Watching the runway shows at New York Fashion Week is always a thrilling experience—there are the supermodels strutting their stuff on the catwalk, A-listers dotting the front row seats and, oh yeah, the exquisite collections on display. But there's one more thing we like to get from NYFW—input from the designers who make it all happen. And now, that's exactly what we're dishing up for you.
For the next week, we're taking you behind the scenes at the spring 2016 presentations with a different designer each day. And to kick things off on a high note, we went straight to Tadashi Shoji himself to get the inside scoop on his fall collection (showing today, people!), the trends you can expect to see on the runways and his whirlwind experience dressing Michelle Obama.
What was your first job?
One of my very first jobs in Japan was working with artist Jiro Takamatsu's as his assistant. I worked for him for about two and a half years which was one of the most memorable experiences but also helped me realize that being an artist wasn't the path I wanted to take and started to doubt my talent, so I stopped. From then, I decided I wanted to move to the United States so I worked many third-shift night jobs to save up for my flight and visa fare to Los Angeles.
How did you get started in your career?
It wasn't until I started junior college in Los Angeles that I realized that being a designer was the right future for me. I learned everything from patternmaking to draping—which I fell in love with. Draping was like sculpting to me and I finally started to feel like an artist again. During this time, I was lucky enough to get an assistant position for costume designer Bill Whitten and later on, found a job working for designer Richard Blackwell. From these experiences, it gave me a foundation for my work so I decided to branch out and create my own line.
What is a typical day like for you?
When I am in L.A., I start my day off with a hot cup of green tea in the morning and a skype call with my N.Y.C. sales team before heading to the office. After a full day collaborating with the team, I usually end with a call to my teams in China and Japan.
Tell us about your office décor. When did you last give your office a makeover?
I am a minimalist at heart so I like to incorporate clean, simple and modern lines to my office décor. Our headquarters were designed back in 2003 by my good friends at (M)Arch, who also brought my vision to life through the renovation of my home in Pasadena, CA, our newly reopened boutique in Costa Mesa, CA and our soon to be flagship in Doha, Qatar. While the roots of the office remain the same, I regularly find myself updating the office with different pieces of furniture and artifacts that I collect from my travels.
Do you have a work space at home or in different cities? How do they differ from your main office?
For me, my work space is all on my iPad. Something I can pack up and take with me in any room anywhere in the world.
What's the best part about your job?
Being able to create attainable luxury pieces that are easy and comfortable to wear for any women and at an affordable price.
Who's your favorite celebrity to dress?
I have been very fortunate enough to dress some of Hollywood's biggest names over the years. One of my absolutely favorites is Octavia Spencer who I adore and have had a very long friendship with. This year, it has also been exciting to dress Janelle Monáe, who accompanied me to my first CFDA Awards as well as the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.
What was it like dressing Michelle Obama for the White House State Dinner back in April?
It was such an honor to dress Michelle Obama, especially for such an important engagement celebrating the Japanese Prime Minister and his wife. The day of the dinner, I was traveling in Shanghai and got the news that she ended up wearing one of my cocktail dresses during a school visit with Akie Abe. I was so excited but thought for certain that she was going to step out in another designer that evening. I skyped over to my team in L.A. and heard the cheering in the background as it had been confirmed that she was wearing our finale gown from fall and couldn't believe it. She looked stunning!
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What fashion trends are you expecting to see at New York Fashion Week this September?
This season for New York Fashion Week you can expect to see white dresses with splashes of vibrant hues.
What are your biggest sources of design inspiration right now?
For my spring-summer 2016 collection at New York Fashion Week, I will be delving deeper into my heritage and memories of Japan—which were both hinted at in the resort collection. This is the first time I will be going back to my roots and bringing my vision to life through the runway collection.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?
To always plan and prepare ahead of time. If I did not do this, I would not be able to do anything.
Who are some of your career heroes?
It would have to be Bill Whitten—he was the first person to give me a chance in the fashion business.
What's the most daring career risk you've ever taken at work?
The most daring career risk I've ever taken was breaking away from my business partner and taking on the company alone.
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Finish the sentences below:
Today for lunch I had… beets with balsamic vinegar.
The first website I log onto every day is… The New York Times.
My usual Starbucks order is… I am not a typical Starbucks drinker, but prefer a cup of hot green tea.
If I wasn't doing this job, I would… I don't know, I can't envision myself doing anything else.
My favorite place to visit is… El Nido Island in the Philippines is one of my favorite places.
My favorite accessory is… iPad Air; this is one accessory that never leaves my side.
My favorite Instagram accounts are… @Jeanettegetrost and @natgeo.
The book I'm reading right now is… Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders.
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