TJ: How did you first get started in fashion design?
Koshino: My mother owned her own clothing boutique in Osaka. Therefore, from early childhood, I was surrounded by design. My older sister, Hiroko, was supposed to take over my mother’s business so I didn’t have to enter the fashion world, and I tried to become interested in other subjects. Before I entered Art College, Hiroko and I went to the same high school. It was a very prestigious one, and we both chose the same art club. I did oil paintings and my sister did water colors. I then went to Art College, but it turned out that the fashion world was my destiny after all. I liked to paint from early childhood, so for me it is very easy to create pictures of design styles. At one point, after I entered Art College, I decided I actually wanted to be a designer instead of a painter. So, I switched my major and I focused on design. This story of my mother and my sisters (who are all fashion designers) was featured on the NHK (Japanese national broadcasting station) Drama “Carnation” in 2011 and 2012.
TJ: Your sisters Hiroko and Michiko are also renowned fashion designers. How often do you keep in touch and do you ever collaborate?
Koshino: We don’t meet very often, about four times a year. Each year, we meet at a very famous festival in our hometown, which is the Kishiwada area of Osaka and also at the Lumiere Vision Exposition in Paris. We sometimes meet for a ceremony in memory of our mother as well. We collaborated for a show for our mother two times a few years ago, but we haven’t collaborated since she passed away.
TJ: You have been involved in the fashion industry for over 50 years. How have you managed to keep your designs on the cutting edge after all this time?
Koshino: I have no plans for retirement. Therefore, I have to keep creating state-ofthe- art designs. It is very important to stay busy and I need to have vision. People always need to be inquisitive and be interested in new things, and we need to keep our curiosity going without the support of others. My mother gave me this advice. She said, “Don’t go back to the previous page. Always move forward to the next page.” My mother did this and she remained very busy up until she passed away. I am very interested in Japan as well as other countries around the world and it is very important for me to share my experience with young people.
We have to do what we believe in very aggressively. Sometimes, if I act on my ideas, my work and my life increase in scope a hundredfold, so I have to keep thinking and moving forward. I hate repetition and grow tired of the same thing. I can’t enjoy repetition. I like questions that cannot be resolved and I constantly quiz myself. I ask and answer my own questions.
My encounters with people inspire me to move forward. If someone unrelated to my field asks me something, it is fascinating Fashion Design by Junko Koshino Tokyo's Fashion Queen and Tony Award Nominee Junko Koshino, renowned for her fashion, costume and uniform design, shares the latest in Tokyo's fashion scene. to me as I need to learn how to think about it. Perhaps the world I wasn’t connected to before will open my world. Because I have a core, I can expand my world. Without a core, I cannot do that. I am interested in many things but I don’t spread myself too thin in other areas.
My designs are not just for fashion. For example, I dreamed about fireworks in an opera, so I created this. I painted fireworks on a black background, and then for the 60th Anniversary of Japan-India Relations, I expressed this painting through music and fireworks. I always express things through my paintings first. This is my core. Whether I paint fashion designs or fireworks, it’s the same thing for me. Usually, fireworks shoot up and then out, but the fireworks I designed shoot out and then up. I asked a technician to match the fireworks with opera music, and it turned out to be a huge moving painting that made people cry. I did a similar event in 2011 for the 40th anniversary of Okinawa’s return to Japan. The symbol was the Rising Dragon, which represents heavy rain. Coincidentally, it rained that day, and the combination of rain with those fireworks was very moving. It was aired on television but it was most moving for people who watched it in-person. The first time this was held, the music was the music from “Madame Butterfly.” Fatima is symbolic for Japan-US relations, so I chose the music from Madame Butterfly. I am involved in an event called “Phoenix” featuring Japanese Taiko Drums, which will be held on Dec. 9th at Bunkamura in Shibuya, Tokyo. This event was held many times in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan. This is the second time in Japan.
TJ: Who is your inspiration?
Koshino: There was a painter named Ito Jakuchu in the Edo Period. In the Edo period, culture was divided between the common people and very elite people. A very original culture was formed in the Edo Period and a symbol for this culture was Ito Jakuchu. He is not famous now, but I think we have to pay attention to people like him.
TJ: Can you name some celebrities that have bought Junko Koshino designs?
Koshino: Beyonce, Mariah Carey, and long ago Diana Ross. Beyonce came in my shop to buy clothes for her next music video.
TJ: Do fashion models at your fashion shows need to have a certain “look”? Do you personally select fashion models for each show?
Koshino: I look for height, balance of movement and feeling. The face needs to have a certain look. I Iike very active, vibrant people, so I prefer Latin Americans or others who also look very vibrant. I prefer someone with darker skin or a suntan to very white skin. I choose the models by myself and I know instantly when I see them. Balance is a very important factor for me when choosing a model.
TJ: What do you think your greatest accomplishment has been?
Koshino: Being included in the Oxford History of Art Book on Fashion, and my international Fashion shows. I was also very proud to be a pioneer in having my show at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. They had never had a fashion show there. But, they accepted mine because it was art. I felt that was a great accomplishment. In 1985, I had a fashion show in China for the first time and that was difficult. They did not even have words for “Fashion Show.” I had to bring everything from Japan. They had no wallpaper, or anyone to put the paper on the wall, so it was very exciting.
TJ: What advice would you give to aspiring fashion designers?
Koshino: Don’t only hope! You have to act. Inspiration and interest comes first, and then move forward. tj
This story appeared in Issue 270 of the Tokyo Journal.
To order Issue 270, click here.