an・an ELLE JAPON was first published on Mar 3, 1970. I got the chance to read this issue when one of my male school friends (wanting to go to art college) handed a copy to me saying, “Have you seen this new magazine?” This was my first encounter with fashion magazines.

In Japan, the image of foreign countries was the same as the image of the US. The world of the film “American Graffiti,” depicting a night of American high school graduates, and Ivy League looks were what Japanese girls looked up to. To such Japanese girls, the A4 size graphical magazine in European style came as quite a shock. At first they didn’t quite understand what was fashionable about a brown bag with alphabets print appearing in the publication, but they sensed that this was real fashion.

In 1969, the president and executive director of Heibonsha Limited, Publishers traveled to Paris to enter into a business collaboration agreement with ELLE. This was the start of the first Japanese fashion magazine which helped to establish the concept of mode in the country. For a long time, an・an ELLE JAPON was just the patchwork of Japanese original editing and ELLE’s contents from France- until ELLE JAPON became independent from an・an in 1982.

With Fumi Shibasaki as editor in chief and Seiichi Horiuchi as art director, the magazine an・an ELLE JAPON was born. A blond haired model sporting a bonnet was photographed by Yoshihiro Tatsuki for the cover of the first issue. Yuri Tachikawa, wearing specially designed looks by Isao Kaneko, served as the model and main character for the Japanese fashion pages. In addition, the magazine featured information about Paris collections by Setsu Nagasawa and an essay by Yukio Mishima, with articles from ELLE in France filling up 16 pages.

The magazine proposed styling tips introducing the latest items from mode. “It was the pioneer of what is accepted to be the norm for fashion magazines today,” says stylist Yumiko Hara.

Ms. Hara was a part of the project to launch an・an ELLE JAPON, and she translated 16 pages worth of content from ELLE in France at the beginning of her career. She stayed with the magazine until she became an independent stylist. It was wise of the editors to create a magazine which did not follow the footsteps of others and which did away with the idea of supplementing patterns to create one’s own haute couture like design. Soon after the launch, the transition from haute couture to pret-a-porter was complete in Paris.

“In the beginning, Japanese fashion pages were decorated with Mr. Kaneko’s one-of-a-kind looks without prices. It was from the 50th issue that we borrowed samples from manufacturers and brands to show the looks and their prices like now,” says Ms. Hara.

In 1973, La Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne was reorganized as the Federation Francaise de la Couture, du Pret-a-Porter des Couturiers et des Createurs de Mode. This is when Ms. Hara flew to Paris to report the Paris Collections for the first time.

“For Kenzo it was the stock exchange, for Sonia Rykiel it was the boutique along Rue de Grenelle- shows were being held in various types of venues. Before Kenzo, models would hold number cards and walk the runway in silence. Kenzo proposed a new style of having a number of models appear at once to create a very festive ambiance. This style was taken on by Jean Paul Gaultier.”

At the time, reports on the collections were handled by newspapers and Bunka Publishing Bureau that held branch offices in Paris. It was rare for staff to travel all the way from Japan. It was mainly buyers who came from Japan to attend the shows. As for Ms. Hara, a seat with the card “Elle Japon Yumiko Hara” posted on it was reserved for her among the French ELLE team.

“I was excited to find the seats of the editor in chief of ELLE in France and other editors at the venues of the shows.”

It was a time when the magazine could use any of the positives films from ELLE. It is hard to tell from Helmut Newton’s signature and fetish photos, but there was a time when he took photos for ELLE and in a style which fit the magazine. For a large scale feature of the January 1972 issue, 4 to 6 photos taken by Helmut Newton and Gilles Bensimon (former International Creative Director of ELLE) adorned entire pages. The layout was handled by art director Seiichi Horiuchi. Youichi Akagi, who used to be an editor working for the magazine at the time, wrote in his book that he saw the editors from ELLE in France look through the Japanese version with great intensity. His opinion was that the fresh art direction by those including Horiuchi was what caught their eyes.

It comes as a surprise that the first Japanese fashion magazine so charming in style was designed and edited primarily by men. This is comparable (but in reverse) to The Tosa Diary (935) by Ki no Tsurayuki in which it states, “We women want to write a journal as men do.”

List of References:
*Paris Collection (Kodansha Gendai Shinsho) by Akiko Fukai
*an・an 1970 (Heibonsha Shinsho) by Youichi Akagi
*Hara Yumiko no Shigoto 1970 - La Mode et Les Magazine (bookman.sha) by Yumiko Hara

To be continued into 4/12.