#6 Yoshiko Ikoma

Yoshiko Ikoma, an independent fashion journalist, had been editor in chief of Japanese edition of marie claire for four years. After leaving the position, she is working as a freelance journalist and an editor by giving lectures and creating projects centered on fashion, art and lifestyle. She launched a new project called “WAO” to introduce traditional Japanese crafts. In our interview, we asked her about her unique idea to revive Japanese traditional craft business.

Interview with Yoshiko Ikoma

– You succeeded in holding an exhibition of WAO to introduce Japanese crafts in New York and Paris in 2012. What made you to be the founder of “WAO”?”

Ikoma:

“WAO” is a new movement by a group of Japanese craftsmen and artists to introduce Japanese beauty to the world. “WAO” is the combination of two Japanese words; “WA(和)” (Japanese) and “O(生)”(birth), which stands for the rebirth of Japan. “WAO” also represents “WOW” in English. This name implies our wish to revive and innovate Japanese tradition that has been descended for centuries and also to fascinate people through Japanese crafts.

The fashion industry has entered into a new era since the 21st century when people wear items from casual and luxurious brands at the same time. It is also time at which handmade items started to be evaluated more than before. I gained confidence in this idea when I had a chance to produce traditional Japanese pieces from Ishikawa in a new style by collaborating with an Italian luxurious brand.

Although Japanese products have exceptional quality, they are struggling to run their business they used to due to a shrinking market and less demand, lack of money, and changing lifestyles. I believe Japanese craftsmen can revive their business by accepting ideas from different areas such as fashion, design and luxurious life style. This is the basic concept of my project “WAO.”

–It is a unique idea to produce Japanese traditional crafts by collaborating with foreign luxurious brands.

Ikoma:

I got the idea of creating a new movement to Japanese traditional crafts from what foreign luxurious brands have been doing so far in their business. Many luxurious brands including Louis Vuitton, Baccarat, and Fendi know the necessity of keeping their tradition up-to-date to create future tradition. The origin of these companies is craftsmanship in Europe. What they are doing now is the result of the development of this craftsmanship, which has been preserved and innovated for centuries.

I have seen the innovation from a substantial network with foreign luxurious brands through my career as an editor of fashion magazines such as VOGUE Japan, Elle Japan and Marie Claire Japan. I realized that I could apply this idea to Japanese craftsmanship to sustain their business. Some Japanese craftsmen had already started to innovate their products to fit to our daily lives along with still keeping the tradition and techniques that have been handed down from their ancestors.