The Hunt for Kawaii With Tokyo"s Best Model Castin
If the runways of Tokyo Fashion Week looked even more beautiful than usual this season, theres only one man to thank: Bobbie Tanabe. As the director of Hype Casting Agency, Tanabe oversaw model selection for the majority of the weeks shows, choosing promising new faces from around the globe as well as established entities like Chiharu Okunugi, Cris Herrmann, and Tommaso de Benedictis, all of whom were in town to walk Tokyos catwalks. For Tanabe, handling casting for a multitude of clients from avant-garde Mint Designs to elegant Hanae Mori meant addressing the specifics of Japans beauty aesthetic while paying attention to the trends of the moment.
"The market here [in Japan] is very different from other countries, it is more focused on what we call kawaii: a very cute, pretty look, as opposed to something sexier," says Tanabe, who points to models like newcomers Yuka Mannami and Masha Myronenko as prime examples of the look. "This season the 80s are coming back, after the focus on the 70s [from seasons past], so designers were looking for models who have an image that can work with clothes from any era." Finding that combination of cutesy yet timeless proved challenging, but Tanabe wasnt simply in search of a look-catwalk talent proved equally important. "When it comes to the girls, the first thing I think about is the designers vision," says Tanabe. "A great walk is a close second-of course you think about the body as well, but we want great walkers to bring energy to the runway." Given the occasionally theatrical nature of the weeks shows-many of which featured face-obscuring masks, dramatic sets, or elaborate ensembles-the focus on a confident stride becomes even more important. Another key factor is finding local talent; Tanabe actively works with Tokyo-based agencies like Zucca, Bravo, and Donna to make sure Japanese models always have a presence on his runways, saying, "We always try to include Japanese girls and the very best newer girls as well; its important that we represent all Tokyo has to offer."