My Love Affair with Japan

My Love Affair with Japan

March 03, 2023

I have had a close and wonderful connection with Japan for 4 decades, through my work, which continues to this day. In the 1990s my print-led, quirky fashion brand had an enormous fan base throughout the country and was sold in prestigious retail outlets such as Beams, Ships, Daimaru and Sazaby. I met buyers at international trade shows in London and Paris, (pre internet days!) and orders would be written at the show or faxed in each season. I won a national business award due to my brand being "Big in Japan"!

Julia Gash British Fashion Brand 1990s

I visited Tokyo and Osaka to meet with my distributors and was in awe of a culture so different from my own.  Roll on twenty years and my brand was back in fashion in Japan, this time, as a directional canvas tote bag brand, drawing on British culture and using upcycled and sustainable fabrics in a creative fashion. My red, white and blue woven handles on tote bags became part of my signature and trade marked brand.

Changing of the Guards Canvas Tote Bag by Julia Gash

I went back to Japan in 2014 and have returned several times since, meeting with key customers, distributors and my licensee. My tote bag brand evolved into a sustainable souvenir range, which again gained in popularity and is stocked by some of Japan's best loved stores including Isetan Mitsukoshi, Daimaru and Plaza Style. I also collaborated with Japanese ceramics brand Izawa on a collection of homewares that celebrates cities around the world.

 Izawa ceramic homewares collection by Julia Gash

I even held a live art event at Plaza Style in Tokyo's fashionable district, the Ginza, which brought in a whole new set of very young fans :-)

 Julia Gash Drawing Plaza Style Japan

Despite challenging economic times in Japan, my brand thrives.  I believe that my child-like handwriting captures a genuine sense of awe and wonder at the world in which we live, which the Japanese connect with. Their cultural heritage of printmaking is akin to my own passion and I chose to study Japanese printmaking as a student in the 1980s, which maybe shows a mutual understanding and love for line, flat perspectives and an acute and often whimsical observation of the small things.

Tokyo Art Print by Julia Gash

Yesterday, a major Japanese retailer, Isetan Mitsukoshi, published an interview with me on their online magazine.  My designs have been printed onto a range of juco tote bags and are best sellers at the annual British Fair. I hope to return to Japan one day soon and join my brand, that has spent a lot more time in this lovely country than me! Sayonara :-)

Julia Gash British Artist at Isetan Mitsukoshi Japan




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