Born in Tokyo and raised in Beijing, 24-year-old Kaori Oyama had quite a unique perspective when she arrived in London five years ago for a BA in Fashion Communication and Promotion at CSM. She quickly noticed an incongruence, between a Western obsession with Japan, and lack of representation coming from her home country. This is why she decided to focus her graduating project on Japanese creatives, in collaboration with creatives from outside of Japan, creating partnerships that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. The first issue of TONE magazine is out now.
Why was it important for you to start a magazine focussed on Japanese creatives?
Living in London and studying at CSM over the past few years made me realise how much Japanese culture/traditions were appreciated in some parts of the fashion/creative industry. It’s great to see our cultures and people being featured and introduced to the world more often as media/social media gets more influential. However, I feel that it’s still difficult, especially for young creatives, to get out of the country when they want to. There is a financial obstacle of course, but I think people in Japan are stuck in a huge bubble. There are many interesting things happening in the country, but we always get picked up by media overseas who tell our stories through their filter, and big media in Japan tends to just repeat what’s happening outside of Japan, especially in fashion. We admire what happens overseas, follow up with the latest trends and we are good at adopting them. However, I feel like we lack in the ability to send out our own messages outside of the country. One of the biggest reasons why that happens is due to the language barrier. It’s a fact that not a lot of people speak English in Japan. I really think it’s something that prevents us from reaching our full potential. That’s why it’s important for me, as a Japanese living in a foreign country, to make a magazine focused on Japanese creatives.
Could you tell us a bit about the artists you worked with / interviewed?
For the first issue, I worked with many people from different fields. Some were my friends, but some I’ve got to know through the magazine. The theme for the magazine was ‘The Address Issue’, and I wanted to explore how one’s address, be it their birth place or new home, affects people’s works and their values. Every contributor in the magazine worked and was interviewed under that angle. They all turned out very different according to each contributor’s point of view.
In terms of creatives in Japan, I collaborated with Saiko Otake on a zine that comes with the magazine. She is an artist based in Japan who graduated from CSM graphics. She uses different mediums and in every works she captures a unique point of view. The zine we made focuses on photographs she took in London and Uwajima, her hometown in Japan.
The magazine also features a photo documentary by Yoko Kusano, who is an emerging photographer in Japan. She flew over to London for the first time to document her stay. My friend, Eri Yoshikawa (who is also a FCP graduate) interviewed the curator/writer/director Jérôme Neutres, who is a consultant at the Grand Palais in Paris. It was an amazing opportunity to feature an interview with an established figure alongside the young creatives in the magazine. My favourite quote is: “Don’t think that everything has been said or done, or that there is nothing more to invent. Everything has to be created or recreated.”
In what way does the Japanese creative scene differ from the one you observed in the U.K. (London)?
This is something that can be said about the whole society in Japan (and I guess Asia in general), but hierarchies are still strongly rooted in the culture. In many ways, this causes restrictions as young people don’t push themselves where they can. In the U.K., even interns get to express their opinions and people will actually listen. If the idea is good, it will be used. It’s so much smarter without those boundaries. Also, there are much more systems of support in the U.K., especially when it comes to fashion. In Japan, fashion is not recognised as a form of art, but rather as a particular field of study. Therefore, there’s very little support and investment coming from the government. I don’t think this will change unless more people fundamentally change their awareness towards fashion. Another thing is that I think people tend to work way too much in Japan. I heard crazy stories from friends about the hours they work. Living and working in the U.K. really made me realise how important quality of life is.
In London, there has been a resurgence of independent magazines. Is it the same in Japan?
I definitely think so. Recently, I’ve seen quite a few new independent magazines that are founded by young creatives. I think it’s great that more people are interested and conscious about expressing themselves through magazines. There are way more major bookshops that sell independent magazines nowadays in Japan.
Any Japanese magazines you’d like to recommend to our European readers?
I would recommend Popeye, Brutus and Pen. They are all very established and long-run magazines in Japan and the reason why I would recommend them is the depth of research in every issue. I really think that’s something Japanese magazines should be very proud of, considering the amount of interesting content they are able to produce on a monthly basis. A few years ago, Brutus and Popeye did a big feature on London. I was really surprised about the amount of information they had about the city, and the selection of places/people. I was already living in London for a while then, but I discovered new places because of it. I just wish they had an English translation so that people here could read it too.
How did you experience your BA in Fashion Communication and Promotion?
Through the diverse projects at FCP, I’ve got to experience many different areas in fashion, from photography and styling to art direction. I remember, we always had so many projects going on, but the greatest thing was that we could do whatever we wanted to do with it, using amazing resources from the library. One of the best things about the fashion courses is that we have a placement year in between our 2nd and 3rd year. I did my placement year at Simmonds ltd which is a creative design studio run by Christopher Simmonds. It was great to be involved in a lot of the campaigns that they did, such as Gucci and many other big brands. Being able to see and experience how professionals work in the industry was the biggest advantage to taking a year out. I think I improved my research and technical skills too. This was really good, especially because CSM doesn’t teach the technical side of things.
What are your plans for TONE after graduating?
I don’t know when I’ll have time to work on the second issue since I need to sort my life out first, haha. But I would love to continue producing contents bit by bit for the next thing!
You can find TONE in London at Magma, TiPiTin, Wardour News, Charlotte News, Regent News and in Paris at the Yvon Lambert Bookshop