After studying fine arts in Tokyo, award-winning Japanese fashion designer Shinichiro Arakawa (1965) went to Paris in 1990. Here he took the stylism course at Studio Berçot. During this time he met English fashion designer Christopher Nemeth and began to work for him as his assistant. This period was crucial to Arakawa’s development because it was while working with Nemeth that he acquired the techniques which formed his conception of fashion.
In October 1993, he organized his first show using his own name in Paris. Many presentations in both Paris and Tokyo followed. Arakawa defines a theme for each collection and often chooses a place to reinforce that theme: in 1995, his models strut down a street of a working-class area of Shimo-Kitazawa. In 1996, he showed his Koinobori-themes clothes in the Omote Sando avenue, an expensive area in Tokyo. His kogyaru-schoolgirl walked in uniform around Tokyo University, symbol of the student uprising of the 60’s.
His theme for the 2001 autumn/winter collection: idol pop stars; “I was inspired by Seiko Matsuda.” Matsuda was Japan’s top idol of the 80’s, the time Arakawa grew up. The creations were typical Arakawa, they looked frozen in an eternal dancing motion.
In 1999 Arakawa started working conceptually when he created clothes with a dual function as pictures that could be hung on the wall. Arakawa often says that he feels inspired by fabric. His favorites are wool and linen. His customers are in his words “strange people”. Stubborn and self-willed. They have their own ideas. Not exactly qualities which are admired in Japan.
Red is an important color to Arakawa. “Red is a color with two faces,” he explains, “it radiates power, but also weakness.” That makes red a symbol of humanity. “Sometimes I feel strong, sometimes weak. But nonetheless I want to be myself.” ‘Being yourself’ and ‘knowing yourself’ are two important characteristics of Arakawa’s life philosophy.
When he first arrived in Paris he watched the movie ‘The Last Emperor’, in which the Japanese occupation of China is also shown. “I had already seen the movie in Japan. but the French version was completely different. There were all kinds of documentary materials about the Japanese army.” Arakawa was shocked. “I started to wonder what was true of everything I had learnt at school.”
The young fashion designer came to the conclusion that “if you are not yourself you will be pulled with the current.” That is what is happening in Japan according to Arakawa. “You walk down a street and you see McDonalds everywhere, not sushi shops. “We have to take better care of the Japaneseness of Japan.” Still, you won’t see Arakawa design any kimonos. His clothes are contemporary street fashion as in his Honda line, or conceptual.
Unlike the Japanese designers of the 80’s, Arakawa doesn’t see himself as a revolutionary like Issey Miyake and the like. “They are the same age as my father. They had very different experiences.” The ‘hunger’ Miyake’s generation felt is not part of him he seems to say.
Arakawa opened his first boutique in Paris 1996. Arakawa’s famous collaboration with automaker Honda, creating a line of clothes using the Honda brand, was started in 1997. In 1998 he started his own shop in Tokyo.