Cultural Perspective :: Japan Fashion with Izumi Miyachi

I had a great time chatting with Izumi Miyachi, a lecturer for the Spring semester at the Graduate School of Journalism, who is teaching a class on “Reporting on Japan”. She will be returning to Japan on May 23rd, so it's a good thing BARE got a chance to snatch an interview and get some personal insight ...

Tell me a little about yourself?
Well, I was a deputy editor of the Lifestyle & Culture Section of Yomiuri Shimbun, the largest daily newspaper company in Japan, until I came here to Berkeley, but now I'm a research fellow. I have been covering fashion since 1990. When I joined my company my goal was never to cover fashion, but to be a correspondent working in International Relations - so what I’m doing now is totally different from what I wanted to do. But, I began to find fashion very interesting. It definitely took some time to get used to because when I started writing about fashion it wasn’t so popular and most people considered fashion to be more superficial.

I remember you told me you were the first to attend Fashion Week from your company, how did that happen?
Oh yes, I read a lot of other English newspapers like the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune and the biggest difference was the articles on fashion, especially Fashion Week in Milan or Paris. So, I proposed to my boss, “if you want to be more prestigious as a newspaper company you need to cover fashion abroad”. They didn’t listen; it took 3 years of persistence with constant reminders at lunches and dinners to persuade them. Eventually, my boss understood the whole situation and agreed to begin covering fashion. So, I was the first reporter to cover Fashion Week every season covering Paris, Milan and New York.

Woooo, how exciting! It must have been so glamorous to attend Fashion Week and all those shows...
Well, see that’s what everyone thinks, that its gla-a-a-morous, but it’s actually not. You see, I was not attending the shows as a customer or celebrity; so covering fashion week was actually tough work. When I first started attending it was real hard to get a seat because I wasn’t well known. My first season was all ST (standing), and so I had to stand, sit where there was a seat or climb to an area where I could get a good view. You don’t call that glamorous you see. Of course there were parties and receptions, but I couldn’t attend because I spent my nights writing my articles. As a newspaper reporter or journalist you have to go to fashion shows you don’t want to see or that you don’t like. My worst day, I saw 10 fashion shows and I didn’t have time for lunch or the bathroom.

Besides the starvation and running around everywhere, what kept you going?
Oh, when I saw a truly good show it made up for everything, all the work I did! It didn’t happen often, and after seeing so many shows you can tell which are good and which are bad. Some can be very boring.

Well, you just mentioned you can tell what’s good/bad, what’s the criteria in your eyes that make a good fashion show?
Of course it’s a matter of design, but this is a good and difficult question ... Well, it’s the balance of the whole show. The location of their show, the length of the show, and the music because its important, it can change the atmosphere of the show. The most important is design.

Ok, if you had a choice of all designers in the world, who would you prefer and why?
I would definitely say
Comme des Garcons designed by Rei Kawakubo. She’s a Japanese designer and people in fashion will and should know Ray Kawakubo. I’m very proud that she’s a Japanese designer, her style is very avant-garde and her designs empower women in many ways. She started fashion shows in Paris in the beginning of the 1980’s and she’s been very influential to young designers. Especially Marc Jacobs, I believe he’s a great fan of her work/designs. At first, her clothes might seem strange; it’s a different sense of beauty from the Western perspective. When I first attended her show, I didn’t know how to write about it and ended up not writing about her show the first season I attended... Students should try to write about a fashion show, it’s a good exercise.

Well, what do you think are important things to incorporate into a fashion show article?
What is unique and new about the designs. First you should be able to read from the clothes what the designer is trying to express. But, to do that you need to study and understand the history and techniques of the clothes themselves. You can discuss the lengths and shapes of the clothes but that’s not enough, it’s only the beginning. You must know or study the history of fashion, or know more about fabrics and how they are made, and also know what’s happening in society. Many designers feel the atmosphere and try to express what’s happening in society into their designs and you must be able to read that. And all that should be incorporated into your writing.

What is your favorite magazine to read and why?
I like Vogue. Some of their articles are very interesting to me, because they write about all kinds of women, working women and they try to empower women. I also enjoy their advertisements, and seeing what companies and brands they choose to feature in their magazine.

Last time we spoke I remember that job hunting in Japan is a bit different from the US?
Students in their senior year have to take an exam held about once a year by the company and individuals who pass the exam then go on to interview.

Wow, that’s strange...
Well, some people work freelance and have contracts with several companies but you can’t make much money. To work in the fashion industry it’s better to work for an international company. Also, internships are not so popular in Japan as they are here in the US.

What did you experience as a cultural shock in terms of fashion at Berkeley?
Well, people in Berkeley don’t seem to be so interested in fashion or they are interested but have their own individual styles and are content, meaning I don’t see the majority of people following trends. Whereas in Japan they are very trendy and follow the fast pace changes in fashion.

What would you consider a Japanese contribution to fashion?
I think in many ways such as Deco Art, or the way people put together their clothes. Street fashion started during the 1990’s in Japan and ordinary people have been most powerful in the direction of trends by creating and altering their own clothes.

Any advice or last words you would like to mention:
One thing to remember when you become involved within the fashion industry is to stay humble and remember why you first entered the industry. Also, if you’re an undergrad student don’t concentrate too much in fashion because you have to study other things and know more about your society, culture, business, etc.

Thanks Izumi!

Izumi, is such a sweetheart and her presence was so welcoming, I had a lot of fun in the interview! Below are some links she shared about Japan's fashion, art and culture, so take a look! They are really cute! If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering about their crazy nail art designs – there’s a link specifically on that so check that out. She won’t be leaving till May 23rd so if you see her on campus, don’t be shy and say “hi”.

(Click on My Kawaii)

(You can see about Deco (nail and glitzy art) Art at the bottom)

(So much fun. Lots of information)

Jooyoun Kim
BARE Events Director

1 comment:

  1. So eloquent! We're definitely going to be seeing more and more Japanese designers emerge in the next decade. I owe the whole futuristic inspirations partially to what they've been doing best.