Kotoha Yokozawa was born in Nagoya in 1991, then became a student of Design & Creation Course of ESMOD Tokyo. In 2013, she finished studying in women’s course, and started working in UNIQLO CO., LTD. One year later, she resigned it and pursued her studies in ESMOD AMI during one year. After graduating from it, she launched kotohayokozawa.
- Why did you choose ESMOD?
- I’m from Nagoya and I was a student of fashion culture department in Sakuradai high school, which was high rated and specialized in fashion.
Senior students chose and entered ESMOD, so I requested the prospectus and went to an open day when I was 17 years old.
I saw and tried genuine third year collections and talked with the creators directly, which helped me a lot. I visited other vocational schools in Nagoya and Tokyo, but I was really surprised that ESMOD is beyond comparison. Graduate collection is actually realized as one of the projects composing the curriculum in vocational school, but ESMOD students spend one year on it. It shows how we attach greater importance to it than the other schools.
I had European and Japanese dress making classes in high school which taught me basic knowledge of sewing clothing such as coats and kimonos, so I wanted to develop my universe and what I love to present graduate collections as the culmination of my 3 year studies. That’s why I joined ESMOD.
- What did you learn what influenced you in ESMOD?
- We take enormous time on pattern making. That’s why we acquire high level skills on average.
Learning simultaneously flat cutting and draping taught me creation based on my own sensibility rather than theoretical measurement.
For design, we create a portfolio every three months to present illustrations, concept and details. This series of short-term creation improved my editing skills . If it satisfies conditions, you can choose any expression method.
ESMOD doesn’t see whether you draw well or not, but whether your creation is coherent till the end.
I could also understand personality of my classmates by seeing their creation. That is another advantage of ESMOD.
Actually, I was stuck in a slump and I couldn’t visualise what I love and what I can create from my universe which I want to express, but Mikio Sakabe and Yoshikazu Yamagata joined ESMOD as design teachers when I was third year student and that was a turning point.
My creation was very decorative, but when I started aiming at job-searching and realized how what I want to create was different from my goal, I became unable to recognize what I should do.
It was the two teachers that taught me that everything you feel, notice and see in daily life is related to fashion, and that allowed me to interpret everything in daily life for fashion. It rapidly increased what I want to do. I found that fashion is fun!
- What were your activities after graduating from ESMOD?
- When I was third year students, colleagues were ready to do job-searching, but I was not motivated at all by it.
I was motivated only by possible interviews with UNIQLO, because I enjoyed going its stores with my family and wearing the products in my childhood.
In September, I haven’t decided what I will do, but the company recruited freshmen for the first time during those five years. I thought I should not miss this opportunity, and it was in the end the only company I postulated for job interview. I was determined and frankly presented my thought and maybe that worked well. Thankfully, I was recruited to children’s clothing team.
That team covers all the children clothing such as outerwear, knitwear, shirts, blouses, t-shirts and underwear. It gave me a precious year which allowed me to learn broadly the general production process.
- What did make you start your own brand?
- Because I started to feel that difference between what was needed in the company and what I think is important for fashion was getting bigger. I also wanted to launch a brand which can do what such a big company cannot. That’s why I resigned UNIQLO after working there for 1 year.
Then, I decided to come back to ESMOD and join its new programme AMI.
- What did you learn in the ESMOD special programme?
- What AMI taught was not how to create designs and realize clothing, but the importance of knowing what I want to do and of finding partners of my creation such as patternmakers, sewing factories and processing factories.
When it comes to starting a brand, the important thing is not to accomplish your creation on your own, but how precisely you can define what you want and how much help you can get by your partners. AMI provides classes by teachers who don’t work in the fashion industry, and that taught me to broaden my perspective to start independent businesses.
My graduation collection theme in AMI was “beyond fast fashion”, which is now my own brand concept.
As I worked in UNIQLO, I often thought about what comes next to the fast fashion, and that led me to wish to be as coherent as possible about my emotion, feeling and creation.
I felt that the more production process takes time, the more it is difficult to be enthusiastic about the creation. I felt that we will be unable to know what we really want to do by working in the long-term process.
In the current fashion industry, we rarely see a system that makes clothing in a day to let people wear it tomorrow. It is a system providing fresh clothing immediately.
I want to propagate a new value which allows us to release clothing in shops after shorter production process.
- What was the process of launching your brand?
- The graduate collection in AMI enabled me to present my collections in TOKYO NEW AGE in March 2015.
On the next month, WALL on the first floor of Laforet Harajuku gave me a chance to sell them experimentally for about two weeks, and I immediately made and delivered the products after the orders in accordance with the concept which I established.
In the beginning, I was not sure whether I can really sell them with price, but I became just a little more confident after seeing a customer stop by, say “This is cute!” and buy my product without hesitation.
A Thirty-thousand-yen jeans is expensive for the youth, but many of my products are made as a unique piece and that let customers think “I should by it now”. I appreciate their feeling of some fate and buying my products.
- What will be your future activities?
- The apparel industry is seeing a turning point, and traditional production cycles and management directions are not working as they did.
It means that it is important to sell and release in a new way by being free from traditional systems.
I will continue attaching importance to my concept which express my wish “I want to go beyond the fast fashion” from the beginning of my career, but at the same time, I want to always care for domestic production background which is in a dangerous situation.
I also want to firmly keep on maintaining an environment where I can create on my own in case.
- Please give a message to people who aim for entering ESMOD.
- People who aim to work in the fashion industry in this day are really precious.
I really want them to keep the passion.
We can often easily start new things these days.
There would be still many new ways of brand management and clothing creation.
I want them to be free from traditional ways, and to try actively new things by sticking to their feeling of what they like!