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"!
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.
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.
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 :-)
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.
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 :-)