Hey guys, so we got a special post today about fashion designer Tomomi Fukuda, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Tune in Tokyo SM Town pre-party last weekend. Tomomi is originally from Japan, and now lives in LA by way of Paris and London. She used to own a retail store on Melrose called Camdenlock Clothing (now online for your browsing pleasure), and made the clothes that Green Day wore on their American Idiot tour (remember when their style suddenly became way hip and slick? yep, that was Tomomi)! She’s got a ton of experience under her belt, so we scored an interview for all you aspiring fashion designers out there (or if you’re just into it). So here we go:
KawaiiKakkoiiSugio: So, I read somewhere that you opened your first store because someone commented on your sense of style and said that you should try owning your own retail store. Is this story true? What were the steps between being told you should do something and actually doing it?
Tomomi Fukuda: hahaha…it’s not really..ok, this is correct story…I was working for this guy who had a store there. I was designing t-shirts for his silk screen. Then, he disappeared . It was july 4th. I was home and got a call from his land lady who was sooo freaked out. Then I found out that the guy who seemed to be doing very well and actually owed $$$$ to lots of people and didn’t pay rent for 6 months and land lady was going to court for that. I drove over to the store and saw the land lady standing in a completely empty store. He took all my t-shirts with him.
I was still 23 or 24 ..so, i got very pissed and mad. The land lady asked me “What should I do? Tomomi… what should I do…” she was like a little grandma.. you know? Well, I just responded to her like “No problem, I’ll have this place!!” I just said it to her. Cuz i was PISSED !! LOL..anyway, she always liked me…so she told me she would give me a month to get ready. And wouldn’t ask for any deposit. all she wanted was a good tenant that would pay rent. So, that’s how things happened.
I didn’t know how to do business. I was from art college. Never learned any business.. I didn’t have any idea how things would be…
KKS: The Melrose fashion district of LA is a very competitive place, and probably a terrifying location to open your first store. How did your first few months go?
TF: No place there actually carried same kind of things as I had in my store. I didn’t care what’s trendy nor what’s selling well. I had what I like. It’s all my style. I’ve loved style though my whole life. I didn’t even care about season. I just sold everything I love .
My store was not for everybody, only for particular/certain people…I guess it was the reason my store was accessed for all the time I was there. The first few months was gone in what seemed like 3 days. Then, people started finding my store… and one after another…it was good timing, too. Right when English things were getting popular again after mid 90’s.
KKS: So, how did you become the stylist for Green Day’s American Idiot tour? What were you exactly going for with the style and what do you think it brought to the tour?
TF: I met Green Day when their first hit album came out on late 90’s. They came to my store with someone I knew back then. We are like the same generation…likes punk rock…so they soon became my customer. And since they lived in SF, their stylist started to come to my store to shop for them.
When they were making their new album (American idiot 2004) after almost a 5 years break.. they were recording in L.A. so they sometime stopped by to visit my store while they were staying here.
When recording was almost done, they started having more publicity and media appearances. So, they needed clothes (LOL). But by then, they were already 30…and didn’t wear green hair…they wanted to be looking sharp and edgy without the “hot topic look”.
At the same time, I just started my new line of men’s clothes. I had enough of “trendy hot topics punk fashion”, so I was like “no more skulls, no more studs,” I said to myself, ” WEAR WITH AN ATTITUDE !!”
I started to design and produce skinny fit suits (mods style) and slim fit shirts and very skinny ties in very vivid colors. It’s like clothes that you need the attitude to wear…this was my “slogan”.
Well, of course the guys of Green Day loved them and were just getting them for themselves to wear.
We have never had any meetings to figure out the kind of outfit for the tour/new images..
They liked my new line so much and started wearing my clothes everywhere they went and photographed in them for everything they appeared in.
Then, when they were leaving for their American Idiot tour, they included back up musicians with that look (black shirts and trousers and skinny ties). And that’s it.
KKS: Did you know your whole life that you wanted to be a fashion designer? What made you attracted to this line of work?
TF: I knew I liked to create since I was little. My grandpa was a very eccentric person in a very good way. He was great artist. I started drawing when I was 2 years old. So, I ended up going to art college. I never thought about being in fashion. I always loved fashion…but, I didn’t think of being in the fashion biz.
And I still don’t feel like fashion designer. I don’t wanna give myself a “limit”. I like being an “artist”. I will jump into anything that’s fun and inspires my creativity…it doesn’t have to be fashion. I like to make myself available to any exciting, creative project.
I don’t have any rules or limits… I’m like shameless.. LOL
KKS: Who inspires your work the most? Why and how?
TF: I have maybe 3 people I would love to work for (if it’s not for me). Vivienne Westwood (fashion designer), Joe Strummer (the clash. he passed in 2002) and Jean-Luc Godard (french film director 60’s). These 3 people inspired me when I was growing up. Big impact on my life.
I love to be around people who inspire me with not only their creativity but also their energy and the way they live. I need to have someone/something to feed my creativity…without it, I’m like dead. I’m addicted to the feeling of excitement being inspired.
My current “muse” for my (specially new women’s) clothes is “Maganda”. Yes, he.. not she. You might be confused…but, the thing is.. I don’t really care about he nor she…he (Maganda) really inspired me to start making clothes for girls. I had never met anybody who made me wanna make clothes for girls before i met Maganda.
KKS: What is the most challenging part of being a fashion designer and artist? How do you work through this problem?
TF: Never try too hard. It’s not gonna take you anywhere.
I don’t push myself when I don’t feel like doing anything…
I don’t rush from place to place literally and emotionally.
I love challenges. Like most artists, I believe. Without challenge there would be no improvement.
KKS: Do you have any advice for aspiring fashions designers or artists?
TF: Just do what you wanna do…and show it off. Don’t think too much…just act on what you wanna do.
KKS: What was your favorite creation and why?
Cuz’ when i create anything under my name it has to be the best. I don’t create anything I see as “ok”.
I actually, right now, have been so into my knit wears. My mohair sweaters have been very popular for almost 10 years…but, since I closed my store I have been so into my knit wears. So stay tuned for more to come for spring and summer. I have lots out there for this winter, too.
KKS: Where is your favorite place you have lived and why?
Paris, I can’t explain it…
I grew up in Europe (mostly London), so i started going to Paris when I was 14. Also, I lived there for almost 2 years
KKS: How does Japanese culture influence you?
TF: I’m not sure…I wanna know how my customer/clients feel…
As I mentioned, I didn’t grown up in Japan. I was born there and left there when i was 12. After that, I was in London. America is my 4th country I’ve lived in. Tokyo (where I was till 12), London, Paris and Los Angeles. Europe culture was of course a bigger part of my growing up. But, I’m Japanese and my family is all Japanese…I have been here in America since 1995, so I’ve gotten used to American (I should say…Los Angeles…LOL) culture by now.
All I can tell you is that if I tried to, I would understand Japanese culture even though I left there when i was young. So it’ll be my advantage when I have a chance to do business with Japanese people. (I would love to sell my clothes in Japan sometime very soon…I am actually working on it. Wish me a big luck !!!).
– Tomomi Fukuda *URBANGUERRILLAS* camdenlock clothing
*web site/show case
*media (bands and magazine)
*be friends with me on facebook
Tattoos and Eyeliner