Q+A: Tadashi Shoji, Hollywood's Favorite Red Carpet Designer
As memorable as the award recipients at any red carpet are the dresses, and no one does classic gowns better than Tadashi Shoji. From Katy Perry to Glee stars, Academy favorites to new it girls, women love the styles because he designs for every age, skin tone, and body type. And with two Oscar winners in his gowns in the past decade, it is wise to select a dress as one could say he brings good fortune to those who wear his dresses.
His positive influence is not entirely due to luck, however, but taking chances. Mr. Shoji changed his fate when he trained in Tokyo under Jiro Takamatsu, Japan's rebellious anti-establishment modern artist of the 1960's similar to Andy Warhol.
From there, it was then moving to Los Angeles in the 1970's to pursue his wildest dreams. He did not found his own fashion company until 1982 nor make his NYFW debut until he created a high end version of his line in 2007.
Japan's most famous fashion designer is a fan of his fans. He remade Octavia Spencer's 2012 custom made Oscar gown at a more budget friendly $448 USD for the regular consumer market. He has achieved such popularity that he holds a mononym status where, like Madonna, all a customer must do is say his first name for the salespeople to understand whose designs they want to browse.
My friend says that at the Oscars and the after parties, we can divide the women into the categories of real stars and those with temporary, flash in the pan celebrity because of how they dress. He believes that because of the respect of the Oscars, women should dress more modestly than a normal event. How can women wear less revealing clothing for a red carpet event, or a social function if they are not in the entertainment industry, and still appear sexy?
It is all about the fit. You can be sexy and exude confidence if what you are wearing highlights your figure in all the right places.
At our last Oscars, you dressed Molly Sims in a beautiful purple dress. When you work with her and other women for the red carpet, what is the process from start to finish?
It is always exciting to create red carpet dresses for celebrities. We approach every opportunity differently. Sometimes we will alter an existing style and other times, we will create a custom-made gown. From start to finish, it is a very collaborate effort from both sides. It’s important that they are as happy with the final creation as I am and it shows when they walk down the red carpet with confidence.
Are all of your designs generally universally flattering for every body type, or do you spend time thinking about that too?
When I design, both proportion and the choice of fabrics are critical. It is important to use the most luxurious fabrics that flatter different body types. Each size is also approached with great care. We would never use the same pattern for a petite dress as we would a regular size 6 dress. Because I am so meticulous when it comes to my designs, our customers consistently return again and again. My dresses make them look and feel gorgeous.
You told US Vogue that your spring 2016 styles are inspired by Japan. Is it the nature, the dresses you remember that women wore when you were a child, or something else?
My roots are in Japan so I will always have an affinity for the culture and my heritage. This spring, I turned to meditative Japanese gardens and found inspiration by the beautiful flowers including the peonies, cherry blossoms, and wisteria. I was also inspired by legendary Japanese artists Ogata Korin and Katsushika Hokusai. Their use of color and their detail in capturing nature can be found throughout my designs.
What is an example of the classic style of glamorous Japanese women? Is it often a lace dress similar to your designs?
When it comes to style, Japanese women are just as passionate about fashion as our European and American counterparts. Timeless and sophisticated, Japanese women’s style reflects their personality.
I noticed a character wearing your green lace dress with the X shaped waist ribbon in a movie I watched a few months ago starring Katherine Heigl called Jenny's Wedding. However, this dress was available in stores. Have you ever designed creations specifically for a film?
I have never designed creations specifically for a film. But when I was a design student, I was lucky enough to get an assistant position for costume designer Bill Whitten. During that time, he worked with many seventies and eighties film and pop stars. I did find that costume designing itself was just too elaborate for me but I discovered that I loved draping and women’s fashion. My experience working with Bill Whitten provided me the foundation for my work and the work I am still creating today.
In the future, what types of movies would you consider designing for: futuristic, 1950's noir, or others?
I don’t really have a specific type of movie that I would consider designing for – although the glitz and glam of the flapper era in the roaring twenties is quite remarkable. During that time, fashion in films was all about liberation and trying new things. This is the era where women’s style truly loosened up and comfort was key. It is thrilling to see how the fashion industry empowered women at a time when they were so heavily suppressed.
Many brands are only popular during a specific time period. The first decade of the 2000's represented Juicy Couture, and the 2010's, its demise,as an example. What is your secret a a businessman, beyond the fashion designs, to your brand's survival and timelessness?
My muse is the everyday women. She is self-confident who loves life. With that in mind, my secret as a businessman is to create sophisticated collections that empower women and make her look beautiful. We continue to expand our brand, successfully launching our children’s collection. We are also moving forward with my first fragrance in Spring and launching shapewear soon. We are constantly moving forward to meet the needs of our customers.
Check out some of Mr. Shoji's amazing designs below in the gallery.