by Bill Hersey
When Liza Minnelli wants her hair trimmed, she expects the best. So I asked Japanese singer Izumi Yukimura who I should call. The answer was Fumio Kawashima who came over to the Prince Hotel to work his magic. That was more than 20 years ago. Liza was delighted, and Fumio and I have been friends ever since. Over coffee at one of his trendy Harajuku shops we discussed his career.
Bill Hersey: How did you ever get into all of this?
Fumio Kawashima: When I was a teen, I was a big fan of American movies, and by watching them I really built up a fervent desire to travel abroad. I quit high school in my freshman year and went to a Japanese hair styling school. Then it was on to the Vidal Sassoon Academy in London, where I studied and worked under him for seven and a half years.
BH: When did you open your first salon in Tokyo?
FK: In 1978 under the McDonald’s on Omotesando. We started with eight staff members. The shop is still open with more than 30 staffers now.
BH: How many salons and staff today?
FK: Six salons and more than 200 staff, including 20 who just started.
BH: Thanks for copies of your books; they are outstanding. How many have you published?
FK: Twelve so far: Five technical books and seven of what I call “image” books. These were photographed on location in L.A., Rio, London, among others. I do the hairstyles and create the image. It’s photographed by New York-based South African photographer Johnny Rozza.
BH: Your clients are a marvelous mix of sophisticated, mature women, trendy young people, international models and showbiz personalities. How many clients do you personally take care of a day?
FK: At least 15 and, after more than 30 years, I still love every minute of it.
BH: You have created a very “in,” very happening ambiance in your salons. Do you have any restrictions for your staff?
FK: They are all very creative people and, as you can see, they come up with some very original and unique styles. I like that.
Clearly, success hasn’t spoiled Fumio Kawashima, and his is a great place to update your look. The easiest one to find is still his first shop under the McDonald’s or the two down that little street by the big Benetton Store on Omotesando. For info or directions, call 5411-0848.