Japanese fashion develops together with the history of Bunka Fashion College.
Reforming Japanese fashion
Seijiro Endo, who was a salesman at a sewing machine company, was shocked at the fact that housewives were failing to take advantage of the sewing machine because of their lack of knowledge of how to make Western clothes, and felt the establishment of an institution that would teach appropriate dressmaking was urgently needed. Endo met Namiki, and the two men were in complete agreement about reforming Japanese fashion. Endo envisioned a time in the future when fashion in Japan would change from traditional Japanese clothing to Western clothing.
Bunka Sewing School
In 1922, the shop became the Bunka Sewing School, located in a three-story timber structure at Fukuro-machi, Ushigome, Tokyo. It started with four students and seven apprentices. The following year, the school was renamed in accordance with a Tokyo ordinance and began a bright new future as Bunka Sewing School for Women.
Namiki was born in 1887 in Saitama Prefecture. He showed an unusually keen interest in sewing from an early age, and in 1903, at the introduction of Sekiko Toita, he went to study with Ijima Fujin Yofuku Ten (“Ijima Women’s Clothier”) a third-generation tailor dating from the Meiji Era. Over the course of 18 years, he attained profound skill and experience as a tailor of women’s and children’s clothing. In 1919, he opened his own establishment, Namiki Women's and Children's Dressmaking Shop, which included a school for women's and children's dressmaking. After working as a teacher in the Western clothing department of Toita Saiho Jogakko (“Toita Girls’ Sewing School”) and Shinga Mishin Saiho Jogakko (“Singer Sewing Machine Girls' School”), in 1922, he established the Bunka Sewing School, and served as its head. At the dawn of the age of dressmaking in Japan, he devised a teaching system utilizing patterns, establishing a foundation for fashion education. He died in 1933 at the age of 46.
Endo was born in 1894 in Iwate Prefecture. In 1917, he went to Tokyo, worked as an interpreter for visitors to Japan. Interested in English he joined Singer Sewing Machine Company the same year, and achieved tremendous success as a salesman. In 1919, he met Namiki Isaburo, and while helping him to manage his school, he came to see fashion education as his life’s mission, and left Singer, devoting himself to the school’s administration. He recruited students and worked on PR, expanded publishing projects such as Fukuso Bunka (“Fashion Culture”), Soen, and Bunka Fukuso Koza (“Bunka Fashion Course”), and fostered the Bunka Fashion College Network, contributing to the organization and prosperity of the College. He died in 1960 at the age of 66.
All six volumes of Bunka Yosai Koza (“Bunka Dressmaking Course”) were completed in 1935, after a year of work. The culmination of years of teaching traditional fashion, these volumes also came to be used in correspondence courses, and raised the school’s reputation to the highest level in the industry.
The Showa Era, beginning in 1926, became the age of technology. The technological wellspring of Bunka Fashion College was the artisan’s skills the school’s founder, Isaburo Namiki, had acquired working at clothing stores. Many teachers started out as tailors at long-established stores, and created practical courses that respected and passed on these artisanal skills, initiating students into the secrets of the trade in the classroom. And, after the Second World War, information from Europe and the U.S. became freely available, marking the beginning of an upbeat age full of new, exciting things and experiences. Graphic designers became more prominent, and there was also growing demand for professional training in order to foster designers in the field of fashion design.
In 1953, as part of the events celebrating the 30th anniversary of the College’s founding, Christian Dior and his entourage were invited to Japan, and fashion shows were held in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka. The Paris fashions displayed at the shows caused excitement throughout Japanese society, extending far beyond the fashion world. Afterwards many other designers came to Japan and held shows at the College, allowing students to see and study top shows from abroad when they were studying.
Fashion Creation courses are programs that teach general fashion knowledge and skills. Fashion Technology courses teach specialized knowledge and skills in fields that manufacture fashion products, with the aim of training students to work in the apparel industry. Fashion Marketing and Distribution courses train students to be able to work with distribution channels in the industry. Fashion Accessories and Textiles courses were added in 1983, and continue to the present day.
The fashion show, “Ten Designers on the World Stage,” celebrating the 60th anniversary of the College’s founding, was held by graduates for the opening of Endo Memorial Hall. The brand names of each designer shone like neon on the stage, and the brightly colored clothes of Kenzo Takada were a great success. Yutaka Hasegawa, Tadayomi Sakaide, Norio Suzuki, Mitsuhiro Matsuda (Nicole), Yohji Yamamoto (Yohji Yamamoto), Hiroko Koshino (Hiroko Koshino), Junko Koshino (Junko Koshino), Meiko Kitahara (Mine May), and Isao Kaneko (Pink House) each presented marvelous shows. These were a great inspiration for students at the College, who looked up to these graduates of their school.
Jurors consisted of a veritable who’s who of the fashion world at the time, including Bunka Fashion College teachers. An air of excitement filled the jury venue as fashion design underwent serious scrutiny, with questions such as “How should clothes be made to reflect the mood of the times?” and “What does it mean to create the clothes for the future?” All students attempted to win the Soen Award, and the number of challengers has increased year by year. The fact that Bunka Fashion College design students win year after year serves as a wonderful incentive for fellow classmates aiming to become professional designers.
New fashion quest
Since its foundation, Bunka Fashion College has worked closely with the fashion industry as a central actor in Japanese fashion education, and developed together with the industry. As a leader in Japanese fashion education, it explores new forms of fashion that adapt to the times, engaging in joint research with companies and participating in collaborative initiatives that involve industry, government, and academia. Japanese fashion will continue to evolve and produce creators capable of performing on the global stage as a result of Bunka Fashion College continuing to hone students’ individuality and fashion sense, and ensuring that they acquire the knowledge and skills required to compete at an international level.