People | 20 QUESTIONS

Corey Mah: Fashioning a new life in Tokyo

by Jae Lee

Name: Corey Mah
Age: 31
Nationality: Canadian
Occupation: English instructor
Likes: Fashion, retro video games, Japanese culture
Dislikes: Chicken feet


1. When did you first visit Japan? In 2008. I wanted to visit Comme des Garcons boutiques. I was thrilled to purchase my first piece, a dark green blazer from the Homme Plus 2008 collection titled “To the Power of Three.”

2. When did you get hooked on Comme des Garcons? When I was in high school, I saw Fashion Television Channel’s review of the 1987 exhibition “Three Women: Madeleine Vionnet, Claire McCardell, and Rei Kawakubo.” I clearly remember Peter Lindbergh’s portrait of Rei Kawakubo and thinking to myself, “Who is she?”

3. How did you end up living in Tokyo? I moved here about a year ago to follow my dream: To work at Comme des Garcons’ Aoyama boutique one day.

4. What’s your favorite Comme des Garcons collection? The 1995 spring-summer “Beyond Gender.” Both men and women walked down the runway in deconstructed suits without back panels. The suits were sliding off of the body and for me, it seemed to suggest a kind of protest.

5. How do you cope financially as a fan of fashion? I try to live as cheaply as possible. Since I don’t drink, smoke or gamble, I can budget for clothes during sale season. Per season, I buy at least one piece from a current collection and sometimes two or more from previous ones.

6. What’s your latest purchase? I found a pair of pink-and-green bowling shoes from the Homme Plus 2013 collection. I am always foraging for Homme Plus items from 2004 onwards. I try to find and wear the exact pieces that match the look as presented on the runway.

7. Biggest fanboy moment? I ran into Tsubomi Tanaka once, Comme des Garcons’ chief of production. I recognized her instantly from an NHK documentary titled “The Challenge of Rei Kawakubo.”

8. What’s the most inspiring exhibition you’ve been to? In 2008, the Vancouver Art Gallery held an exhibition on anime, comics and video games. Japanese video games were a huge part of my childhood, the show inspired me to reexamine them as an art form.

9. The one thing you always get at a convenience store? Fried spicy chicken from FamilyMart. Fresh, mildly spiced and good value.

10. Where can you find Canada in Japan? Robson Fries in Shimokitazawa serves delicious poutine — french fries, gravy and cheese curds.

11. Who should we follow on Instagram? @peoplewearingcommedesgarcons is a great way to see some of the most daring pieces worn in public places; @yu_shina offers extensive archival images from the history of Comme des Garcons.

12. What do you post on Instagram? My fashion account (@cdg_corey) started as a tool to document my life in fashion retail and to post photos of people I dressed head-to-toe in Comme des Garcons in the department store I worked in.

13. How else do you promote your style? I wear Comme des Garcons daily — that gets people curious. I’ve also volunteered to give lectures at a local college in Canada. When I was working at a department store, I used to offer training sessions on the brand. It’s a passion.

14. What’s your ideal day in Tokyo? Lunch at Rose Bakery — the cafe chain run by the sister of Adrian Joffe, president of Comme des Garcons International — in Marunouchi, followed by window shopping in Shibuya. After that, I would return home for dinner then play Nintendo 64 with my roommates.

15. What are you reading right now? Rare interviews on the internet about Rei Kawakubo and Adrian Joffe. I enjoy learning about the business of fashion and the struggles of maintaining a fashion empire.

16. Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake: What would they be like as video game characters? Rei Kawakubo would attack with bolts of black boiled polyester. Issey Miyake would use pleated fabric to slap his enemies multiple times. And Yohji Yamamoto would toss fabric into the air that would engulf and seal enemies in oversized black wool gabardine pillowcases. Rei would win because of her intellect and strength.

17. Your favorite train line in Tokyo? The Yamanote Line. It takes me to Shibuya, my favorite neighborhood. The crosswalk reminds me of Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation” and there are plenty of vintage clothing shops.

18. What superpower would you like? To master kanji as quickly as possible.

19. A message to Rei Kawakubo: Please build a shop in Canada, preferably in Vancouver and maybe I can work there?

20. What would you do if Comme des Garcons announced it would stop designing? Perhaps consider designing my own clothes.