Interview with Dr. Satoshi Onuma

Dr. Satoshi Onuma
Dr. Satoshi Onuma
Bunka Fashion College
Bunka Fashion College

Globalisation has pushed most production overseas so the number of jobs in production industry is limited.
With Fibre2Fashion Correspondent Cindrella Thawani, Satoshi Onuma describes the inopportune things that educators do, while lacking ethical teaching for students. Synopsis: Dr. Satoshi Onuma is catering as the President of Bunka Fashion College. Moreover, he is the Vice Chairman of Bunka Gakuen Educational Foundation and President of Bunka Institute of Language. In 2008, he was elected as Chairman of the International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes (IFFTI) and was re-elected again as the Chairman of IFFTI in 2012. Excerpts:

What, according to you, should budding fashion designers focus on to contribute to the growth of the fashion market further?

I think we will see the size of fast fashion market will shrink in the coming years. As a result, it will become increasingly important for our graduates to understand the importance of sustainability. Similarly, they will need to focus on understanding the sense of beauty through domestic heritage and culture. It will also be important for the future leaders of fashion industry that not only to develop advanced specialized knowledge, technical skills or creativity but also to enhance other skills such as a global outlook, interdisciplinary thinking, communication skills, versatility, and critical thinking.

What is your outlook for the employment opportunities? And, in which region it is broader in terms of that particular country’s economy and other flexibilities?

Employment opportunities will continue to change. For instance, I predict that production jobs will eventually return to Japan in the future. Furthermore, as long as Japan can continue to adapt to changing needs of the apparel industry employment opportunities will exist. Besides, rapid changes that apparel industry has experienced in the recent past have emphasized the need for educational institutions to change as industry changes.

How do you see the market of Japanese textile and fashion industry for wannabe candidates?

Globalisation has pushed most production overseas so the number of jobs in production industry is limited. However, once globalization comes to completion in the near future production will return to Japan and I think we will see an increase in these types of jobs. Currently, there are wide variety of jobs in the fashion industry ranging from well-known jobs such as fashion designers and pattern makers to lesser known jobs such as visual merchandisers and CAD operators. At the same time, the speed at which fashion industry is changing means that new jobs are always being created. Indeed, fashion industry will continue to grow as it becomes more globalised with increasing speed to meet consumer’s needs for new attractive products and it responds to the rapid change in production conditions.

With modernization, cultural tradition and ethics are losing their importance. Herein, how much is it significant for a fashion student to be well connected with all those aspects?

One of the worst things that we can do as educators is to teach our students everything they need to know to succeed in the fashion industry, without teaching them ethics. Indeed, cultural tradition is an essential element in fashion education and that is why we created Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum, which houses more than 20,000 garments, many of which are very old Japanese kimonos; once belonging to members of the imperial family. It is important that these garments are properly preserved so that students can continue to appreciate their cultural value as well as learn about their technical complexity. Ethics is equally important in fashion education at our college. For instance, in 2011 Bunka worked with fashion schools in Singapore to hold a sustainable fashion design competition, which gave students the opportunity to exchange ideas on the growing importance of sustainability and responsible design.

Moreover, what is your overview on ethical fashion education?

One of my aims is to continue to produce graduates who can lead the world to a better future by achieving globalization, innovation and creation, and who are active in international society centered on design and apparel. In order to achieve this goal, it is important that graduates have a strong sense of social responsibility and understand the value of contributing to society. In Japanese there is a saying “Chi-Toku-Ittai”. 'Chi' refers to knowledge and skills education. 'Toku' refers to moral education and a sense of social values and ethics. 'Ittai' refers to the importance of working as one body. These three aspects are important in ethical fashion education and this is what our college strives to integrate into its curriculum.

Your college participates in certain collaborative activities. Would you please enlighten what are those activities that keep you involved?

Collaborative activities are important as we learn from society, which helps us keep pace with new developments in the fashion industry. Collaborative activities are important to expose our students to new ideas, challenges and opportunities to develop their creativity and skills. Past year, our college has collaborated with Isetan department store, SOEN fashion magazine, and it has held a collaborative fashion show with “Five Brands”. Bunka actively seeks these opportunities for its students.

What are your objectives and principles as the President of Bunka Fashion College?

I always try to be a good role model for our students and I always maintain a willingness to learn new things. I also try to keep mentally and physically healthy since this is important when running a school the size of Bunka. In addition to this, I try to respect and appreciate the students and my fellow co-workers at Bunka for the wonderful work that they continue to do. It is my dream that one day everyone around the world can enjoy fashion. Two things are necessary for this to become a reality. First, we need to be producing graduates who have the technical skills and design flare to create fashionable garments that people want to wear and can gain pleasure when wearing them. Second, we need graduates who are motivated towards contributing to the betterment of society. In other words, emphasizing the importance of moral education. I aim to achieve both of these objectives.

What are those factors that differentiate Bunka College of Fashion from other renowned colleges, globally?

Bunka Fashion College was established as a dress making school for Japanese housewives who were interested in learning how to make western style clothing at home for their families. So, it created the flat pattern making technique (which was originally used to make Japanese kimonos) and adapted this to western style clothing. This flat pattern making technique forms the foundation of our basic skills education curriculum at Bunka Fashion College and is one reason why our graduates have particularly strong technical skills. Furthermore, we are always trying to change with the times and adapt to the needs of society so we can create better human resources for the future.
Published on: 13/12/2012

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of