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Mie Itoh

CEO Wag Inc.
01 February 2008
Introduction
We talk with Japanese PR guru Mie Itoh of Wag, Inc. about the mechanics of public relations in Japan
Mie Itoh is the CEO of premier Japanese PR and integrated marketing communications agency Wag, Inc. Starting out as a fashion designer in the 1960s, Ms. Itoh later became a trailblazer in introducing European-style PR into the Japanese fashion market. Wag, Inc. currently handles a wide range of activity including public relations, media planning, marketing strategy consulting, event management, and production for foreign and Japanese brands such as Swarovski, Vivienne Westwood, Marc Jacobs, and Paul & Joe.

In 2003, Ms. Itoh founded the first Asian branch of French PR school Ecole Française des Attachés de Presse (EFAP) in Tokyo — EFAP JAPON.

How did you originally get involved in fashion?


I went to a fashion college and studied fashion design. I was always called "fashion crazy" — from the time I was born. I first worked under (famed fashion designer) Yukiko Hanai and then became a designer on my own.

Who were the fashion heroes to you when growing up in the 1960s?


In terms of designers, Kenzo Takada, Junko Koshino, and Takeo Kikuchi.

When you say "fashion" now, it can mean everything from street clothes to haute couture. What did "fashion" mean in the 1960s?


The designers I just mentioned did haute couture. I first worked for Hanai Yukiko, and she did haute couture too. But because of that, I wanted to do prêt-a-porter. When Yves Saint Laurent first did their boutique Saint Laurent rive gauche in Aoyama, I used that chance to go independent.

Then you got involved in retail?


Yes, I managed my own store for a while.

What made you jump to PR?


When I was a designer, there were no PR people in Japan at that time, so I had to go out and praise my clothes myself. "Look! This is really wonderful!" It was sort of embarrassing. I mean, when you say these things yourself, it does not sound particularly cool. I wondered whether there weren't people out there that you could hire to say these kinds of things for you.

There was no PR in Japan at all in the early 1980s?


None.

I am the same generation as Rei Kawakubo (from Comme des Garçons) and Yohji Yamamoto. We all did stores in Parco at the same time. In the early 1980s, Kawakubo and Yamamoto started to do shows in Paris. They were called "Tokyo avant garde" at the time, and I did not want to do anything avant garde. I liked things more traditional and typical. I didn't want to do anything too strange.

When Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto did their first Paris shows, I went out there with them, and when I saw they had PR people, I was really surprised. I didn't know the people accompanying them were "PR," but they were always making sure to protect the designers and talk about them with other people. They'd wear the designer's clothes and always be by their side. When I asked who they were, they said, "Oh, these are attach de press people." I realized that Europe — not really America at that time, but Europe — had a PR industry. This was a big surprise, and I thought, "I want to do this work!"
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