In the 1970s he helped dress music icons such as Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Neil Diamond and The Jacksons. And today, celebrities such as Shakira, Queen Latifah, Tyra Banks, Kate Walsh and Helen Mirren love to wear his creations on the red carpet. But Tadashi Shoji confessed that he became a fashion designer only because he failed as an artist.

"I studied fine art and trained with Jiro Takamatsu, a pioneer of the modern art movement in Japan. But I could not make it
as an artist in my country so I escaped to the US,'' said the Los Angeles-based Japanese designer, during a recent visit to Dubai for the launch of his spring-summer 2008 collection at Saks Fifth Avenue.


In the US, Shoji enrolled for a course in fashion design on a whim but soon realised he had found his calling. "I had never
done any sewing and did not even know what a dart was. I was fascinated to see how one can sculpt fabric on the body through clever construction and draping,'' he recalled. His fascination with drapes continues with feminine, flattering and comfortable drapes being Shoji's special signature.

The designer's training as an artist has given him the ability to create perfect proportions and balance in his garments.
"Fashion is also art. Here the body is my canvas and I compose the garments as carefully as a painting. Even a quarter of an inch in the proportions makes a difference in the look. I notice it immediately and find it so ugly that I feel physically sick,'' he said.

Top costume designer Bill Whitten recognised the young Japanese student's talent and asked him to assist in designing for the top music stars of the time. Shoji is modest about that assignment. "I think Bill wanted me at the fittings with the big stars only because I did not speak English and so kept quie and I was good at reading his mind and handing him what he needed before he asked for it,'' he said.

Shoji may have been silent but he observed everything and learnt a lot. In 1982, he established his own fashion house with his label, Tadashi. He launched his more exclusive signature label, Tadashi Shoji in autumn 2007 at New York Fashion Week and also designs a line of home furnishing. His creations have been well accepted in 30 countries around the globe, including Japan, where they are favoured by every leading celebrity.


"The name maybe Japanese but my style is different from that of well-known Japanese labels. Designers like Isse Miyake and Yamamoto are quite philosophical in their approach to design with the placement of every button having some meaning. But I am making no statements through my clothes. I just want to make dresses that make women feel pretty and happy. I love the idea of creating an illusion and making women look more beautiful than they are,'' he said.

No wonder the stars love his clothes and often surprise him by choosing his gowns for high profile events. "Helen Mirren is my favourite actress and recently I was thrilled to see her on the cover of a magazine wearing one of my gowns,'' said the designer, smiling at the memory.