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Tokyo Girls Collection producer Ayako Nagaya

by Judit Kawaguchi

Ayako Nagaya, 37, is the president of F1 Media Inc. and the chief producer of Tokyo Girls Collection (TGC), a semiannual entertainment extravaganza showcasing Japanese street fashion, music and a myriad of products, from instant noodles to cars. Staged in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Stadium, this one-day fashion festa of all things kawaii (cute) is the brainchild of Branding Inc., a media contents company that runs a number of successful Web portals catering to girls and women. The first Tokyo Girls Collection was created in 2005 as a party event to celebrate the fifth anniversary of one of Branding’s Web portals, girlswalker.com, which introduces fashion to 8 million subscribers in their late teens to early thirties. Since then, TGC has evolved into a major cultural phenomenon, attracting 20,000 screaming fans to its shows and even more to its mobile-phone sites. According to Nagaya, girls are crazy about TGC and the numbers prove her right: Within 24 hours of the last show, ¦59 million worth of clothing was purchased online, and the event made an incredible ¦3 billion in advertising revenue.

World recession or not, women always want to look great. That’s why we aren’t experiencing a downward spiral at TGC. Some brands appear, others disappear, but as long as we keep providing inexpensive, high-quality entertainment and clothes, the only movement we should sense is upward. The world might be getting sick, but Japanese girls are healthy, powerful and fun.

My goal is to be like a great soy sauce! Soy sauce goes well with anything. I would like to be the kind of woman who gets along with everyone and helps make everyone better — just like soy sauce does to anything it is poured on to.

A small business can achieve really big things. We don’t have separate departments. The 20 of us in the company share all aspects of marketing, strategy and branding; dealing with brands, sponsors and models; and making Web sites. Our strength is speed.

Where you sit, makes no difference; where you stand, does. I have never been to Paris or Milan fashion shows, where getting a front-row seat is a status symbol. Our concept is totally different: TGC is a festival that anyone can attend. Front-row seats don’t exist, it’s first come, first served. At TGC, all that matters is that you are here on the side of fun and fashion! It’s a matsuri (festival) where everyone gets to have a ball.

Getting married requires a lot of energy. I sleep about three hours a day, so I doubt there will be wedding bells ringing for me in the near future.

Success is always possible, just don’t quit before you get there. When we began organizing our first TGC event, we had no contacts or connections with the press. I bought a directory of media outlets and we called every newspaper, magazine and TV show and asked them to come to TGC. If they said no, we called them again. And again … and again.

Few things can be handled with power. Being the boss means being responsible for the success of everyone and everything in the company. It is a heavy burden. The only way to manage it is to always compliment and encourage others. Nobody responds well to being bossed around.

Pioneers are lonely. In Japan, a senpai, or older person, has the important duty of teaching the ropes to the younger. Unfortunately, in this kind of e-commerce and cross-media production, we have no predecessors.

Everyone has a coping mechanism: mine is crying. I cry all the time! I walk on the street from one meeting to another with tears streaming down my face. It feels great to let go of the stress. Creating a happy event (like TGC) is a tough job.

Just because you have the information, it doesn’t mean you always know what to do with it. Before TGC, I created magazines and mobile sites offering information on foreign travel and marriage. I learned a lot doing those jobs but look where it got me! I’m single and I never have time to travel.

Customizing is one of Japanese people’s strongest talents. Japanese women have worn kimono for centuries, often each with a different design. It’s the same today: Japanese never want to look the same as others. We customize and accessorize, and we find ways to do it inexpensively.

Culture must have a role in industry. TGC is a designer and promoter of Japanese culture, but unless our activity adds value to businesses, there is no point in doing it. Culture must create jobs.

To sell anything, we must understand the soul of the buyer. I love reading manga, I never exercise and I adore fast food. I’m very much like today’s young people and so I pretty much know precisely what they want.

A woman can never be too cute. In Japan, being kawaii is normal. Everyone loves cute things. And everyone loves cute people and wants to be one of them.

A man should be as solid as a stone: reassuring and healing just to be with. I carry little stones around with me all the time and touch them when I need reassurance that things will be OK. Now that’s the kind of guy I’d like to pocket!

Work doesn’t make me tired, meeting people does. I exchange business cards with about 50 people a day. On busy days, I might have to talk to 300 people.

Don’t decide what you are bad at! All the time I hear people say, “Oh, I’m not good at that.” Is thinking that way helpful? No! Figure out your weaknesses and improve them … silently.

It’s hard to trust people whose lives sound like they are too good to be true. They take life for granted, but life is tough! I only trust those who assess problems well and discuss risks honestly.

In business, one should never be biased. I never think too much about whether an item is pretty or not; my only criteria is whether it will sell and whether girls will have fun with it. I’m very neutral, which is why I can organize such a demanding event.

Never quit half way through something! No matter how tough things get, I tough it out. That’s all I can teach others: If you persevere, you have a chance to succeed because there will be others who give up before you.

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK’s “Out & About.” Learn more at: http://juditfan.blog58.fc2.com/