Master of the Drape

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Tadashi Shoji is a veteran of the fashion industry. Born and raised in Japan, he draws inspiration from his heritage. For over 30 years now, the designer’s namesake collection has enhanced the look of many women. From Oscar winning stars to the New York runway, the Tadashi Shoji woman stands out looking flawless, sophisticated and elegant. The first lady has also worn the designer’s creation on many occasions. Shweta Bhatia gets to know more about the icon of our era

You’ve been in this industry for over 30 years; tell us how the working style has changed since then?
Has it been that long already? Time flies so quickly. Being in business for over 30 years is a big accomplishment. The fashion industry has evolved since I started my company in 1982 and shall continue 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. 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.

What is the one thing that you keep in mind when you design for women who are different body types?
When I design, both proportion and the choice of fabrics are the most important. I like to avoid fabrics that are restricting and uncompromising. How the fabric moves and drapes is the key to creating a comfortable and superior fitting gown. I approach each size differently too – we are not going to have the same pattern for a petite dress as we would a regular size six dress. Women keep coming back because my dresses make the look and feel gorgeous.

Why did you decide to get into children’s wear?
I felt it was the natural evolution to officially launch a Kid’s Collection for girls. The bridge into the children’s market allows for me to share my vision with a younger audience. In order to create the perfect fit, I had to scale down on sizing and the embroidery details. I was especially particular with the fit as kids are fussy and the dresses need to be comfortable so they are able to have fun and move freely throughout any occasion.

Tell us about your latest collection?
For the first time in my career, I felt it was the right time to go back to my roots – I started reminiscing about my childhood for my SS ’16 collection. 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.

What do you feel about media when you started out and today?
With the age of the Internet and the rise of technology, the media industry has evolved immensely. There is a thirst for fast fashion now that brands are more accessible and designers have a level platform to share. This evolution also provides great opportunity to connect with an entirely new client base internationally, which is very exciting.

Are you a social media person?
I embrace social media to understand what is happening in fashion and gather inspiration from it as it encompasses the world. Social media is a great platform to connect with consumers and fans of the brand to learn more of their wants and needs. I work closely with social media team to ensure aesthetic is supporting my message.

Do you feel pressurised when you design for the red carpet since every outfit is under the scrutiny of media worldwide?
No, I don’t feel pressure – the press is incredibly important and I am aware the whole world is watching, but the whole process is actually quite exhilarating. Personally I think the celebrity is more nervous and under more scrutiny, everyone is watching her every move.

What are the aspects that you take into consideration when designing for the red carpet?
The most important aspect of a redcarpet gown is that it stays true to the celebrity’s inner self and complements her natural spirit and personality. I want her to be comfortable and wear the gown with confidence. The most successful collaborations bring out the best of the celebrity and the designer.

Which is your favourite fashion era? Why is it so?
I don’t really have a specific era – although the glitz and glam of the flapper era in the roaring 20s is quite remarkable. 1920s fashion was all about liberation and trying new things, this is the era where women’s style truly loosened up and comfort was key. It is thrilling to see how the fashion industry empowered woman in a world where they were heavily suppressed.

If there was one person in history you would have liked to design for, who would it be?
This is a tough one – to create a special occasion dress for Princess Grace of Monaco would have been a dream. She was the epitome of elegance.

What is the one thing that you have learnt and would like to advice all those aspiring to be a designer today?
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.