JD’s and runaways didn’t have their own fashion magazines. Now they have Egg.

  4. Julián Ortega Martínez Says:

    David, I don’t know how “off-topic” would this question be but… how would you “classify” magazines such as MISS, BAILA, éf or MAQUIA? Thanks in advance.

  5. André Says:

    It would be interesting to read about teen mags too (Popteen, Seventeen, etc).

  6. W. David Marx Says:

    MAQUIA, BAILA, ef, and MISS are all for women in their late 20s, early 30s. Post CanCam. Maquia is mostly about cosmetics.

    It would be interesting to read about teen mags too (Popteen, Seventeen, etc).

    Noted.

  7. ‘breaking down consumer and media insights in japan’ « do you love? Says:

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