Independent fashion magazine “UNION” published its fourth issue on Sept 23. The magazine was launched by stylists Hiroyuki Kubo (Hiro) and Chiharu Dodo in March 2012. The magazine publishes high quality content featuring hot photographers and models such as Anders Edström, Takashi Homma, Chikashi Suzuki, Kiko Mizuhara and Ai Hashimoto.
The latest issue features actress Rinko Kikuchi as cover model. Her determined gaze leaves a strong impression. The issue features an interview of the actress, who lives in New York. Photos and poems by Mark Borthwick, participating for the first time, and photos of actress Masami Nagasawa with no makeup taken by photographer Takashi Homma are also included.
Hiro: Up until now, we have catered the magazine towards young girls, but from this issue, we have decided to target older generations and create a more mature content. We hope that in doing so, we will be able to reach out to more readers. We feel that the world trend is shifting away from “sweet girly” taste. From the Sept issue, we have selected paper, which is whiter in color that the one used in previous issues.
The magazine publishes bilingual content and is also sold outside of Japan. The feedback from overseas readers is favorable, and photographers and distributors from these countries contact the magazine almost every day with queries.
- Do you have the intention of communicating Japanese culture to the rest of the world?
Chiharu: We aren’t particularly fixated on being Japanese or Tokyo-like. I live in Tokyo because I love it here, and perhaps this naturally affects the content of the magazine. When I travel overseas for work, I get a lot of stimulation and so I like to present materials from these destinations as well.
Hiro: Anime, Harajuku and Shibuya are faces of Tokyo seen through the eyes of those who live outside of Japan. For us, that is not the reality. I find that neighborhoods and streets, which show everyday life, express the true beauty of the city. That’s why I choose to photograph such places. I want to introduce Japan from a Japanese person’s eyes.
Fashion pages featuring Japanese models are increasing.
Hiro: Models from overseas visit Japan in August, when the fashion scene is quiet in Europe. I feel that they come to make money in their free time, and it is not their true passion. This is why I prefer to work with local models. For the new issue, we have a page featuring MONA, JUN, KANA, Eimi Kuroda and Yuka Mizuhara, all at once, which produced a great impact.
Hiro and Chiharu met in London and soon became close. After returning to Japan, they both became independent stylists and eventually came up with the idea of starting a magazine together.
Hiro: It is easy to come up with reasons not to do something, but the important thing is to give it a go. It is essential to find a good partner when starting up a new project. I love looking at photos, and by creating my own magazine, I was able to work with some of my favorite photographers. Through UNION, the team of Chiharu and Takashi Homma was born. I am happy when I see the two collaborating for other magazines such as GINZA and Purple. For the new issue, we decided to cut back on ads, because we felt that it was affecting our creativity.
Chiharu: If we focus too much on business, we tend to forget why we started the magazine in the first place. If we have to choose one, we will prioritize creativity over business.
The magazine places importance on “Timeless Beauty.”
Hiro: We don’t overload the magazine with trends. High quality materials are often unrelated to time. A white shirt styled with jeans, a Chanel jacket and a cashmere scarf from Hermes are timeless. We check other magazines for inspiration. The English magazine “Twin” has such high quality creative content. Sometimes we get discouraged when we see their work because we feel that we can’t reach their level. We’ve only achieved about 1 to 2% of what we want to get done. We are still full of ideas that we want to accomplish next.
Chiharu: I am currently the director for the brand “GINGER ALE,” which fuses elements of sweetness and sharpness. As stylist, I am exposed to a lot of things, which makes it easier for me to find what I want. I want to continue to present my “own” styling in this magazine.
Aside from UNION, alternative magazines such as littlepress and zine that are published by an individual or a small company are increasing. Among others, UNION is unique in its high quality. The challenge of the two top stylists will attract public attention.