”The clothes for empowering self-made intelligent women and all genders who live in this world strongly without stereotypes of gender, ethnicity and age.
Whenever and Wherever, You are Always YOU.”
Mikage Shin was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1991.
She is an aspiring designer for Japan who is rapidly making her way mark within the underground fashion scene. Even though she came to New York in 2017, Mikage has already achieved NYFW, VFW, Miami Fashion Week, Hotel Asia Art Fair 2019’s special exhibition successfully. MIKAGE SHIN works were on VOGUE ITALIA, Teen VOGUE, Refinary 29, L’OFFICIEL LITHUANIA and more. On December 31, 2018, her fashion show was also featured by NY1 Spectrum News.
In Mikage’s childhood, her Japanese father and her Korean mother divorced. Mikage and her sister were taken by the mother, and she began to think about―what was the best life for women, what was the importance of nationality, what was the identity―? From these backgrounds, Mikage has been highly interested in social problems. Mikage had challenged lots of social actions since she was in senior high school.
In addition to that, she was really into another thing―FASHION. Mikage was impressed by various fashion styles that could change a person’s impression completely different. Thanks to fashion, she found that what she liked could shape her real identity. It is not decided by nationality, age, and social status. You can be what you want to be by yourself. Mikage could gain self-confidence through fashion.
In 2014, Mikage graduated from Waseda University and entered Dentsu as a marketing planner in 2014. However, she could not give up her dreams. She quit the company and entered PARSONS the New School for Design in 2017 to fulfill her dream. While she was in Parsons School of Design, Mikage Shin became an aspiring designer and got shooting offers from NY based fashion creators. Her works has already been published in several print and digital outlets, including Flanelle Magazine, Soleil Magazine, Afropolitian and more.
Mikage is eager to create new genderless and ageless brands for empowering today’s intelligent self-made woman and individual, who lives in such a difficult time without any unreasonable limitation and stereotype. The 20th century’s art history and 21st century’s social problems highly inspire her avant-garde designs. Since she firmly believes that fashion definitely can promote self-confidence and change their life greatly, she is creating best clothes today.
An exclusive interview with MIKAGE SHIN for Trend Privé Magazine
When did you first realize you wanted to become a fashion designer?
Originally, I have been really into fashion since when I was small, but I did not think that it can be serious lifetime job for me. Because my school was preparatory school and I firmly believed that I had to study hard to be get good occupation the future. Therefore, I had studied so hard and entered the Politics and Economics Department in Waseda University in Japan. Then, I entered Japanese largest advertising agency as a marketing strategist.
However, after hard working, I realized that what I really wanted to spend all my lifetime was different. At that time, I already had certain ideas for fashion designs and fashion business.
I thought that “there were some great persons who could do my business much more excellently than me, but there was only one person who could make this idea come true in this real world”. I had started to feel like going to fashion industry, seriously. Then, I quit the job, and decided to change my career. I studied English so hard that I could enter PARSONS. After entering PARSONS and moving in NY in 2017, everything was happened.
When did you land your first internship and what was the most valuable thing you learned from this experience?
My first internship was in TOMO KOIZUMI’s first NYFW runway show in 2019. It was held in MARC JACOBS store in NY, and it was organized by Katy from LOVE magazine with incredible team. The most valuable experience which I learned from that internship was to meet some of the best teams in the fashion industry. I learned how to organize high-quality works professionally and smoothly, through looking at the work of top-class people. Designers, stylists, media, and fashion show organizing companies were fully professional. Especially, Tomo, the designer, and other stylist team were really well-prepared and tried to do both time management and quality details even though there was very limited time. They were very punctual and very hard workers for anything if they were requested. I learned their professionalisms, and these experiences have definitely helped me to manage the good team for my own brand business.
What was your first job out of college, and how did you land that position?
My first job after graduating from university was a marketing in Dentsu, the largest advertisement agency in Japan. Since I graduated from a four-year university in Japan, I was hired as a strategic planner in the marketing department. It was totally different from fashion industry.
After the that company, I quit the company and studied English to pass the entrance examination of PARSONS. Then, I came to NY and entered PARSONS. After the graduation of PARSONS on May in 2019, I established my own company and started my own brand business.
Define sustainable concept nowadays in fashion industry in few words .
Necessary and Truth.
If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be? What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out?
Nothing. Everything is just process until I die.
What is one thing you look at the models for your campaigns?
Strong attitude and personality that come from inner beauty.
What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?
Today, social media plays essential communication tool between brand and publics. SNS is a kind of organic and natural verbal for us.
I strive to do interactive communications between us and all people. SNS should not be one-way communication and not isolated world. We should communicate and co-create with each other. Moreover, customers also have to be involved to create the brand more actively. They are no more passive compared to before. We should learn and handle the correct way to use it together.
What is your favorite and NON-favorite part about being part of the fashion industry?
Favorite: There is no certain one answer, but various answers are acceptable. You can enjoy your style and tastes. No one cannot deny your style. It is one of the most creative and limitless worlds…!
Hate: I do not why but fashion tends to be looked down on, compared to other industry. Sometime, people think fashion is a stupid things and fashion people are just crazy and unintelligent people. However, it is never true. Actually, fashion designers are required very intellectual creativity. Because, fashion is a presentation of identity and lifestyle. It is a kind of anthropology. This problem has been caused by immoral companies and designers who destroyed environment and exploited people’s talents.
Many creators and manufacturers are still struggling to get proper evaluation with fair wage. Because people got used to buying cheap clothes… Worker’s’ human right, professional techniques and creative value are sometime exploited by market and customers. I would like to change this situation by transmitting them actively.
How do you want people to feel when wearing your clothes?
I would like people to feel more confident and gain more self-esteem when they wear my clothes. I firmly believe that fashion should empower people not only outwardly but inwardly.
Can you tell us how your brand makes a difference in fashion industry?
Everything is different. Unlike traditional fashion brands, my brand, MIKAGE SHIN, has not only artistic design values but also strong social messages.
For instance, the brand’s core message is “For the intelligent and independent person who is not limited by age, gender or nationality.” There are still few brands that are clearly verbalizing and communicating these messages and its social positions. In fact, there are many fans of my brand, such as ACCIDENTAL ICON, who is never limited by age stereotypes. ACCIDENTAL ICON is an amazing person who is both intellectually gifted as a professor and creatively gifted as a fashion influencer.
Also, since the beginning of my brand, my brand deliberately developed genderless clothes. I want to support people who live their lives as more themselves, not limited by social symbols or stereotypes.
Moreover, the brand’s motto is “Sustainability in Our Own Closet,” and it offers three-way, functional and fashionable clothing that can be worn for many years. I also crate sustainable material collection line. The first product is message T-shirts, which is made from natural cotton and real wood with special craftsman from Japanese factory. We try to invent more ecofriendly and sustainable products for the people who are concerned about environmental issues seriously. I hope to make this kind of products will be STANDARD in the near future. We firmly believe that we can satisfy people with both materials and our artistic designs. We are willingly to collaborate with innovative tech companies.
News on the way regarding your next collection?
There are two big news about our next collection. First, we participated in a runway show in PFW 2020AW and were featured by ELLE. We also held an exhibition for the first time in PFW, and Linda Fargo, the head of Bergdorf Goodman’s buyer’s team, came to my exhibition…! Linda and all the team members gave us great feedback and took our look book. Apparently, they don’t usually do that for new brands. It was very exciting experiences for me to see my brand’s future big potentials.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for a fashion designer?
The biggest challenge of a fashion designer’s job is constantly multi-tasking to create new designs and value that exceed people’s expectations. We have to understand that it is not just about clothes, but also that clothes are a part of the values of everything of life. Fashion is just the tip of the iceberg.
There is one important person, in your life, who pushes and motivates you to believe in yourself?
Definitely, my mother. I greatly respect my mother. She has a strong way of life that is not bound by nationality or gender. When I was wondering whether continuing my good job or changing whole my career to be fashion designer, she told me that “it’s not about which one is right answer for you. Whichever you choose, you MUST make it right.” That words were enough. She empowered me. Since then, I’ve been able to recover and motivated mysef when unexpected things happen. All success and fails are just process, and we can change our life until we die.
How do you think a big brand should motivate their collaborators and team members?
I think so. It is definitely win-win for both.
How do you think sustainable can play an important role in fashion industry?
Sustainability is an essential issue that all industries and all people must take on.
It is not only for commercial or just for BRANDING. Truly necessary.
Describe us you as a designer and how your feelings influence the creativity process?
Describe me as a designer:
I believe that my mission as a designer is to build people’s confidence and clarify the aesthetics, attitudes and identities of life.
I believe that clothes can speak for a person’s identity, their inner world, how they want to be seen and become, and more. Good clothes can give a person the courage to change. I’m particularly conscious that designers don’t just make clothes. We make life values.
How My feeling Influences:
Therefore, I always try to analyze my feelings and others’ feelings. I listen to the voices of my friends and people. I carefully watch people’s clothes on the street a lot. No matter how directly or indirectly, all voices about the news and social issues are regarding to my collection.
I’m fully influenced by everything in my life.
I think I also tend to be attracted by arts, architects and various cultures. I love art, architecture, photography, film, and various other cultures, so I often take visual inspiration from these things. While being influenced by the composition and color balance, I also research the background story, such as why it was created and what kind of intentions and ideas it was created from.
Process of Collection:
The process of making a collection design is following steps.
Firstly, drawing dozens of rough design drawings on an iPad or paper. Picking up a few of the good ones and develop them further and deeper. Then, I make a number of shapes by applying the temporary fabric to the torso. This method is called as “draping”. At the same time, I am also researching fabrics and materials. In creating a work, I go back and forth in a series of these processes, again and again.
I sometimes starting with a fabric research, and sometimes get a great inspiration from draping silhouette that changes entire of my collection.
Although it is very exhausting, I really love going back and forth randomly and spending so much energy to dig deeper and deeper. I don’t dare lay down any rules or order to find all the possibilities. Because I sometimes come up with something unexpected when I was unconscious. I just aim to pursue the “BEST”of best designs.
After the finalizing of designs, I consult with my patternmakers and sewing craftsmen to create the actual clothes. Their professional advices about sewing and technical knowledges are very helpful for me. Then, I decided each fabric by looking at it with my own eyes and touching it with my hands.
Would you like to involve other accessories designers in your future projects?
Of course! I would love to collaborate with various accessories designers.
Especially, I am highly interested in shoe designers and bag designers.
What do you think is the main mission of the CO-BRANDING concept ?
Achieving sustainable and essential business model with triple-win.
How fashion PRs can help more the brands and what skills a good fashion PR should have in your opinion?
I think they are more required not only PR effectiveness but also business consulting power.
They have to step into essential management consulting service from the inside of fashion brands.
Usually, designers are more likely to be an artist, but they are very, very beginners to be CEO. I am 100% sure that there is a huge demand to get a real consulting for sustainable business.
What designers inspire you and why?
Phoebe Philo and Jonathan Anderson.
This is because they design genderless, intelligent and artistic designs with a distinctive personality.
I think, these are definitely innovations.
There is anyone special who would like to meet in person?
Phoebe Philo. Her designs are not designed to make women look “FEMININE” or “GIRLY”.
She did not compare genders or relative aesthetics. I guess she wanted to make people look cool and intelligent as “human beings” with an absolute sense of beauty. I truly respect that point.
Also, her designs have a taste for architecture, which is also something I have in common with her. I would like to ask her about the aesthetics that underlie the creation of her works.
What do you think about the opportunity of selling your collections online nowadays?
Selling online is a must. However, giving opportunities to try on for customers is also an absolute must. Each sales channel has different strength. I have to scrutinize certain products that I should push for each channel with my strong color.