Born: 15 January 1937 in Osaka. Education: Graduated from the Department of Design of Bunka Fashion College, Tokyo, 1961. Family: Married, 1960 (divorced, 1976); children: Yuka, Yuma. Career: Designer, Komatsu Department Store, Tokyo, 1961-63; owner and designer, Hiroko Koshino haute-couture, textile, prêt-á-porter, children's clothing, nightie accessories and objects, boutique, Tokyo, from 1964; chairperson, Hiroko Koshino International corporation, Tokyo, from 1982; president, Hiroko Koshino Design Office, Tokyo, from 1988; created branch lines Hiroko Koshino Resort, Hiroko Koshino, Hiroko Bis, Hiroko Homme, Hiroko Koshino Golf; closed Paris store and stopped showing in Paris, late 1990s; designed uniforms for Kintetsu Buffalos baseball team, 1997; held joint collection with sisters Junko and Michiko, 2000; perfume line launch, 2002. Exhibitions: Roma Alta Moda Collection, 1978; Three Sisters, Osaka, 1982; Shanghai, 1984; exhibition with Borek Sípek and Bambi Uden, Prague, 1994. Awards: Osaka City award for Cultural Merit, 1989; highest honors at Mainichi Fashion grand prix, 1997. Address: 1-24-1, Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, 151 Tokyo, Japan.
The Tokyo Collection, Tokyo, 1986.
"Japan's Master Strokes," in The Guardian (London), 28 April 1988.
"Architecture du Silence," in [special issue] of Vogue, September 1994.
Niwata, Manabu, "Designer Family Fueled by Competition," in Mainichi Shimbun, 16 October 2000.
Saito, Mayumi, "Hiroko Koshino," available online at www.JapanToday.com , 6 April 2001.
Betros, Chris, with Maki Nibayashi, "Hiroko Koshino: Making the Right Cut," online at www.JapanToday.com , 27 April 2001.
I love Japan and have been attracted to traditional Japanese culture. I'm trying to express oriental sensitivities in a modern, Western framework. What I think, what I feel, my lifestyle—these are the starting points for my designs. They give me confidence in and a sense of identity with my creations.
An established designer based in Japan, Hiroko Koshino first showed in Paris after the breakthrough of the more avant-garde Japanese group in 1983. A member of a very old and established Japanese family that spawned two other successful designers, Junko and Michiko, Koshino was brought up to respect the past and grew to love traditional Kabuki theatre. Her designs are based on the traditional clothing idiom of the Japanese kimono, following its aesthetics of volume and layering, an area of focus for other designers such as Kenzo Takada.
Koshino's clothes explore the tension between Western influences and Japanese values—a notion that still has currency, as a Western conception of fashion has only been in existence in Japan since 1945. The encroaching influence of the West has meant that many traditional Japanese aesthetic concepts have been explored and brought into the present by designers attempting to unite the modern with a strong sense of their own cultural continuity and concerns. Tradition and Westernized ideas of progress were historically separated in Japanese culture; for example, in the 19th century, modern Japanese painting ( nihonga ) and modern painting displaying a Western influence ( yosa ) were shown in different rooms—the dualism made physically apparent. Yet since the Meiji period (1868-1912), Japan's former cultural isolation vanished and there were concerted efforts to overcome the dichotomy of East and West to achieve what was hoped to be a more unified cultural pattern.
Koshino's attempts to overcome cultural duality can be deduced in her endeavors to remove the kimono from its 20th-century function as formal wear for weddings and other ceremonial occasions and to introduce more current ideas of fashion terminology into its traditional form—a concerted effort to reintroduce the kimono as a form of everyday dress. The tradition of the kimono in which Koshino intervenes is essentially a rectilinear two-dimensional one, which could be considered shapeless in comparison with Western female clothing that tends to fit the body and emphasize its shape. In traditional Japanese clothing, padding and quilting are used to create a space between the body and the wearer, a concept clearly seen in the contemporary ready-to-wear explorations of Rei Kawakubo's Comme des Gar?ons designs.
The patterns of the kimono follow equally strict rules, being derived from nature, yet nature is then stylized and made graphic. These traditions can be discerned in the work of Koshino, who employs bird or bamboo prints to counteract the uniformity of her garment's more modular construction. Koshino's overlarge tops, dresses, and trousers of silk, cotton, and linen look back to the traditions of the Japanese court in which styles became so exaggerated that enormous amounts of material were used to signify status. Copious amounts of fabric and many layered undergarments led to a stiffened style in which the body all but disappeared. Koshino retains this volume but by the use of natural fibers brings this traditional styling into the 20th century, though her clothing is more fitted to the demands of contemporary women. Her modular units are more voluminous and asymmetrical than tradition allows, and she is renowned for utilizing bright colors for decoration though within traditional Japanese color symbolism, bright colors are reserved for the young.
With the fashion media's focus on the more obviously radical side of Japanese fashion—Miyake, Yamamoto et al—Hiroko Koshino's more understated experimentation has been somewhat ignored. Her popularity among European women in particular testifies to the wearability of her designs. Koshino, who celebrated 40 years in the fashion business in 1997, continues to combine East and West, melding the futuristic with the classic (as seen in her 2001 autumn/winter collection, themed "Timeless Vintage.") Further, she balances the feminine and the masculine and uses contrasting fabrics from elegant furs to modern metallics. Her pragmatic view of fashion is reflected in her frequent acceptance of commissions for uniforms, such as for the Chosi City Girls School and the Kintetsu Buffalos baseball team.
Koshino's overall business, as of 1997, was estimated to generate $100 million a year. Clothes under her label, distributed through 200 stores in Japan, sold more in that country than products marketed under many other well-known global designer names. Although she has long had global recognition—Koshino was one of the first Japanese designers to show her collections in Rome and in Shanghai, for example—she spent the late 1990s focusing on her native Japanese market. She closed her Paris-based shop and discontinued showing Paris collections after more than a decade as a fixture there while continuing to show in Japan, not only in Tokyo but in other Japanese cities such as Osaka. In 2002, Koshino expects to launch a new perfume line, which, since it is being developed in Paris, may lead the designer to reintroduce her collections in France.
Many of Koshino's designs have elements in common with those of her sisters, Junko and Michiko. Although the three (and their mother, Ayako, also a designer) have led entirely separate careers, in 2000 they held a joint collection, for the first time in 17 years, in their native city of Kishiwada. Hiroko Koshino's daughter Yuma is also studying design.
updated by Karen Raugust