Japanese model makes a big leap forward at Paris Fashion Week

Japanese models are now prominent in the European fashion scene. Asians colored the runways of big brands at Paris Fashion Week in the Spring / Summer 2021 collection, which was held on both digital and physical due to the pandemic. First of all, Mika Schneider, has a Japanese mother and a French father, received the most attention last year. In the Spring / Summer 2020 debut season, a total of 10 brand runways in Milan and Paris centered on big brands such as “Prada” “Chanel” “Louis Vuitton” and “Saint Laurent” in a career of about two months from the start of modeling activities. Its performance continues to this day, and she is selected not only in shows but also in campaigns for “Hermes” “Versace” and “Saint Laurent” and has a presence in the editorials of each country. Born in Paris, France in 2001, raised in Japan, Russia, and India, she is trilingual: Japanese, French and English. She said at the award ceremony of VOGUE JAPAN Women of the Year 2019, “What I learned from my experience of traveling around the world this year is the need for a healthy diet and moderate exercise to build a strong body.” Like Generation Z, she has a high interest in environmental issues, and after starting the modeling business in earnest, she became vegetarian.

Following Mika’s success was  Maryel Uchida, who debuted in the Fall / Winter 2020-21 season. A quarter with a Japanese mother and a half-Japanese and Brazilian father, she was born and raised in Brazil. At the age of 14, she participated in a model contest at her mother’s recommendation, which triggered her career and was active in Brazil. In the winter of 19 years old, as soon as he participated in the collection circuits in London, Milan and Paris for the first time, she walked the runways such as “J.W. Anderson” “Margaret Howell” “Prada” “Christian Dior” and “Loewe.” With that momentum, it is a breakthrough in campaigns for “Christian Dior” and “Louis Vuitton.”

And a new star has appeared in the latest Spring / Summer 2021 collection. Kayako Higuchi from Kanagawa prefecture. Although the number of physical fashion shows has decreased significantly, she has been used by 7 brands in all cities, including “Max Mara” “Versace” “Christian Dior” and “Acne Studios.” She started her career in 2017 when she was 16 years old and was scouted by a modeling agency at Starbucks in Roppongi. “I like airports and airplanes, so I dreamed of being a flight attendant until I was in high school. In high school, I modeled in a club activity that makes fashion shows, and my parents like fashion, then I dreamed of being a model.“

She walked the opening of London’s flagship brand “Burberry,” which made her a big leap forward this season when she challenged the world. Casting directors from other brands who saw the show contacted her modeling agency to ask if she participates in Fashion Weeks in Milan and Paris as they could be used for the show in cities other than London. “I loved her the moment she appeared in the audition,” said Patrizia Pilotti, casting director of “Burberry,” who picked her up in the industry. “I wanted to use a new model for the opening, but I wasn’t planning to be Asian. At first glance at Kayako, I and Ricardo (artistic director of “Burberry”)  were also attracted. She was a little too classic, so I suggested getting a hair cut; Kayako immediately agreed. As a result, her beauty was brought out even more, and I felt the power. I thought it was suitable for the opening.“

She has a brilliant career as well as past suffering from bulimia behind the scenes. “I used to think that if I didn’t make it into the TOP 50 of Models.com, I wouldn’t be worth as a model, so I forced myself to lose weight. The more I thought I had to lose weight, the more I couldn’t stop eating, and I suffered from bulimia. That made me ashamed and painful,” she said. The concept of “skinny = model” tightened her, and after suffering from bulimia for about two years, she decided to quit the model around the spring of this year. On the contrary, she could take it easy by her decision, and her symptoms gradually cured. She was diagnosed with ADHD and antidepressants at a mental clinic and then completely cured by the summer through counseling and medical treatment.

Pilotti denies the growing demand for Asian models. “Asians are certainly active, but I don’t think there is a trend in the world of models. The reason why Asian models such as Kayako are appointed is not because they are Asians, but because of their individuality.” Certainly, the concept of diversity and inclusive that the fashion industry has been focusing on these days is beginning to change to “individuality” from conventional standard of beauty as the active use of multinational and plus-size models. “Each brand has its own taste, whether it’s genuine beauty or a wacky character. Each ‘individuality’ is an important condition that models are consistently required. We are beginning to present a new side of beauty, and I hope this will continue for a long time.” Higuchi agrees with Pilotti, who says, “For me, the standard of beauty is the value that each person has that is not invaded by anyone. The stereotypes such as age, body shape, and race are broken, and the ‘beauty of individuality’ is respected. I want to acquire expressiveness as a model that can be a part of that trend.” The grass is always greener on the other side. Rather than looking at others and envy what you don’t have, it’s important to look at yourself, embrace your weaknesses and strengths, and value your “individuality” in order to survive in society, not just in the model industry.


Elie Inoue

Paris-based journalist, born in Osaka, Japan, in 1989. Having a dream of living abroad since she took a trip to Europe with her mother when she was 12 years old. After graduating from Mukogawa Women’s University, she started living in New York City and gained experience as a fashion journalist and coordinator.The more involved in fashion, the more she was strongly drawn to European fashion culture and history, then she moved into Paris in 2016. Currently, she has been covering fashion weeks in various cities, interviews with fashion designers, as well as working on lifestyle, culture, and politics.