Tadashi Shoji is a household name, and the man behind his namesake and signature collections has been designing for over 30 years. This alone is a feat in the fashion industry. Shoji long ago found his place in the market, and has focused steadily to maintain his position as he has adapted to the changes the industry has seen in the last three decades. Originally from Japan, the designer launched his business after design school and has been LA-based ever since. Shoji says of his brand, that it is a celebration of women, and if one is familiar with this clothes, you would know this to be true. Regardless of shape, size, or age, he firmly believes fit and quality should never be compromised. The designer looked to Japan for his Spring collection and showed a beautiful presentation of looks inspired by a blossoming Japanese and garden and works by the artists Ogata Korin and Katsushika Hokusai.
What is your earliest fashion memory?
I grew up in a family with three sisters so some of my earliest fashion memories are through them. One that comes to mind is when my sister was going to fashion school. She had this typical 70’s mod look – short mini skirt and high patent leather boots paired with a long scarf and coattail that went to the floor. Every night before school, she would put together her outfits and always ask for my critique – what I liked, what I didn’t like. Little did I know that this was just a glimpse into my future in fashion.
What do you miss about Japan?
My roots are in Japan so I will always have an affinity for the culture and my heritage. It was what helped to inspire my Spring runway collection that debuted this past September.
Why did you choose LA as a home base for the brand?
I knew I wanted to move to the United States, but I didn’t know where. I had a friend that was living in Los Angeles and he invited me to stay with him. On a whim, I ended up moving there and it wasn’t until I started college that I realized that being a designer was my true calling. This is where my personal story in fashion begins so it only made sense to have my headquarters based there as well – it is a truly vibrant city. Since then, the company has grown internationally including the addition of a showroom in New York, a design studio in Shanghai and an office in Japan.
It’s so rare for a designer to maintain an aesthetic, especially after so many years – has this been hard? How have you kept the focus?
Tadashi Shoji is about the celebration of women – regardless of shape, size or age. What makes the brand stand out is the fit and quality. Women keep coming back because my dresses make them look and feel beautiful. When I design, proportion paired with the choice of fabric is the most important part to creating a comfortable dress.
How is your signature collection different from your namesake line?
The runway collection is more of a ‘fantasy’ of my namesake collection with more editorial focused styles – but I do like to make sure that there is cohesion between the runway and commercial line. I want to be able to give my customer the fairytale of attainable luxury and offer them a sense of ease and comfort when choosing their wardrobe.
Your Spring 2016 collection was a gorgeous nod to springtime in Japan – is there a sense of reflection or nostalgia in this collection for you?
For the first time in my career, I felt it was the right time to go back to my roots, so I started reminiscing about my childhood. I was inspired by the celebration of springtime in Japan – from a blossoming Japanese garden bursting into life with wisteria, irises and peonies to the skilled artistry of painter Ogata Korin and Katsushika Hokusai. For the collection, I used traditional Japanese elements to help inspire modern silhouettes as a bridge between the past and the present.
You’ve dressed many famous faces – what’s this process like for you?
It is always exciting to create red carpet looks for celebrities. Depending on the VIP, I approach every opportunity differently – sometimes I will alter an existing style and other times, I will create a custom gown. From start to finish, it is a very collaborative effort from both sides.
How big is the custom portion of your business?
I understand customization is important and have designed custom-made styles for clients in the past, depending on the needs. With our international customer in mind, more so, I will create special styles offered in exclusive colors, fabrics and silhouettes that cater to a specific store and region – whether it be Asia, the Middle East or The Americas. What women buy in one market doesn’t specifically mean it will be the same in others so I really take that in mind when designing my collection and how I can translate it to meet the needs of my customer worldwide.
Do you enjoy New York Fashion Week?
To me, showing at New York Fashion Week will always be crucial to our business as it is very important for our international customer base. We have editors, buyers and influencers attend from all around the world and for those who cannot be there, they are able to watch the show live from our website via livestream. So while I don’t necessarily enjoy traveling to New York during the winter months (too cold!), I enjoy it for the opportunity and awareness it brings the collection each season.
What have been the most significant changes in the industry since you’ve been in business?
The fashion industry has evolved since I started my company in 1982 and will continue to at a rapid pace. In the age of the internet there are no more surprises. With the launch of our e-commerce site, people from all around the world are able to access the collection from anywhere. This shift allows for us to open ourselves up to a much larger audience globally and tap into markets that I didn’t have access to, when I first launched my line.
There has been a lot of chatter recently about the intensity of the industry and the difficulty to create 4 collections a year plus shows and events – do you feel this pressure?
Of course, I think the pressure is felt industry-wide but at the end of the day, we need to be able to sell dresses. In order to succeed, the key is the ability to adapt and evolve.
Have you considered expanding into more categories?
Absolutely, my goal is to evolve Tadashi Shoji into a global lifestyle brand. I recently launched a kid’s collection for girls and have exciting plans for new category growth in 2016.
After 32 years in the business, what is the most valuable lesson you have learned?
You will have good days and you will have bad days; on those bad days, you have to learn to laugh at the situation. You don’t ever gain anything by being unhappy, you have to keep moving and pushing forward. You must learn from your mistakes and strive to do better.
You’re always impeccably dressed, who designs your clothes?
When you are constantly on the go like I am, comfort is key. Some of my staple items include a range of Ralph Lauren cashmere sweaters in colorful colors, drawstring pants and Tod’s loafers.