‘It was Japanese spirit aligned with Western skills.’

How Shiseido’s advertising changed the way Japan saw itself.

By Ruba Amu-Nimah



Ikuo Amano was appointed creative director at Shiseido in 1966, a year after graduating from Tokyo University of the Arts. By that time, the Japanese skincare and beauty company had grown from a single Western-style pharmacy in Ginza, Tokyo, opened in 1872, into a burgeoning multinational.

Amano, working with photographers including Noriaki Yokosuka and Kiyosuke Kajihara, and models such as Sayoko Yamaguchi and the Lutz sisters, Adelle and Tina, opened up the company’s visuals to new influences by mixing the quiet poetry of their Japanese sensibility with the striking geometry and abstraction of contemporary Western visual culture. Combined with the profound changes in Japanese society being brought about by the country’s increasing economic power and a new cultural openness, Amano’s images helped revolutionize advertising in his homeland and build his company’s reputation abroad.

System asked Ruba Abu-Nimah, who until early 2017 was Shiseido’s creative director, to talk to her illustrious predecessor, Ikuo Amano. The pair met in Tokyo where they talked about his pioneering work, how a still-relevant visual identity was born, and what gives a local brand a global outlook.

Read their interview in System, issue No. 9. Click to buy.


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