The Devil Wears Prada—in Tokyo!
A career in fashion is a dream come true for many—Gaëlle included. Sharing her life in Tokyo on Instagram, Gaëlle is taking us along as she pursues her dream career in public relations. From hectic days to after-work networking, Gaëlle is following her bliss—even if that means working around the clock. What’s it like working in the fashion industry? Is it just like The Devil Wears Prada? We caught up with Gaëlle to talk career goals, personal style and Tokyo life.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Gaëlle, I am French and I have been living in Japan for 5 years. I work in fashion PR for several Japanese brands, and I love traveling in my free time.
When did you first discover Japanese street fashion?
I grew up in the countryside, nature is beautiful there but there is nothing to do and people are quite close-minded. I have been interested in fashion and loved wearing black clothes since I was in middle high school, and I’ve always felt like an outsider.
Then I visited Japan with my mother when I was 14. At that time, Harajuku was very different from how it is now, there were so many creative people wearing amazing clothes. You can still see it a bit now but it is nothing compared to what it used to be more than 10 years ago. It was such a shock for me, in a good way. Before that I couldn’t imagine a world where people were free to wear whatever they wanted. The creativity and vibes of the city were really fascinating to me. Even though the fashion industry in Japan is quite underdeveloped compared to countries like France, from this time I knew I wanted to work in fashion here in Tokyo.
Tell us about some of your favourite brands.
Most of my favourite brands are Japanese. I love how creative they are. Many of them also have some dark/punk vibes which I love. I recently discovered the brand Kidill, they did some very interesting collaborations with artists like Hajime Kinoko, for example. I also love Maison Margiela, Rick Owens, Rokh, Iris van Herpen etc…
What drew you to public relations?
I’ve always wanted to work in fashion, but not as a designer, and as I speak fluent Japanese, English and French, working in communication felt quite obvious to me. I’ve always wanted to do a challenging job that could allow me to travel, meet people and keep learning along the way. PR is a bit of all this, and a mix of many interesting fields: there is a bit of creation and art direction, with a lot of marketing, communication and event organization. Working in PR means spending about half of the time sitting in the office working on a computer and the other half going to places, meeting people and working with your hands and I really like this balance. My favourite part is organizing events. Producing a fashion show is so exciting!
People think that working in the fashion industry means you get free clothes, travel a lot and go to runway shows. Is it true?
Of course, I do get discounts on beautiful designer clothes, go to Paris Fashion week every season, get invited to showrooms, meet interesting people, etc… But this is absolutely not representative of what my job really is. I always find it funny, because when I say I work in Paris fashion week, people imagine me wearing amazing clothes on a red carpet and attending crazy fashion shows with celebrities. This represents about 1% of my work, the 99% left is me working all night, wearing sweatpants, carrying huge boxes, running around, crying because I’m stressed and tired. There is nothing glamorous or fashionable about it in reality!
Getting this far must have been a lot of hard work. Tell us about the positive and negative experiences you have had while pursuing your career?
Before starting, I knew that working in fashion without having any experience beforehand and without knowing many people from this industry would be very hard, so I started doing internships and working as much as I could during my free time when I was a university student.
Some of the brands I worked for as an intern would ask me to do really anything at any time of the day and night, I was often caught in very stressful and crazy situations. It was very hard and exhausting. For more than one year I worked without being paid, so I had to do a part time job and go to university. You can imagine how exhausted I was. I had very hard times but I’m glad I made it. I learnt so much through all this, and it was very rewarding. Now when I look back at it I only see it as a good experience that made me grow a lot. That’s also what allowed me to do the job I’ve always wanted to do now, so I guess working hard and doing my best really paid off.
What do you love about living in Tokyo?
What I love the most is the freedom I feel here, because Tokyo is such a big city, there are so many things to do, so many different places and so many people. I feel like I could do anything, go anywhere, be anyone. I love the fashion scene here and I love how easy it is to meet people.
I also love the fact that Tokyo is surrounded by mountains and by the ocean, it is very easy to find amazing places to explore without going too far.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Still based in Tokyo and traveling abroad as much as I can! I am also thinking of starting to work as a freelancer in a few years. There are many exciting projects I am working on now but I cannot say much about it for now!
Introduction and questions by Ash.
Featured image courtesy of Kenta Matsui.