Written by Eromosele Patrick Eidusi
As Japan’s population ages and shrinks, the government hopes to alleviate the labour shortage by recruiting more foreign specialists. But are there more obstacles than opportunities?
For young graduates and seasoned designers alike, it sounds like a dream job. Getting hired to work in the Tokyo design studio of Comme des Garcons, Sacai or one of Japan’s many cult streetwear brands gets people like Ellie Connor Phillips very excited.
“If I was given the opportunity to work as a designer in Japan, I would absolutely pursue it. There’s so much about Japanese fashion that makes me want to work there,” says the London-based menswear student, “it would be such a massive privilege.”
While there are probably no current vacancies at studios as in demand as these, Connor-Phillips’ chances of living and working in Japan could get significantly better.
According to the recent reports, the Japanese government has expressed a commitment to make the recruitment pathway for specialist and skilled foreign workers clearer and easier and changes are already underway.
“As the current laws stand in Japan, foreigners are allowed to work here as designers, but the guidelines that today’s immigration sector have in place are quite vague and need to be changed,” says Shigeru Furuichi, the deputy director of the creative industries division at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).
Furuichi is working to bring more fashion designers to Japan in an effort to internationalize the country’s famous but somewhat contained, closed-loop fashion industry.
To achieve this, however, many changes need to be made, he says, emphasizing the various grey areas in Japan’s immigration guidelines that discourage employers who might otherwise consider hiring foreigners.