Thursday, July 9, 2015

Modeling for J-fashion Brands

I get asked fairly often for tips and tricks on applying to model for J-fashion brands at conventions and events. While I'm certainly no expert, I enjoy sharing what I know and have tried with others who are also interested in trying their hand at modeling.
In beginning to write this blog post, I decided I wanted it to be more helpful and inclusive than just my own personal ideas and experiences, so I asked some friends I've met through modeling to help me out!

The Angelic Pretty models at Sakuracon 2014
Our credentials include:
Myself - Angelic Pretty (Sakuracon 2014), Innocent World (PMX 2014), KOKOkim (PSU Japan Night 2015)
Jenna - h.Naoto (2012), Innocent World (J-Pop Summit 2013 and PMX 2014)
Ashlyn - MILK (J-Pop Summit 2013), Innocent World (PMX 2014)
Abigail - Angelic Pretty (Sakuracon 2014), KOKOkim (PSU Japan Night 2015)
...along with indie brands and smaller convention fashion shows.

I also spoke with Audrey, a Canadian model living in Tokyo, for her perspective on the Japanese modeling industry.

Backstage at PMX 2014

Before You Apply

Modeling isn't for everyone.
Even if you have the perfect look, you may not be equipped to handle the associated challenges.
You need to be honest with yourself:
-Can you handle being on stage with a crowd watching you?
-Can you handle long hours of fittings and rehearsals, possibly without food?
-Are you willing to sacrifice a lot of your time for something you won't be paid for?
-Are you able to be cooperative and flexible when expectations may change suddenly or not be communicated very well due to language barriers?

If your answer to any of the above is "no", you may want to reconsider applying.

PMX 2014 Innocent World show

The Application Process

A convention has announced one of your favorite brands as its fashion guest - chances are, there will be a fashion show, which means they will need models.
Typically, conventions will tell you how to apply a couple months in advance. Methods and standards vary between conventions and brands - always, ALWAYS read all instructions and guidelines! If you do not follow the instructions, your application will automatically be discarded.

Application for the 2015 PMX fashion show
Applications typically ask for: your height, your measurements, your shoe size, about tattoos and piercings you have, your experience, and for photos.

Always be 100% honest with your application.
Do not lie about your measurements - if you are chosen and you have lied, it could lead to some very embarrassing situations. Brands will often list measurement requirements - if you are outside of this range, I don't see any harm in trying, but be honest.
If not specified, I recommend listing your measurements in both inches and centimeters.

This was what I sent to PMX
Being asked about tattoos and piercings can be intimidating if you have some, but really want to model. Don't worry too much - I have multiple tattoos and piercings myself, and it hasn't held me back! However, my wording in my applications may help: I always say all piercings can be removed (and have always removed my nose stud for shows, regardless of requests) and that all my tattoos can be easily covered (which is true). If you have piercings you can't remove for a day or big/expansive tattoos that can't be covered, you may unfortunately be out of luck (except if you're applying for a brand like h.Naoto or Putumayo). Sometimes guidelines even forbid you from applying if this is true.

My neck tattoo was slightly visible when I modeled for AP, but Maki didn't seem to mind
While not a necessity, experience is pretty key in being chosen. All the models I spoke with also agreed. So how do you get experience if you need experience..?
"Experience" is not limited to brand fashion shows. Many conventions hold fashion shows that allow nearly anyone to participate - join as many of these as you can! In addition, having print modeling experience can be a plus. Having experience shows the brands that you know how to handle yourself on a stage and can follow instructions well. Having print experience can be beneficial, because a print model knows about posing and angles.
Before modeling for AP, I had modeled at many small convention shows, in a J-fashion show at an art gallery, and had print modeling experience in both the US and Japan.

My first time on a runway back in 2011!
The most important piece of your application is the photos you submit.
First and foremost, note what the application asks for. When I applied for AP, they asked for only a full body shot and a head shot - nothing more. IW asked for a head shot with no makeup and a full body, plus any others you wanted to submit, KOKOkim had zero guidelines.
Make sure all photos are clear (not blurry or fuzzy) and well lit, with minimal-to-no editing.

When choosing photos to submit, I recommend going with photos of you wearing the brand you are applying for. This has several purposes: first, being a fan of the brand will never hurt! Second, it shows how your body type fits in the clothing you'd be modeling.
If you don't own anything from that brand, try to submit a photo of you wearing something similar to that brand's look.

I submitted the photo on the left to Angelic Pretty
Submission for Innocent World 
I didn't own any KOKOkim, so I submitted this photo, which had a similar feel to their style
If you have the option of submitting multiple photos, include one of you out of lolita, in a typical "model snapshot" outfit (e.g. skinny jeans and a plain, well-fitted t-shirt and nude/black pumps).

Many times, it simply comes down to being the designer's "type" - with Innocent World, almost all the models were very pale and had long brown or black hair with straight bangs. Go figure!
The lack of diversity was a little ridiculous, but at least it worked in my favor!

What to Expect if You Are Chosen

After you've applied, prepare to play the waiting game. It can take several weeks before you hear back, because the applications go through a filter (to weed out anyone whose application doesn't meet necessary standards), then are passed on to the brand/designers themselves.

If you are chosen, you will receive an email letting you know. There may be some details in the email, but more than likely, it will say something along the lines of "you will receive another email later with details".
If you are not chosen, most conventions will not send you a rejection email - you just won't receive any reply.
My acceptance email from PMX/IW
Later email(s) will detail the following:
-What you need to bring
-When and where to meet for fittings, rehearsals, and the actual show
-Any other pertinent information

Typical things you may be asked to bring include:
-false eyelashes and/or other makeup
-no-show socks to wear under brand socks/tights

The list varies, but be prepared to get any of the above last minute.

Sometimes necessary details come very late or not at all - it is important to be flexible and patient, as well as not be afraid to email if you have questions!
For both Innocent World and KOKOkim, we never got final confirmation about what shoes to bring (shoes were provided for me with Angelic Pretty). I was flying from out of state for IW, which meant I had a weight restriction to worry about. I ended up bringing a pair of black maryjanes, brown oxford heels, and had navy maryjanes I was wearing with another coordinate (Fujiwara-san chose the navy for me). I had to be flexible about luggage space to accommodate this.

If only I had known what I was wearing beforehand...
You probably will have a fitting before the day of the fashion show. For Sakuracon/Angelic Pretty, the fitting was Thursday evening and the show was Saturday afternoon. For KOKOkim, we had a fitting Friday evening with the show on Saturday afternoon. PMX was the exception - the fitting took place the morning of the show.

The fitting can be tiring and frustrating.
At Sakuracon, I was given a garment to wear that was, quite frankly, way too big on me. Combined with a long day and a hot room, the entire evening was upsetting to me. Maki was also visibly frustrated, trying to come up with a solution. She ended up altering the onepiece a bit before the fashion show, which really helped, but the experience was very humbling. I really felt like I was letting her down.

You don't want to know how it looked before the alterations.
Looking back, I'm embarrassed by what my attitude was like that evening. Yes, I had a migraine in that extremely hot room, yes my sleep disorder was making me want to lay down and nap right there, but as a model, it was my job to be gracious, humble, and patient. I certainly didn't throw a tantrum or anything (lol), but I didn't participate in rehearsing as much as I should have, and I'm sure my poor attitude was visible.
I knew I had messed up, so I did arrive at the dressing room day of an hour early to rehearse more, but I still regret the fitting.

As far as hair and makeup goes, there may be artists to help you, but there may not be. You will likely be informed ahead of time.
For Angelic Pretty, we had to do our own hair and makeup (although Maki helped with my hair and a couple other models').
For Innocent World, we had artists that did everything, although we provided falsies.
For KOKOkim, we did makeup ourselves, but wigs were provided.

Makeup for KOKOkim - Kimura-san showed us how to affix the glitter to our faces
As you can see, the common thread is: there is really no common thread, every show is going to be different in what they expect and require, so be flexible!

The Benefits of Modeling

Everyone I spoke with was unanimous about the benefits of a no-pay, relatively thankless modeling gig.

Probably the biggest benefit of all is that you make some very good friends when you're stuck in a room together for several hours!
Abigail and I modeled for both AP and KOKOkim together
Jenna is actually my little sister. Facebook always thinks I'm her lol
And, of course, meeting and getting to spend time with the designers is a huge benefit! Since I speak Japanese, that was helpful to me, but even if you don't, the experience is unforgettable.
I'm friends with Fujiwara Yumi (Innocent World's designer) on Facebook, as well as Kimura U's USA manager (who is a major sweetheart). Kimura U also followed me on Instagram after we met.
KOKOkim girls, Kimura U (who is wearing my shoes lol), and her manager Yuko
I don't know if these connections will ever prove to be advantageous, but I certainly hope so!

With Fujiwara-san, Innocent World's designer
Modeling also helps boost your self-confidence, plus it often gives you a sneak peak at unreleased items! I even got the opportunity to wear a brand-new Innocent World design that had yet to even be released in Kera.

So if you want to try your hand at modeling for a J-fashion brand, I fully recommend it! Despite the difficulties, it has always been immensely rewarding, and I hope to have the chance to model again soon!


  1. A very informative post! Thank you so much. I've wanted to know how modeling for brands actually work. I doubt I will ever model because of the reasons you mentioned above but in my dreams I would love to model for Innocent World... <3

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it!
      I think Innocent World was my favorite also helped that PMX was such an organized convention!

  2. This post was really interesting! I wish we had opportunities like this (for Jfashion brands) in Hawaii lol. I'm not sure if a big name brand has ever made it over here :|

    1. You'd think it'd be more common, since Hawaii isn't that far from Japan! Maybe someday Liz Lisa will come and it'll be your time to shine ;D

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