OSH-Interview — Tosh Yagishita
In the 4th issue of OSH-Interview we talk to a Japanese-Hongkongese-American fashion designer who is also engaged in music and digital art Tosh Yagishita. In this issue Tosh tells us how he started, shares his views on importance of building up right connections as well as creating unique lifestyle and gives some useful tips for those who have a dream and want to make it true.
— Tosh, you’re only 24 and you’ve already achieved some level in fashion design. At least here in Shanghai a lot of people know about you. But as far as we know you started doing it only at 20, just for 4 years you’ve made such a long way, how did you do it?
— Yeah, it’s true that my career is only 4 years old for now but I can’t say that I did absolutely nothing during the past 20 years. I have a very international background and the experience which I gained in previous 20 years helped me in what I’m doing now.
By the time I was 20 I lived in 2 continent, 5 countries & 8 cities. I was born in Tokyo, but after just couple months moved to Hong Kong. At the age of 5 I moved to Vietnam. Then it was Hawaii, Washington state (Seattle), Florida, Los Angeles and now in Shanghai.
My parents divorced and my mother didn’t have a lot of money to raise me. In Florida I was working in McDonald’s cooking burgers full time for two years to make some money. All that was a valuable experience, especially coming from the bottom.
— When was the first time when you realized that you could do something more than just cooking burgers? What made you believe in yourself?
— My first success that changed my thinking was related to my hobby. When I lived in Florida I was skating every single day. I was really living for skateboarding, but my thinking was if I like to skateboard I should do something with it. So my goal was to get sponsored. I skated really hard daily and finally I got sponsored. By a company called Irye Clothing Co. even though it was a small company, for the first time in my life I had a powerful feeling that I achieved my goal. I made it! That gave me a strong belief in myself; I knew that everything is possible if you don’t give up on yourself.
“We only go to school to get foundation, the real study starts when we begin to work”.
— So how it happened that you started to do fashion?
— By the time I was 6th grade I already knew that I liked fashion. But I didn’t know what I wanted to do nor have anybody to actually pull me in. One day I got a call from my father who proposed an idea to try to start something in the fashion industry instead of cooking burgers. That was an initial kick of my career. So I moved to Los Angeles where my father lived and started my fashion education there in school and had the opportunity to work under my father.
— What fashion school did you attend there?
— I attended two schools there. OTIS College of Art and Design which was a private school and Los Angeles Trade Tech, which was a public school. Rick Owens Graduated from OTIS too.
— Was there any difference between private school and public school?
— If you go to the famous private school you normally get the “brand”. It’s prestigious. But you don’t really work there as hard as if you go to the normal public school. That’s why I decided to go to the public school and start real apprenticeship. I studied how to make patterns, how to sew, how to design and so forth. I got the basic foundation there and that’s what I believe we go to school for. We only go to school to get the basic foundation, the real study starts when we begin to work.
— Why did you decide to come to Shanghai?
— In 2012 when I came here I knew that Chinese economy was going up. And I wanted to catch the wave before it starts to go down. I also realized that I could make my background even better by doing it so. American Japanese, & Hongkongese boy graduating from a French Fashion School in Shanghai, China. Besides all this; large amounts of garments are manufactured in China. So for a person in the fashion industry, it’s very important to be able to communicate clearly with your manufactures and other important people in their own language.
— How did you start here?
— I went to school here first. It was IFA (International Fashion Academy) Paris Fashion School (Shanghai campus). In the beginning I wanted to get used to the people and culture first. It was the best way to understand the culture and to see what’s going around me to make a step outside even though I was alone. Next step was to find out what kind of people I can meet here and how I can make right connections and get the right inspirations.
— What is your concept of “right” connections?
— When I’m talking about right connections it means that I know exactly what I want to achieve and pick only those friends who can help me with it. Now when I make business it’s different from when I was skating. That time it was simple: you can skate, I can skate, all right — we skate. But now we do business and we must first of all think how we can help each other grow. That’s why now I try to be a friend of people who are the same level with me or higher than me, it is the only way you can grow. Otherwise it’s as just as they say:
“If you keeping playing with a monkey, you will act like a monkey”.
— Okay, let’s talk about what you are doing in Shanghai now, we know that you’ve started producing and selling self-designed accessories like pins and other objects. Why did you decide to do this and not clothes like jackets for example?
— Actually I wanted to make clothes first but if you make clothes you are always restricted and pushed by seasons. Accessories don’t have any seasons. You can put a pin on any time you like and there is a million different ways you can wear a single pin. That’s why I decided to start with it a pin.
— But as you said it’s only a beginning, what plans do you have about your personal business?
— Someone people say “take it step by step” I want to jump instead. I’m really hoping to strongly launch my own brand soon. Currently I’m selling my things from my WeChat account only. It’s going well, but I know it can be better. I want to make something exclusive which is not for everybody. And that’s what people crave for like Louis Vuitton. Why do people want Louis Vuitton even it’s a fake; because it’s an exclusive brand? If you have Louis Vuitton you feel that you have achieved a level of status. That’s I want to give to people when they purchase my brand.
— When you were skating your purpose was to get sponsored. Are you going to look for investors or some kind of partnership for your own future brand?
— Actually some people have already tried to invest in me, but I refused it. I don’t want to have a boss. Because if you have investors, you have to discuss every decision with them. Since they put their money in the project. I don’t want someone to answer to. I want to spend my own money from my pocket and run my own thing by myself. I need to be sure I can allow my creativity to flow and not be stopped by someone who only cares about financial benefit.
— You also release your own music and you are engaged in digital pop art as we’ve heard.
— Yeah, I’ve been making music since high school but before I was not sure if people would like it or not. Moreover, I was afraid to get hurt by what people think. Such as music that I make, that I like a lot. Some might really hate it and think its trash. So I decided to release my music this year not caring about what people thinks. They aren’t the one paying my bills. The same is with my art. I started to release it without being afraid of what people would think. Art and Music I believe it’s a reflection/mirror of who you really are. As they say:
“You are what you listen to”.
— Fashion design, music and digital pop art. What do you consider to be your main business?
— Actually it’s all three together. Because that creates a lifestyle. If I only do fashion, I am just a designer, if I only do art, I am just an artist, if I only make music, I am only a rapper, right? But I want to put those three together and on the equal level. That’s what I’m working on.
So when you are asking about my main business, I don’t say about pop art, music and fashion separately. I’m talking about a lifestyle. I don’t want to sell just a piece of brand; I want to sell a brand, which comes with the lifestyle. As I like to say:
“You can copy my products but you can’t copy my lifestyle”.
— So you mean that people should follow your lifestyle and as a result purchase goods, which you sell, right?
— Exactly, that’s what I’m trying to do. I invest in my lifestyle, education, knowledge, style, how I view things, inspiration and so on; because that’s the main thing I want to sell is myself. Yes you are buying my products but you are also buying my lifestyle and how I view things. I have different way of thinking than other people and how I view things.
— Alright, at the end, what can you recommend to our readers who want to achieve their goals and become successful?
— The first advice is just to believe in yourself. The biggest change which you can do in your life is the way you think. If you want to be a CFO or CEO you just have to have that feeling in you all the time. When you close your eyes you must feel like you are in that position already. I think that’s how I’ve got to where I am now at this point. I followed my dreams about something that I wanted to get and when life gave me an opportunity I always grabbed it. Life only gives you chances; it’s only up to you to take it. So go on dreaming and never give up on yourself.
The second advice is to build up connections. If you are working in a company but is outside of the circle of real decision-makers you can’t get much benefits of being in this company. At the same time your connections are what make you valuable in the market. When the CEO asks you why he should pay so much money to you, the answer should be your connections & the power of making money for the company. You have to be eager to develop your network of right connections.
«More hands you shake, more money you make».
Interview by: Klim Likhitinov, Evgeniy Lugovoy, Vadim Koziashev
Edited by: Vadim Koziashev, Omar Lovell
Photo and video by: Sergey Balaban
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