Designing with Love: A Conversation with Fashion Designer Noriko Kikuchi
Get ready to be inspired by the innovative and visionary fashion designer, Noriko Kikuchi. In this exclusive interview, Noriko shares with us her creative process, personal design aesthetic, and approach to sustainability in the fashion industry. She also discusses the challenges she has faced in her career and offers valuable advice to aspiring fashion designers.
With a passion for creating beautiful and unique garments, Noriko has launched her new brand and is excited to share her vision with the world. Join us as we delve into the mind of this talented designer and learn more about her future plans and goals for her design career.
Noriko, could you tell us a little bit about your background and how you became interested in fashion design?
When I was in elementary school, my mother used to draw pictures of clothes. I followed her example and drew with her, which is how I first became interested in clothes. My mother had learned embroidery and sewing, so I naturally learned to enjoy making things by learning to embroider and make bags while imitating her. I studied fashion at ESMOD Japon, and after a 10-year career as a designer at an apparel company, I took a break from fashion when I got married.
However, my enjoyment of clothesmaking was revived when I made costumes for my children's opera for a school event. I then restarted my career as a designer and established "Atelier E-happiness" in 2017. Seeing the pretty dresses of idols on TV made me want to design cute and beautiful dresses myself, which is how I got into this business. At that time, I had no connections and started from scratch to develop a
beauty in all fabrics and strive to bring out their sparkle by attaching decorations and adding love to the garment itself. Giving love to what I am creating is always a priority in my work, and this is how my personal design aesthetic manifests itself.
Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important issue in the fashion industry. How do you approach sustainability in your own design practice?
In my costume production, I mainly make garments to order, which minimizes wasted fabric loss. Additionally, some of the fabrics used in this collection are made to order, ensuring we only produce what we need. Even when using new fabrics, I strive to create garments in a way that minimizes waste.
As a designer, what challenges have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?
Costume production is very different from ready-to-wear clothing and requires a variety of decorations and innovations that can only be achieved through experience. To overcome this challenge, I spent my days researching and learning to answer my clients' requests. I was not ashamed to ask questions, seek advice, and work through areas where I lacked knowledge. I believe that with flexible thinking and a positive attitude, any problem can be solved.
What advice would you give to aspiring fashion designers who are just starting out?
I want aspiring fashion designers to design with joy, despite the hardships that often come with this profession. I encourage them to believe in the image they want to create clientele by myself. Over the past seven years, I have worked on costumes for about 70 groups of idols, which translates to about 760 idols.
Your collection showcased at Vancouver Fashion Week 2023 was stunning. Can you walk us through the inspiration and creative process behind it?"
Two months before the show, my mother collapsed and had to be hospitalized. For a while, I thought about giving up on participating in the show. However, I thought that my mother would be sad to give up on the VFW show she was looking forward to the most, so I decided to use her favorite sky and clouds as the theme. That's how 'Colored Cloud' came to be. I made up my mind to create a new collection with a fresh theme, without using my traditional designs.
From the moment I made this decision, I received wonderful fabrics that were exactly as I had imagined, and I started to think about how to bring these beautiful fabrics to life. The design was quickly decided upon, and I gave instructions to the production staff to complete the base costume. From there, I made adjustments one by one, and if the silhouette was different from the image, I made changes myself to make it even more beautiful. Finally, the finished design became the work for this collection.
How would you describe your personal design aesthetic and how does it manifest in your work?
I believe that everything will work out, and I can change the piece to my liking in the end, even if I get something different from what I envisioned during the process. I see and never give up on their design work, regardless of the environment or others' opinions.
What projects or collections are you currently working on that you're particularly excited about?
VFW was the catalyst for me to launch my new brand NORIKO KIKUCHI. From now on, I would like to create thoroughly cute and beautiful outfits, and at the same time, I would like to establish a foundation for the brand to be widely recognized. I have a lot of work to do (laughs).
What role do you see fashion playing in society, both now and in the future?
I believe it is essential to create an environment where people can enjoy their work and generate employment through fashion. The era of bitter and painful apparel makers should come to an end. Design is the product of inspiration, and it is impossible to create a great design in a painful situation. It would be better if everyone could work in a free and comfortable space.
Lastly, what are your future plans and goals for your design career?
In the future, I aim to grow my brand and provide a place to work and spiritual enrichment for many people. My dream is to create a brand that represents everyone's dream.