Making regular appearances in regional and international editions of Harper’s Bazaar, Tadashi Shoji is a name synonymous with fashionable luxury. From elegant eveningwear at Saks Fifth Avenue to his cute kids’ collection at home-grown boutique S*ucette, his exceptional clothes are coveted by all ages.
The founder and head designer of eponymous clothing labels Tadashi Shoji and T by Tadashi, he’s carved a niche for refined yet innovative red carpet gowns and has dressed celebrities with a quirky eye for fashion such as Dita Von Teese, Florence Welch, and Katy Perry.
Tadashi Shoji at his home in California
“One of the greatest milestones for me was launching my namesake label over 30 years ago, and being able to witness it grow into a global brand,” says the 68-year-old Japanese fashion designer, who splits his time between California, New York and Shanghai. “When I created my own line in 1982, my goal was to create beautiful and wearable dresses for all women at reasonable prices. Initially, I was focused more on daytime ready-to-wear but following the first season I branched out and created a cocktail dress that caught the eye of a buyer from Saks Fifth Avenue. We continue to be about the celebration of women, and with a meticulous eye for fit and craftsmanship our focus is to flatter women of all shapes and sizes.”
Born and raised in Sendai in northeast Tokyo, Tadashi began painting and drawing at a young age. After studying fine art in the capital he assisted the famous contemporary artist Jiro Takamatsu for three years. “In 1973 my quest to grow as an artist led me to take a bold leap of faith and move to the United States,” he recalls. “It was in Los Angeles where, in need of a visa, a friend of mine recommended that I enrol in the Los Angeles Trade Technical College. It was there where I found my true calling as a fashion designer while taking a draping class; the similarities of draping to sculpting were not lost on me. I then apprenticed with the costume designer Bill Whitten where I learned about cut, technique and the importance of meeting deadlines. The rest, as they say, is history.”
Tadashi's LA home is a stunning fusion of eastern flow and western comforts
California has been Tadashi’s home for the last 43 years and he is constantly inspired by the arts, culture and natural beauty in LA, as well as its rich history steeped in Hollywood glamour. He bought his home in the San Rafael neighbourhood of Pasadena in 2002, after the Far-East feel of its aesthetic drew him to it. “I lived close by and often found myself constantly wondering who lived there,” he reflects,
Recognised as a historic Pasadena landmark, the light-filled house was designed by architect Harry Sims Bent in 1954. Tadashi has retained many of the original unique structural qualities and finishes. “The architecture is very mid-century modern with a strong Asian influence, which is what caught my attention in the first place,” he says.
Three years later he renovated the property – an extensive project that took two and half years to complete. While Bent’s original floorplan spanned 5,021 square feet, encompassing 14 rooms, Tadashi wanted to make better use of the space while retaining the Asian aesthetic that drew him to the property in the first place.
“When it came to the architecture and interior design of the home, it was important for me to find a true collaborator and problem solver, and I found that in architect Todd Erlandson from March Studio. Todd was instrumental in bringing forth my vision, we worked very closely together.” The meticulous fashion designer was extremely hands-on during the renovation and wanted no detail left to chance. “I wanted to create a haven where I could relax and entertain but that would also reflect my personality. There is no denying that I am influenced from my childhood growing up in Japan but the many years living in the United States have also shaped my aesthetic. Because of this, it was important that every single detail was carefully thought out.”
The dining room's floor-to-ceiling windows enjoys beautiful views of the Arroyo Canyon
A prototype of the final interior was built by the construction team so he could physically touch and see important architectural elements. Todd added 4,500 square feet to the floorplan, incorporating a new master suite, two guest quarters with five bathrooms, and wraparound terraces. A corner breakfast nook was also added, with leather banquette seating and a more casual lounge area that takes in the idyllic views of the landscaped pool, cascading waterfall and the surrounding Arroyo Canyon.
This beautiful rocky backdrop of Pasadena is a central aspect of the master bedroom, which has become Tadashi’s personal sanctuary and favourite place to relax. “This room is certainly a feat,” he exclaims. “Throughout the house you will find floor-to-ceiling windows that allow the intense landscape of the Arroyo Canyon to become a focal point. However, in the bedroom I added mirrored panels built in to block out the sun and reflect back the beautiful greenery. The views of the lush Pasadena hills are breathtaking.”
The Asian aesthetic is reflective in the details of the lattice-work in Tadashi's bedroom
Another place of calm quietude is the custom-made yoga room and meditation space upstairs, curtained by a pair of Shoji screens. “Previously an outdoor terrace, the views from this room are enough to cast a spell on any guest in meditation,” he muses,
A keen art collector, Tadashi’s vast collection bought during his travels around the world is carefully displayed throughout the house and includes an elaborate stone statue from the Gandhara period of India, Balinese furniture, statues from Africa, and Mexican and Chinese pots assembled in curated nooks. Tadashi also designed a number of elements himself. “To illuminate the marble table and Philippe Starck chairs in the dining room, I designed intricate light fixtures with rice paper screens that blended seamlessly with the overall aesthetic I wanted to achieve.”
While his home is full of Asian influence, it’s also impacting the catwalk collections that we can expect to see later this year. “I want to go back to my roots creating more silhouettes with cut-outs and sheer illusions that give the impression of exposed skin. You can also expect exciting new looks such as full body suits and faux furs,” he reveals. “For 2016, we are celebrating the growth of our business, expanding into new categories and growing our presence in the global market, including the Middle East.” He’s a regular visitor to the region, exploring Doha ahead of launching his first freestanding Tadashi Shoji boutique there earlier this year and showcasing his collections at Saks Fifth Avenue fashion shows in Dubai. “With our international customer in mind, I create styles in exclusive colours, fabrics and silhouettes that cater to specific stores and regions,” he adds. “What women buy in one market may not translate into others and it is my desire to meet the needs of my customers worldwide.”
Words: Eleanor Joslin. Photography: Jenn Pablo
This article first appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Harper's Bazaar Interiors