Michiko Koshino

Alessandro Esculapio

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA267

Michiko Koshino was born in Osaka, Japan, in 1950. Her mother is an haute couture designer and both of her sisters, Junko and Hiroko Koshino, have their own labels in Japan. Michiko, on the other hand, established her brand in London after graduating from the famous Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo in 1974.

Koshino started showing her designs during London Fashion Week in the late 1970s and became more prominent in the 1980s thanks to a flagship store that offered bags, jeans, knitwear, and children’s clothes. After the shop was closed down in 1994, she began collaborating with several brands, the most important being Mitsubishi Rayon, for which she has created ready-to-wear pieces since 1997.

Despite her origins, Koshino has stated that she identifies as a London designer, claiming that the city is her major source of inspiration. Unlike many Japanese designers, she has associated herself with celebrities, club culture, and the pop music scene since the 1980s, when she gained international acclaim for her inflatable rain jacket, inspired by the b-boy duvet jackets in vogue with clubbers around the time. Her fashion shows were reminiscent of club dance floors, a mix between a live DJ set and a catwalk event.

Koshino became even more popular in the 1990s, when her clothing was worn by prominent pop and rock artists such as Natalie Imbruglia, Placebo, the Spice Girls, David Bowie, Moby, and the Prodigy, and was featured in alternative fashion magazines such as Dazed and Confused, i-D, and The Face. During the decade she also produced her most daring collections, combining futuristic fabrics with an urban touch. Her 1997 fall/winter collection, “Soft Cyber,” included garments where natural fibers were mixed with metallic materials and PVC. The same approach characterized her men’s denim line, YEN Jeans, where vintage cotton and synthetic materials were combined to obtain an unexpected clash of traditional craft and modern technology. YEN Jeans, together with the menswear line Motorking and her Main Collection, have been Koshino’s most commercially successful labels and have included both accessible pieces and limited-edition designs, many of which have become collector’s items.

Koshino has expanded her brand both in the West and in Japan. After a few years of hiatus, the designer relaunched her studio in 2013, and the brand includes ready-to-wear for men and women, underwear, cosmetics, eyewear, and accessories.

The designer has also ventured into product design over the years. In 1999, she was commissioned to create an environmentally friendly scooter by Honda, which she drove onto the catwalk at the end of her 1999 spring/summer collection. She is also famous for being the first designer to sell condoms under her own label. At the end of the 1990s, her popularity was reinforced when she was asked to create an outfit for the Barbie doll in honor of the traveling exhibition “The Art of Barbie.” She dressed the doll in a signature puffy club coat from the 1980s. The strength of Koshino’s work lies in her ability to speak to the fashionable crowd as well as to subcultures and wider audiences, who can relate to the functional and fun side of her clothing just as much as fashionistas at a catwalk show.

Michiko Koshino, Spring/Summer 1998. Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Arnold R.KOSHINO, Michiko.” Fashion Encyclopedia, 2003. http://www.fashionencyclopedia.com/Ki-Le/Koshino-Michiko.html (accessed 20 April 2014).

Find in Library Quinn B. Techno Fashion . Oxford : Berg, 2002.