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Event Report: ICC Online Talk Session with Designer Hana Tajima: Embodying Diversity Through Fashion

N.M.
ICC Student Staff Leader 

On July 1st, 2021, I organized an online talk session event with a Muslim British-Japanese designer and visual artist, Hana Tajima, who is known in Japan for her collaboration on modest womenswear with UNIQLO since 2015. 

Background and Objective 

When I first came to Japan, I started feeling highly self-conscious and insecure about my identity as a hijab-wearing Muslim. In the middle of that whole emotional turbulence I was experiencing, UNIQLO launched a wonderful collaboration with Hana Tajima. As someone who had zero fashion background, I never thought a piece of clothing could actually empower someone until I experienced it myself. The fact that a major clothing brand collaborated with a Muslim fashion designer, and the fact that the pieces were well received struck me. The collection encouraged me and helped me learn to accept myself, embrace my unique identity, and be who I am.  

For these reasons, I wanted to organize this event to give an opportunity for Waseda students to learn about modest fashion, art, and cultural diversity by looking at it from the perspective of Hana Tajima as a designer and visual artist from a diverse background, as well as understanding how to translate our values into works of art as seen in her collaboration with UNIQLO. I was hoping that this event would help students who struggle with their identity to see how they can turn it into a powerful force while staying true to their values. 

The Day of the Event  

From Ms. Tajima’s Presentation (image by ICC)

We started the event with a short presentation on modest fashion from my perspective as a Muslim. After that, we moved on to the main agenda of the event: a presentation from Ms. Tajima, followed by Q&A and optional chat session. Ms. Tajima shared so many insightful views and interesting stories of her personal experiences on fashion, art, diversity, Islam, and modesty. She talked about the importance of “translating” our ideas into designs, how clothes enable her to understand culture, how the process of designing allows her to be vulnerable, and much more. Many students listened to her talk and enthusiastically asked questions in the chat. At the end of the event, so many people sent messages thanking Ms. Tajima for her wonderful talk, which is something that rarely happens. 

Mini Fashion Exhibition 

Apart from the talk event, I also organized a mini fashion exhibition at the ICC Loungea display of collaboration fashion pieces by Hana Tajima and UNIQLO for Spring 2021 from June 10th to July 8th. Through this exhibition, Waseda students could see up close the inclusive and wonderful pieces that Hana Tajima designed 

Mini Exhibition (image by ICC)

In the exhibition, I also made a corner where visitors could write anything they wanted on a heart-shaped paper and add it as a decoration on one of the designs. We received many messages, wishes, and random scribbles from visitors who took part in the event. 

Messages from Exhibition Visitors (image by ICC)

Challenges 

There were many challenges in preparing for this event. One of them is time-difference. Ms. Tajima lives in New York whereas this event was targeted for Waseda students in Japan. This means that we had to find a convenient time for both the participants and the guest speaker. In the end, we agreed on doing this event from 8:00 to 9:30 pm JST  (7:00 to 8:30 am in New York). The main concern was that ICC usually holds talk session events during the 6th period (6:15 to 7:45 pm) because many students have classes until 6 pm. For these reasons, I was a bit pessimistic that we would get enough signups and therefore, I set a target of just 30 people. Surprisingly, so many people signed up for this event that we had to adjust the flow and agenda in order to allow more people in. 

Another challenge was setting up the exhibition. I had to plan how to utilize the limited space, how to decorate the space, what kind of materials I needed to make the decorations, how to display the decorations, and more, all on a limited budget. In addition, I also had to print all the decorations on separate papers and assemble all of it. The whole process took so much time and energy, but I’m glad I took the challenge and tried something new. 

Reflection 

Apart from giving the opportunity for participants to learn more about modest fashion, art, and cultural diversity, my goal for this event was to help students who struggle with their identity to see how they can turn it into a powerful force while staying true to their values. I think I achieved this because a lot of people seemed to enjoy and be inspired by the stories and experiences that Ms. Tajima shared as well as her responses to the questions from the participants. 

Talk Session (image by ICC)

This event was not my first. However, since this was the first online event that I planned myself at the ICC, I had to face many obstacles and challenges. Nevertheless, I tried many new things in order to bring the best experience for the participants. I gained many valuable lessons and I feel honored that I was given the opportunity to organize this event. I’m also deeply grateful for every single person who helped and supported this event. This event gave me a priceless opportunity and lessons that I will cherish for a long time. 

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