Red-carpet designer Tadashi Shoji has opened a store in King of Prussia — right in time for the season of holiday parties and charity balls.
Shoji, a Japanese American designer who lives and works in Los Angeles, is best known for helping curvy red-carpet divas rack up fashion accolades. His dresses have made actress Octavia Spencer look like a goddess, helped former first lady Michelle Obama turn heads at state dinners, and turned Kate Hudson’s run-of-the-mill appearance on The Ellen Show last year into a much-talked-about style event.
Shoji started his fashion label in 1982, so now, at 69, he knows a thing or two about the biz. I recently chatted with Shoji about beauty, diversity, and his East Coast retail expansion to the airy 2,500-square-foot King of Prussa boutique.
Diversity in fashion is important to you. When did this happen and why?
When I was a kid, I was an outsider, so I’ve never been an elitist. I just don’t like that kind of stuff. Many designers just want to cater to rich people. I want to dress women. And to do that, you have to fit women of every shape and every height. I believe that every woman is entitled to a beautiful, comfortable evening dress.
Amen to that. Tell me about your fashion background.
I didn’t make it to the prestigious art school in Tokyo, so I worked with an artist while I was young in Japan for a while. When I came to California, I ended up in junior college, where I enrolled in the fashion department. I took a job with Bill Whitten [the late costume designer responsible for Michael Jackson’s white glove] and worked with him when he designed for the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and Earth, Wind and Fire. I was his assistant for three years.
That is amazing. Let’s talk about the details that make gowns wearable by all women. Is it ruching, sweetheart necklines, fishtails?
Everything I do creates the visual allusion that a woman is shaped like an hourglass. That’s the trick. So if the sweetheart neckline gives them the hourglass illusion, we use it. The same with ruching or a hemline.
Retail is struggling a lot, why the King of Prussia expansion now?
Our product in Neiman Marcus and Lord & Taylor at the mall were among our top-performing stores in the country. Those stores did such a great job for us we were encouraged to show our entire collection. It was such a great opportunity.
What do you think will be big this holiday and awards season?
We are still seeing jumpsuits. Lots of dresses with sparkle. Dark green is a good color. Yellow was hot last season on the red carpet, and it will be hot this season.
Where do you see yourself in the future of fashion?
I’m going to continue making sure there is a space in fashion for all women. Women shouldn’t have to feel like, “I’m going to lose weight. I’m going to lose weight,” before special occasions. That’s very hard. And what about those women who are satisfied with their figures and still can’t find anything? If they feel confident about themselves, then they should have something to wear. Every woman should have a dress she feels good in.