|As unique as her name, fashion designer B.Yavuutsagaan produces one-of-a-kind clothing and is gaining momentum in Japan with her “Picasso & Japonismo” collection. Many of her designs are inspired by the world famous, multi-talented artist Pablo Picasso, which has been delineated in the name of her latest collection.
B.Yavuutsagaan has temporarily returned to Mongolia to organize her first fashion show in her home land. She plans to showcase her new “Yavuu SS17” spring-summer 2017 collection at Shangri-La Hotel on October 21, 2016. The emerging fashion designer spoke about her Yavuu Brand and the upcoming fashion show in the interview below.The young Mongolian fashion designer gallantly entered the Japanese fashion industry with her Yavuu Brand, which combines traditional styles and patterns of the highly respected Japanese kimono with new modern styles. Despite the strong nationalistic ideology of the Japanese people, B.Yavuutsagaan’s designs have been trending throughout the country. The young Mongolian designer’s seasonal and kimono collections are exclusively sold in some of Japan’s most luxurious stores in Shibuya, Tokyo.
How were you able to step foot into the Japanese fashion industry. Wasn’t it challenging since Japan has a unique culture with a very strict code of etiquette?
I was born and raised in Bayankhongor Province, Mongolia. I’ve been interested in fashion design since I was in middle school. I participated in Unsgeljin (Cinderella) fashion competition for children two years in a row. In connection with my aspiration and interest, I enrolled into Urlakh Erdem Fashion Design Institute. Japanese drama series “Oshin” used to be shown on the television when I was in ninth or 10th grade. I loved watching that film and it made me want to go to Japan. Many of my university friends started traveling abroad so I decided to study the Japanese language on my own while attending university classes. Soon I came across an opportunity to study in Japan. I’ve been living in Japan for nearly 12 years now. I studied and earned my master’s degree at the Vantan Design Institute in Japan. People who graduated from Japanese institutes and colleges have to establish their own brand for a master’s degree. The first fashion show I participated in after setting up my own brand was the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Tokyo in 2013.
Your daring changes to traditional kimono styles have been gaining popularity. Can you talk about that?
Yes. I studied kimono for quite a bit, and based on my study, I tried bringing change to kimono. As soon as I arrived in Japan for the first time, I tried on a kimono and even started going to a (kimono) club. I studied the arts of kimono making, its embroidery and material. The more I learned about kimono, the more interesting it became. I wrote my bachelor’s thesis on kimono – “Infusing Kimono Embroidery to European Clothing”. I haven’t been away from kimono since. The kimono has a history spanning several hundreds of years. The study of kimono is endless.
It seems that minimalist fashion and styles are trending in Japan. Your designs are focused on small details as well, right?
Our brand consists of casual, everyday wear. You could say that it’s for the masses. Kimono, on the other hand, is made with a one-of-a-kind design and we sell only one of each design. Kimonos are custom-made only. These are the two fields I work in. Wearing a Japanese traditional kimono is very complicated. You can’t put it on alone. I changed this characteristic and created modern kimono designs (that are easy to wear) but they aren’t too revealing. Some also have been adapted to become office wear.
The Japanese people are modest and conservative. They hardly wear things that are fancy, exotic or too exposing. I designed my kimonos with this in mind, but made sure that it still had elegant and luxurious aspect of the kimono. This is probably why Japanese people accept and adore my designs. The number of my clients increased rapidly. My kimono collections are more popular than my everyday wear collections.
You must have faced many obstacles to have your brand recognized by the Japanese people. Have you ever felt discouraged?
Even now, there are tons of challenges. I guess I have established a reputation to some extent but in the beginning, I had loads of problems and difficulty. I was alone, younger and a student when I first went to Japan. I’ve come so far all alone. Large Japanese factories don’t care about penniless people. I learned that they will not talk to a “nobody” who still hasn’t graduated. It was very hard back then.
How were you able to make them pay attention and listen to you?
I ran here and there with my designs. I tried telling them that I participated in some fashion shows but Japanese people aren’t persuaded with just one meeting. It’s the same everywhere I suppose. People care only about profit and yield. They consider how collaborating with someone will benefit them. So nobody was willing to listen to me in the first year. In the following year, people started treating me differently because I went around and because I had participated in several fashion shows. They decided to trust me because my designs were becoming popular. It’s very difficult to gain the trust of Japanese people.
The kimono society was nonchalant at first because almost everyone who approached them had similar ideas. I invited members of the society to my fashion show in 2013. They were very impressed and complimented that my designs looked simple but elegant and that they could be worn anywhere across the globe. They spoke highly about the fact that I preserved some of the traditional Japanese kimono styles. Since then, the society has been very supportive. We are collaborating for the fourth year now. When I first told the president of the kimono society that I wanted their support for organizing a fashion show in Mongolia, she responded nonchalantly. I visited her once again with everything prepared and planned, and she was very impressed. She commended me for being quick on my foot.
You are going to host your very first fashion show in Mongolia. What will be the highlight?
This time, I want to introduce kimono to Mongolians. I will hold a joint exhibition with the Japanese kimono society. The president of the society has agreed to come. I hope Mongolians will be able to get to see the true form of the kimono. Kimonos is sold for 20 million MNT to 30 million MNT, sometimes even 50 million MNT. I will showcase only luxurious kimonos at the exhibition during my fashion show. You will be able to see some extremely rare videos of how a kimono is made at my fashion show.
Mongolians think that kimonos are sold for sky-high prices for no reason. I want to show them how complicated kimono making and embroidery is. People can get ideas on how to style and renovate certain types of clothing. Some people who don’t know much about kimono might think that my European designs are average or common. People will see the fashion show differently if they first see the exhibition and get an understanding about kimono.
The fashion show consists of two parts. My collection of casual outfits will be showcased first, followed by my kimono collection.
Similar to how you infused kimono styles to European wear, do you have plans to merge kimono styles with Mongolian traditional clothing?
I combined the characteristics of the kimono with Mongolian deels since this upcoming fashion show is for Mongolians. Mongolians usually wear deel during Tsagaan Sar and the National Naadam Festival. More and more people enjoy and are interested in wearing the traditional Mongolian clothing. I will further study our traditional clothing, the deel. I plan to hold an exhibition on the Mongolian traditional deel on every fashion show I launch. The exhibition will provide information on the history and other interesting facts about the deel.
How do Japanese people perceive your new approaches to their traditional wear? In a way, you are mixing the kimono with European styles and event with the Mongolian deel.
There are some Japanese people who disapprove. They complain that I’m recklessly destroying the kimono. They’re more frustrated because it’s a foreigner messing with their traditional wear. Even so, our brand gets tons orders. I’m doing what I wanted to do and I will protect my designs.
At first, people, especially my instructors, used to tell me that the kimono and European clothes aren’t the best combination fabric-wise. Kimono was and is still hand-made. Despite negative feedback, I continued doing what I wanted and didn’t give up. I destroyed their kimono and made it into jackets and trousers. I guess the material tends to stretch but this aspect can be improved. I will make fabrics with much better quality. Fabrics used for making a kimono is merely 35 cm in width. This has been a standard size for a long time. I plan to abolish this standard. I want to cooperate with professionals and have them develop my very own, original fabric.
How high is the demand for your European clothing collection? Are western fashion industries interested in the kimono?
There is a Japanese fashion designer based in Paris, France who makes designs with unique traits of the kimono. He has a very successful career. He’s dominating Europe although the growth pace has dropped a bit now. On the other hand, my designs are very new. They aren’t extremely avant-garde, but simple. They feature some fine embroidery and unique details too. But it is more Japanese style.
Will you launch Yavuu Brand in Europe in the future?
Yes, I do want to enter the European fashion industry. I’m still contemplating where I should hold my next fashion show. I believe I’m ready to launch a fashion show in Europe. I wasn’t very confident before. You can’t make a sudden debut in the European fashion industry. You must study the market. Western people are content with their styles. They hardly acknowledge designs. They simply try it and then leave it. I don’t want that. Since I will be spending money, I might as well as produce something that every European person will grow interest in. I still lack experience so I want to be recognized and acknowledged in Mongolia first. I have established a bit of a reputation in Japan. I will climb up the ladder step by step.