#15 Tadashi Shoji
2012-09-06 / Interview and Text: Toshiyuki Shibata, Video and Editing: Randy Havens, Creative Direction: Hitoshi Sagaseki
Tadashi Shoji is a Japanese fashion designer living in Los Angles. His designs have won a loyal following with worldwide celebrities. We had a short interview with him after his show in the New York Fashion Week Spring 2013 talking about this season’s collection, stories of his youth and supports for Earthquake and Tsunami relief of Japan.
Interview with Tadashi Shoji
– Could you tell us about your Spring/Summer Collection 2013?
The theme of the collection is “virtual travel” along the Modern Silk Road from Venice to Xi’an. So, we put all the elements from each cities together. For example, the first stop is Venice for vintage Venetian cutwork and embroidered lace, and next stop is Kazakhstan for lkat printed gazer, onward through the Gobi Desert, to procure printed chiffon inspired by the caves of Dunhuang before arriving at Xi’an.
– How do you get all the ideas of these, or what inspired you?
Well, I traveled to those cities and saw these elements and tried to mix all things together, for example these dresses are created by intricately combining silk georgette, lace and printed chiffon. Warm tones of Desert Bloom, Paprika and Rose Dust are balanced with cool hues of Jade, China Blue and Pale Iris. As the winds blow from East to West, they marry antiquity with modernity, blending cultures and charting the course for our so-called ‘virtual traveler’.
– You studied contemporary arts in Japan. How did you get into the fashion business? Could you tell us the story from moving to USA until now.
I began painting and drawing from a young age. After graduating high school I moved to Tokyo to study fine arts with Jiro Takamatsu, who is credited with paving the way for the modern art movement in Japan during the sixties. I became interested in the contemporary arts of NYC so I have decided to move to USA. I stayed in Los Angles before I move to NY, where is the original destination. I had no goal that time but just came to California because my friend was there at that moment. I ended up staying there because the climate was really nice. First, I attended a ESL school, and after I went to Los Angeles Trade Technical College. I chose this college because I couldn’t afford 4-year colleges or universities. Later on, I have an opportunity to work with a famed costume designer, Bill Whitten. I was really lucky that I was able to work at the company that created design for superstars such as Elton John and Stevie Wonder. After I graduated from the college, I got a job at a prominent clothing manufacturer. But I started to think that there are few options for special occasion dresses, and they are all over-priced. So, in 1982 I launched my own collection, Tadashi Shoji, in Los Angeles, California.
– Since you have been active internationally, I believe you understand the good of Japan compared to other countries. What do you think the good of Japan is?
Well,, it not about Japan, but the people. I think the “work ethics” of Japanese people is something we should be more proud of. For instance, in order to make my dress, it requires such a delicate job, which causes a major increase of the price. But Japanese people work so hard and tried to work hard to save the client money. That is I really think how Japanese people are.
– I heard that you did some charity activities for Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief. Could you talk us about that?
I am from Sendai city, where had a massive damage on 3.11. Right after that catastrophe, I teamed up with a skater Johnny Weir and designed a T-shirt for earthquake and tsunami relief. It is inspired by the Japanese flag “Hinomaru”, a red circle filled with words such as support, hope and love in the shape of a heart. We have donated about 2,200,000yen to the Japan Red Cross. I was working at my office in LosAngels when Japan was hit by the earthquake. I didn’t know about that until my friend called me. I got in touch with my brothers who lived in Sendai soon after and found out my younger brother’s store was swept away and my elder brother’s supermarket was majorly damaged by Tsunami. Well,, I really hope this won’t happen never again.
Tadashi Shoji is the founder and chief designer of the Tadashi Shoji collection. Shoji was born in Sendai, Japan. He apprenticed with Jiro Takamatsu, a contemporary artist making art in Japan during the 1960s and 1970s. After his attending Los Angels Trade Technical College, where he studied fashion design, he apprenticed with costume designer Bill Whitten, who created designs for stars including Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Neil Diamond, The Jacksons, and Earth, Wind, & Fire. Shoji debuted his runway collection at the New York Fashion Week in September 2007. His brand maintains its own retail operations with two signature boutiques in the United States. His new boutiques in Shanghai and Beijing have been open in July 2012. His designs have won a loyal following with worldwide celebrities, such as Oscar Winner Octavia Spencer, Kate Beckinsale, Dita Von Teese, Oscar Winner Mo’Nique, Helen Mirren, and Katy Perry.