Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten, Inc.
Next month, Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo returns to the city, showcasing great designers and the fruits of their inspirational creativity.
When I met fashion icon Anna Wintour in New York recently, I didn’t mention that I won a “best dresser” award last December in Japan. (True story! Although it’s a bit ironic considering I almost always wear black.) Instead, we discussed the role fashion plays not just in business, but in the larger construct of creativity. While we come from decidedly different worlds, it’s that same spark of human creativity that she has a unique eye for in fashion that I hope to foster in our company and our partners.
At first glance, our foray into the fashion world with Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo may appear to be a straightforward marketing partnership. But this initiative runs much deeper — we have committed to supporting Japan’s fashion designers and businesses with our passion for innovation, our global reach and our business expertise. This is a way for the Japanese fashion community to reach a global audience while giving Rakuten a platform from which to enhance and promote its brand to a fashion-conscious audience.
The creative spirit that flows through fashion is what connects it to our larger purpose. At Rakuten, we want to be more than just a successful business. We want to empower others to do great things — start businesses, expand markets, innovate and invent. This is the core mission of our e-commerce marketplace. It’s the concept that drives our investment in emerging companies. It’s why we constantly push our boundaries to break into new industries such as mobile technology. We want to empower the world to try something new, to see things differently, to embrace the future. Fashion is part of that effort.
“The creative spirit that flows through fashion is what connects it to our larger purpose.”
When we help to foster creativity, we empower others to seek their own best self-expression. That may be in art or business or science. But we help the process by demonstrating that we value creativity in all forms in our lives. We support an environment that allows everyone to take creative chances.
Regardless of one’s business focus — whether you develop software, work in finance or market products — there are lessons to be learned from great creators. While he’s also a close friend, Japanese music legend Yoshiki continues to inspire me with his innovative approach to music, art and self-expression. Last year, he opened Fashion Week with his new kimono brand, “YOSHIKIMONO” and, as he always does, wowed all in attendance.
So yes, I believe we can all learn from the mentality of business innovators like Marc Benioff or Bill Gates, but I also think we should look to creators in other fields for inspiration, like Yoshiki and any one of the great fashion designers you’ll find showcased at Fashion Week. It’s why we’ve created robust intrapreneur programs, built offices that encourage and facilitate creativity, and continue to champion platforms that showcase diverse and original design.
“We want to empower the world to try something new, to see things differently, to embrace the future. Fashion is part of that effort.”
Fashion will continue to be an important focus for Rakuten moving ahead, and I look forward to continuing our support for Japan’s great designers and industry businesses. Even if I wear black (almost) every day, I know our work in fashion will help to fuel the global creative conversation. The more we empower each other to create, innovate and inspire, the better off we’ll be.
Editor’s Note: Due to concerns around COVID-19, Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo’s March 2020 event has been cancelled.