Fashion Journalist / Editor
Born 1983 in the USA, Washington State. Attracted to the unusual idea of an American studying in Japan, Misha came to Tokyo in 2004, getting her fashion education at Bunka Fashion College. Currently she is a fashion journalist/editor and writes for such publications as The Japan Times, VOGUE Girl, Numero TOKYO, Kyodo News, CNN go, Shiseido Hanatsubaki, and SO-EN Magazine among others. In April of this year she started a blog that reports on the "now" of the high-fashion world in Tokyo called "Tokyo Fashion Diaries" and it is currently available in 3 languages, garnering attention globally. She also works as a stylist and producer, bringing multiple talents to her work, and now adding "President" of her new company Totteoki Inc. started this summer to the roster. She is known throughout the industry for her highly particular taste in edgy, avant-garde fashion.
Misha Janette became interested in the unique culture of Japan, which differed greatly from her native United States, and moved to Japan on her own. She has been active as a fashion journalist and stylist in a plethora of media, such as newspapers, magazines, TV and the Internet. This April, she officially started her blog, “Tokyo Fashion Diaries,” and the abundant topics that she picks up based on her own aesthetic sense, regardless of fame of what she reports on, have garnered considerable attention both in Japan and abroad. We interviewed Misha, who eight years after arriving in Japan, is strengthening her presence in Japan as one of Tokyo’s leading fashion icons with her unique fashion style.
What made you decide to work in Japan?
Misha: I’m from Washington State, and when I was in the 4th grade, my homeroom teacher, who was Japanese-American, taught me origami, gave me Japanese sweets, and introduced me to a Japanese pen pal. The letters that arrived from my Japanese pen pal were so cutely decorated, and I always looked forward to getting them. This was the first time I became aware of a country called Japan. When I was in high school, programs such as “Sailor Moon” and “Pokémon” aired on TV, and the coloring of these characters was unique and the ideas were completely different from the U.S., and I became more interested in Japan. So in my third year of high school, I came to Japan as an exchange student, and this experience was what first led me to my current job.
Did you study fashion from when you were in the States?
Misha: I studied graphic design in the United States, but I’d always wanted to study fashion. When I studied in Japan, I was in the Kansai area, and when I went people-watching in Shinsaibashi and Amerikamura, I found that people thought nothing about mixing and matching colors together in crazy cacophonies (laughs). I wanted to understand this culture better, and I made friends in Japan, so I decided to try studying fashion in Japan and enrolled at the Bunka Fashion College.
Were you aiming to be a fashion journalist from back then?
Misha: At first, I was aspiring to be a stylist. However, when I was a student, I was introduced to someone who wrote fashion articles in the English “Japan Times” newspaper, and I briefly became his assistant. After I graduated from school, he left the “Japan Times,” and he asked if I would write in his stead. I had absolutely no confidence, but I couldn’t say no and decided to take the opportunity. This led to requests several media, and before I knew it, I had a lot of work as a fashion journalist (laughs).
Tokyo Fashion Diaries http://www.tokyofashiondiaries.com/
Please tell us about your blog Tokyo Fashion Diaries that you started this April.
Misha: At the beginning, I was thinking about creating a blog to introduce Japanese fashion to people outside Japan. But the information on young designers that I write about in my blog are often not covered by Japanese magazines, and I wanted Japanese people to know about them too, so I decided to make my blog bilingual. Chinese is also available, but this is a translation done by the blog’s fans and they send it to me. It is very difficult to edit pictures, design the site, and do the programming all on my own, but it’s a lot of fun.
Do you have a different approach when working on your usual work and on your blog?
Misha: I write in an analytic manner in my work for newspapers, etc, but in my blog I write as though I’m talking to myself. I don’t post articles in a particularly planned manner; I just post what I genuinely feel to be interesting depending on my mood at that time, much like how my outfits change on a daily basis. This is something that I can do because it’s a blog, and it allows me to introduce brands that would otherwise be difficult to feature in media such as newspapers due to name recognition, etc.
Your blog is full of the latest news and designer information; how do you find this information?
Misha: I’m blessed with good encounters and timing. Some of the information I get through word of mouth, and often I just happen to be in the right place at the right time. I stand out because of my unique style, so perhaps I pull it in gravitationally (laughs). Of course, I keep my eyes and ears open, so I also contact people that I think are interesting myself.。
It seems that you have been getting a lot of feedback from readers both in Japan and abroad.
Misha: I’m surprised when people I’ve never met come up to me and say that they read my blog. I sometimes receive encouraging messages from abroad through Twitter, etc, and that motivates me to keep updating my blog. However, I feel that the image that foreigners have of Japan is still old-fashioned. There are many blogs to introduce Japanese fashion to people outside Japan, but they often emphasize the strange aspects of Japanese pop culture as seen through the eyes of a foreigner. But one of the major reasons I started this blog was because there is much more variety to fashion in Japan, and I wanted to communicate what Japanese fashion is like in “today’s” age.
It seems that there are few people in Japan who critique the current status of Japanese fashion and transmit these critiques both domestically and abroad.
Misha: In the Japanese fashion industry, critiquing a brand in a magazine, etc, would often lead to the brand breaking off their relationship with you, so that makes it difficult to critique them. I’m also somewhat scared to critique brands myself, but now I have my own blog and the encouragement of young people, so I think I can continue to critique brands on my own terms. I love and support all designers, but I try to look at famous and powerful brands and young and new brands on an equal footing, and I try to pick up what I feel matches the mood of that season in an unbiased manner.
What do you feel about Japanese fashion through your daily work?
Misha: Young people are trying their hand at launching various brands, and I think there are a lot of good brands. I think that now that Japan is drawing more attention from abroad due to the recent earthquake, and how to provide topics of conversation to people that like fashion will become more important. Until now, Fashion Week was focused on how to draw attention within the industry, but from now on, I think it will be necessary to provide things that can also be yearned for and enjoyed by customers rather than just buyers and journalists. Fashion provides people with fantasies and changes their mood. I want to propel the stimuli that resides in fashion.
Are there any trends or brands that you are paying particular attention to in Tokyo recently?
Misha: I feel that recently there has been an increase in mergers of art and fashion. For instance, the artist Sputniko! also considers fashion to be an important element, and invites designers and me to “do something fun.” This is very stimulating, and perhaps such things are being created because of the fact that we are in Tokyo. In addition, now we have the Internet and globalization is spreading, eliminating things like mass and underground culture, so I feel that in today’s world, you can start anything as long as you have an interesting idea. Amidst this trend, I hope to develop various collaborations. There are many brands I’m interested in, and it’s difficult to narrow down the list, but there are about 60 articles that I have not posted on my blog yet, so please keep checking my blog.
I look forward to the future developments of “Tokyo Fashion Diaries.”
Misha: It was decided that I will be writing a series of articles for the popular Singaporean online women’s magazine “Carte Blanche X.” Also, I just went to Shanghai for research recently, and it was decided that I will also be writing an article delivering fashion news from Japan on a regular basis in the conceptual high-end fashion magazine”, NOT magazine”! There are many Asian people who are interested in Japanese fashion, so I hope to steadily deliver information to Asian countries and wish for Japan to be able to lead Asian fashion. On top of this, I started my own company “Totteoki Inc.” to better handle all of my new projects. Please look out for them!
Singaporean online magazine for women “Carte Blanche X“
HP of the Chinese high-end fashion magazine “NOT magazine“, which was published this June.
Finally, do you have a message for people that want to work in the fashion industry, like you?
Misha: I believe that the fashion industry is a world that requires both skill and luck. Even if you have the skills, you won’t get work if you have bad luck and timing, and conversely, even if you are blessed with luck and good encounters, you will not get anywhere without skills. Therefore, I think that it’s important to go to as many places as possible and encounter many people rather than staying at home and surfing the Internet, especially while you are young.