Aya Tsukioka says she got the idea for her new clothing line from the ninja, stealth martial artists who can blend into any surrounding. She's created a kimono that folds out to make a full-sized vending machine, inside which its wearer can hide; a purse that expands to a photorealistic manhole cover; a kids' backpack that mimics the design of a pay phone.
The designs, while impractical, nod to very real fears in Japan. But according to the New York Times they don't necessarily fit reality: Crime in Japan, at just one-seventh the rate in the US, is actually trending downward.
But the camo couture also speaks to a Japanese trait of laying low, rather than fighting back, as Americans might. "It is just easier for Japanese to hide," Ms. Tsukioka said. "Making a scene would be too embarrassing."
For Muslims in an era of post-9/11 fear and stereotyping, survival garb might include something more overt but with room for secrecy. Artist Azra Aksamija, an MIT architecture Ph.D. candidate studying with Krzysztof Wodiczko, has created the Dirndlmoschee (Dirndl Dress Mosque). Designed after the daily outfit still worn by some women in Austria, the piece includes a silk scarf that can be used as a veil, an apron that converts to a prayer mat, and a belt that holds a compass on a caribiner (for finding the direction of Mecca) and prayer beads.
Her Survival Mosque is site-specific for the United States. The burka is covered with the stars and stripes, but a closer look reveals much more:
The mosque is self-sufficient; the prayer rug is supplying its own energy source via photo-voltaic solar cells. It also carries different liturgical and practical features such as washing solution for ablution and for cleaning when a Muslim get spit on, ear plugs against insults, American constitution proofing rights of American Muslims, weapons and amulets, a loud-speaker with speech on tolerance held by President George W. Bush, ablution slippers, Quran, educative books and diverse communication devices. The Survival Mosque can be transformed and camouflaged into interactive bags, which communicate with each other via blue-tooth technology. The bag-speakers reflect paranoia spreading messages regarding terrorism, but they can also function as muezzins; calling for prayer at particular prayer times.