Junko Shimada still creating timeless pieces after 40 years

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Junko Shimada poses in Tokyo with a selection of her designs.

Paris-based fashion designer Junko Shimada continues to fascinate women of all ages around the globe with her clothes, elegant poise and positive attitude.

Shimada returned to Japan late October for the first time in two years to hold an exhibition and take part in other events, including one marking the 40th anniversary of her eponymous clothing brand. Even at 80, Shimada continues to enjoy a successful career at the forefront of fashion design.

“The last 40 years have flown by,” Shimada said, sporting a charming smile and loosely tied silvery hair. “There are so many new things that I want to look into and try out. I just wish I had more time.”

Shimada was born in Chiba Prefecture in 1941. After graduating from Sugino Gakuen Dressmaker Jogakuin (now Sugino Gakuen Dressmaker Gakuin), she fulfilled a long-held desire by moving to Paris in 1966, while in her mid-20s. There, she garnered knowledge and work experience at a major apparel manufacturer and other establishments.

Junko Shimada, center, at the finale of her 1983 Spring/Summer collection at Paris Fashion Week

In 1981, Shimada established the Junko Shimada brand and became involved in Paris Fashion Week for the first time, and has been presenting new styles at the biannual event ever since.

In 2012, the French government awarded her The Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier), in recognition of her contribution to the fashion industry. Shimada says she is driven by a desire to continually create clothes that outstrip her previous efforts.

While preparing for her 81st collection, her 2022 Spring/Summer line, she drew inspiration from the paintings of Paul Gauguin, explaining that the artist’s bright colors and powerful brush strokes motivated her to design “joyful” clothes with the aim of helping alleviate the frustrations and stresses that have built up in society due to the pandemic.

The collection included a long coat and pants with a floral pattern, a striped bustier dress, and a tropical-style seashell necklace.

Pieces from Junko Shimada’s 2022 Spring/Summer collection, inspired by the paintings of Paul Gauguin

Shimada confesses to having suffered from depression during the pandemic, partly because an acquaintance died after contracting the virus. She has subsequently spent most of her time at home, about an hour’s drive from Paris.

“I felt a bit low because I wasn’t going out much anymore,” she said. “But I made efforts to change my mindset and think more positively. For example, when I don’t go out, I don’t have to wear makeup, which is good for my skin.”

As the pandemic lingers on, Shimada says she has become aware of women’s desire to wear stylish clothes to feel good. To meet these expectations, she has resolved to continue creating timeless pieces that she deems beautiful.