At 17 years old, Ai Tominaga became one of the first Asian models to break through in Western fashion. Today, beyond modelling, she is now an actress, mainly in Japan. She is also committed to charity and social action work, with efforts to promote traditional Japanese culture abroad and to new generations in Japan. Ai Tominaga is an Ambassador for the JOICFP (Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning), an NGO active in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as an Ethical Lifestyle Sustainable Development Goals Ambassador for Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency.
In what ways are you seeing fashion adapt to or be transformed by the ongoing global and industry challenges?
The Covid-19 pandemic slowed down the industry and slowed down individual lifestyles, bringing big changes to the way that people feel about fashion. I feel that we have entered a new period with priorities that include making things in a manner that is good for people and good for the environment, creating fashions that use acceptable materials, and finding ways of enjoying them for longer. These approaches are taking hold at the national level in Japan, with government agencies like the Consumer Affairs Agency, Ministry of the Environment, and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry launching ethical fashion initiatives. I’m personally involved in this effort as an Ethical Lifestyle SDGs Ambassador for the Consumer Affairs Agency — a role that lets me work with the media to promote ethical consumption and communicate lifestyles that benefit both our global environment and the ways that people live. Fashion is shifting from an age of self-centered enjoyment of clothing to an altruistic age with a focus on caring about the Earth and about people. This new age will be one where people seek out and discover new forms of beauty; new forms of enjoyment; and new attractiveness and looks. Fashion will still be fun, and being fashionable will still be great. I’m excited by the thought of being able to regularly wear fashion that is both creative and ethical, like the many creative looks produced by haute couture designers that I encounter as a top model.
What is one trend or article of clothing that will define the coming year?
New creations are emerging from the drive to counter textile waste and other losses from fashion, and that sort of movement is likely to become a trend. The fashion industry became un-wholesome due to mass production, mass consumption, and mass disposal, along with massive inventories and year-round sales. We’ve already seen the growth of movements to eliminate the waste of food through food loss. Similar movements to eliminate loss and to recycle waste in the fashion industry are now gaining strength. In an ideal lifestyle, textiles made from recycled marine plastic and construction materials made from textile waste would become regular parts of everyday life, not exceptional like they are today. That sort of lifestyle can build upon the ethical wisdom that informed Japan’s original culture — including loving nature, finding ways to avoid producing waste, and becoming content with what you have. We now have the chance to take a fresh look at traditional skills and knowledge while applying state-of-the-art technology. By doing that, I expect the fashion world to come up with lots of new ideas that are artistically creative while putting an unprecedented effort into thinking about how to care for the Earth and care for humanity.
What is something you’d love to see in the future, even if it’s the stuff of fantasy?
I want to see us share the world with all other living creatures. I hope that humans can lose their greed and once again be happy with their lives. Doing good for others comes back to benefit us, so I would like to see us use today’s science and technology to achieve a world that is in perfect harmony. Our world should be a place where all the people we care for are smiling.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.