National News

Jun Ashida, Who Dressed Japanese Royalty, Dies at 88

Posted November 2, 2018 10:40 p.m. EDT

Jun Ashida, a designer who dressed everyday women and members of the Japanese monarchy in practical, sophisticated silhouettes, died on Oct. 20 at his home in Tokyo. He was 88.

The death was announced by his daughter, Tae Ashida, in an Instagram post.

In designing his collections, Ashida sought to imbue Western styles with a traditional Japanese aesthetic. He fashioned brocade suits in the image of gakuran schoolboy uniforms. He cut gowns from white silk faille, a material sometimes used to make wedding kimonos.

“I look for a Japanese classic in Western design,” Ashida told The International Herald Tribune in 2002. “Now, you do not see many Japanese women wearing kimonos. But I want to put in the Japanese spirit by playing with sleeves and tie belts.”

Ashida was born on Aug. 21, 1930, in Kyoto, the youngest of eight children. His interest in fashion was sparked in his teenage years by an older brother who returned from a trip to the United States with garments unlike any the young Ashida had seen before.

In the wake of World War II and the United States occupation, Japan experienced rapid economic growth that prompted new consumer tastes. Shoppers were interested in buying American-style garments, and Japanese manufacturers rushed to meet their demands.

But Ashida was interested in handcrafting, not mass production. He studied with artist and fashion designer Jun-ichi Nakahara, and in 1960 the department store Takashimaya hired him as a consulting designer. Three years later he introduced his first clothing brand.

Although his company bears his name, Ashida tended to put himself second and the customer first in his work. His modest designs, and the shows at which he displayed them, focused on wearability over fanfare.

From 1966 to 1976, Ashida was the personal designer for Empress Michiko of the Imperial House of Japan, who was crown princess at the time. He also dressed Crown Princess Masako for her wedding in 1993.

In addition to his womenswear output, Ashida designed uniforms for companies including All Nippon Airways and dressed the Japanese national team for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. His contributions to Japanese culture won him the Purple Ribbon Medal, an award for creative achievement bestowed by the government.

His daughter, Tae Ashida, is also a designer. Their labels share a domain name online, as well as a commitment to craft.

Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

“I think it is part of my duty to keep that part of Japanese culture,” Tae Ashida told in 2017. “We have technical people here who have been training themselves for a long time, perfecting each detail.”