Tokyo, the birthplace of some of the most innovative and unorthodox fashion in the world, has originated an institution that directly opposes the system of conventional fashion education.
Founded by WrittenAfterwards designer Yoshikazu Yamagata in 2008, Coconogacco , which translates to “School of Individuality”, has inspired and shaped some of the most brilliant and unique creative minds of Japan’s fashion industry. In this fashion school, traditions are abandoned, and the heart of Japanese artistry and eccentricity that brings out true fashion innovation is fully embraced.
Having spent time abroad in Europe, Yamagata noticed a vast difference in the way Japanese students were taught versus the way students learned at European schools. He wanted to bring the creative and experimental freedom to express oneself through their art to the Japanese education system, breaking down its limitations and reaching beyond the boundaries of what traditional schools in Japan would permit.
The school is a hub of creative thought and application; their students aren’t limited to studying fashion, but also include other creative areas like architecture, fine arts, and philosophy. Yamagata’s vision is to create a well-rounded, diverse group of students equipped with the innovative skills and the imagination to stretch themselves in whatever career or industry they go into, whether it be business, design, or otherwise. It is not so much a school for learning fashion design, as it is a place for learning and experimenting with one’s own creativity.
Students also work collaboratively and cooperatively rather than under a hierarchic system like most Japanese schools, learning the value of teamwork in establishing themselves as members of a workforce. Its highly immersive environment also allows aspiring designers to create networks and form a community of artistry together.
Coconogacco’s students are certainly no strangers to success after graduation; its alum Takashi Nishiyama was the first Japanese student to win the International Talent Support (ITS) contest, followed by other winners and nominees like Noriko Nakazato, Soshi Otsuki, and Yuko Koike. The school is not only teaching Japanese students to become more individually characteristic and creative designers but putting Japanese names and influence out into the global sphere of fashion. It’s a win-win for both the students who are making their mark on the rest of the world and the industry that’s rewarded with their innovative designs.