Antiques & The Arts

Yulia Shumakova interview | Antique trader & fashion model living in Tokyo Life in Japan & modeling

Hi, my name is Yulia, I’m from Smolensk, Russia and I’ve been living in Japan for already 7 years I first came here for a contract with modeling agency and then I got into all these… Japanese culture, life… And I’ve decided to stay here I’ve started modeling with local model agency in Smolensk. I was scouted on the street and invited to the casting for IQ Models, the agency in Moscow I’ve signed a contract with them, got many test shoots I was booked for some jobs in Moscow and then I went to my first modeling trip to Japan I mean my first modeling trip was to Japan Have you been working in any other countries? Yes, it was mostly Asian countries: Hongkong, Singapore Taiwan, China and I also worked in Milan. But Asia is more of my market I think I even have some Asian features in my look And I often get a question, whether I’m partly Japanese, especially when I have certain make-up on. To tell the truth, I’ve been in a relationship here with a guy… He’s not Japanese, he’s from Brasil Yes, it was like this… We had very good and strong relationship… And I loved working in Japan, I mean I thought that it might be a sign… I’ve always had some thoughts that I would like to stay here… And it turned out this way, so I’ve decided to try it out and live here for awhile We’ve broken up with my boyfriend 2 years ago… But still I’ve decided to live here… To see whether I’ll be able to live here alone especially in Jaanese society, in this atmosphere… I mean me and my ex boyfriend has been living in very touristic… Well, not exactly touristic area, but there were even shops in English Everything in English and so many foreigners around, you even didn’t have to know Japanese to comfortably live there So, I’ve decided to learn more about Japanese culture and… Yeah, I’m still here. Many people have been asking me why I’ve chosen this I mean now I have a vintage and antique kimono shop It’s an online shop… People ask me why I learn Japanese culture Honestly I don’t know… It just happened organically. One thing to another… has led into this. Many things happening, new people appear in y life… It’s so interesting and I really got into this lifestyle I’ve left my mother agency awhile ago… Well, not really so long ago, it was actually last year And I do regret that I haven’t left earlier, because I’ve been living here for a long time and I didn’t need a Mother Agency… But the situation was like… You know, they’ve given me the chance, the agency here and many other opportunities. And for me it was like paying respect to them in this way… It has been many years and I’ve never had a proper contract with them, because I was never a top model. But in general I think I’ve been working quite successful here in Japan and I still do despite the fact that I’m alreadt a grown up person. And it’s so funny to see very young girls like in their 15-16 ies being so surprised seeing me being 31 years old still working despite all of the industry standarts like when you should have been stopped working at 21 or smth But actually many models are just starting at 21 now. I mean you can work as long as you want depending on your surcomstances actually because if you can work and if you really want it, you can keep doing it at any age I mean I don’t really like that much going to other countires for work, because I want to have my comfort zone, my own home… So yeah. Can you please share the working aspects between you and your agency here? The take 35 % of my income and I get 65 %. When I still was with my mother agency I used to get 60%. So the percentage that my Mother Agency has been getting we’ve shared between me and my agency here. To tell the truth other agencies here are usually giving you those money that your former Mother Agency used to get But there are another rules in my agency which is a bit unfair I guess but I’ve been working with them for a long time, so I don’t want to agrue with them. I know some girls who’ve tried to get those money for themselves too Those 5%… But I think it’s better to have a good friendly relationship with your agency Beside getting those 60% that I earn I pay lots of taxes… I pay to Japan 20% from my income I also pay 10% more as a resident because I’ve been staying in Japan for awhile Plus I have to pay more money as non-resident, some money to insurance fund and retirement fund. Everything done properly So, you’re living here on permanent basis. Can you tell us about the difference in castings and the whole system of modeling work here for models who lives in Japan from the ones who’s only coming here for few months? How does it work? Sure, everything is very different for me (for models who lives in Japan permanently). I don’t recieve some casting call. First of all because many clients have already seen me and know me already, second of all I think my agency don’t give me some castings info on purpose. I mean when the client really want to see me of course they’re shoming me to them, but the agency really need to work on other models’ contracts So, some they’re giving some castings to them only I know this thing and I don’t see a problem in it. In general I have enough money for living…. Enough work with my old and new clients… When it comes to very sensitive situation with low budget or there’s a perion when I don’t have much jobs I try to… Then I talk to my agency, tell them about it and they’re trying to find smth for me too So now you’re going to the castings by yourself? – Yes And you’re also presenting yourself to clients in Japanese language, right? – Yes Please say few words about this process I mean the agency’s sending you some kind of castings list for certain dates and… Yes, they’re sending me the info about castings… And… Well, I don’t go, for example, to 5 castings a day… If there are so many castings, I get to them by agency’s car. But if there is only 1-2 castings and there’s a break between them, when I can walk and do my stuff… Then of course I go there bymyself And then… I just introduce myself, they ask some questions and I answer to them… It’s much easier than going by car with many girls So, yes, it’s much easier. What do you usually wear for castings? And what are the most common questions the clients ask you? OK, they usually ask where are you from. And surprisingly when I say I’m from Russia, sometimes their responce isn’t that good… Many client doesn’t like Russia and Russian girls especially those clients who have been in this business for a long time… I mean the new wave, new girls from Russia and Ukraine are much better than those who has been working here few years ago Few years ago some models weren’t realyl polite and didn’t behave that good I’d say… I don’t know why, maybe there was a different mentality back then. Now Russian girls are much more polite on castings they know how to present themselves and so on. Yeah, basically you can wear for castings anything you want. And I like that now you don’t have to put yourself into some modeling standarts like black skinny jeans, total black like in NYC, tank tops and etc… You can wear anything you want here And I love such freedom you have your voice… I mean I see the girls in different agencies and… For example, there’s Zucca model agency and their models more like a “talent” ones… There are many musicians and dancers there and etc. Of course they have modeling book (portfolio) but they also have such an extraordinary look, not typical models look I’d say Like some short interesting haircut, some extraordinary style like panc rock or hippie and smth like that. I mean many clients love it and get inspired by their style, the way they present themselves And they often just do the same styling on their jobs as those models’ own style… So… I think eventually the whole industry might come to this… Just being pretty or beautiful isn’t enough for modeling anymore, it’s not as important as personality charisma…. The clients want… Well, of course if there are so many beautiful girls around…. But there’s this one like Natasha Vodyanova who’s standing out from the cround… There aren’t many girls like her in the whole words… And if you have a basic look being able to express yourself by the clothes, by personal style is very important in my opinion How you came to the idea of online kimono shop? I guess it has also happened naturally, right? Yes, I’ve just moved to traditional Japanese style house and used to live with Japanese woman who’s been into vintage. It was her hobby and once I’ve joined her going to the antique market. I’ve bought myself few kimonos and posted those photos on instagram And somehow some girls have asked me about those kimonos, they wanted to buy them… Of course, I haven’t sold those kimonos, but I’ve decided to find smth similar for them. They’ve liked those kimonos and it somehow has happened organically…. I’ve decided to start an instagram page for my kimono shop and sell them online. So, I’ve been doing it for 2 years already I sell kimono and other accessories Whom do you consider yourself more: a model or … I don’t know more artistic person, the one who loves vintage clothing and everything? When people ask me about my work, of course I say that I’m a model, because my visa type is for modeling work. But to tell the truth I really would love to introduce myself more like… I don’t know… Like I’m saying that I’m an antique kimono shop owner and when I get interviewed here for some Japanese magazines and TV I usually say that I’m an antique trader. How do you see yourself in few years ahead? Honestly, I have no idea… I’ve imagined myself in so many ways, so… I’ve just realized that it’s better to just go some way you feel comfortable in and then look back on your results like: oh, I’ve been this and that, I’m becoming a person like this…. Because you know I don;t have some certain goal… I only have a goal to move forward, do smth constantly create something… Some shoots…You know when I’ve started selling kimonos I got so many offers for styling, photography, more modeling work… Maybe because I photograph myself wearing kimons that I’m selling Everyone’s life here goes in different ways… Depending on experience… As far as I can see from other people’s experiences, it’s really hard living here… All of those visas… But I think for people living abroad it’s always like this. Getting a visa, working legally or smth like that is always hard I think I’m really lucky because I have an agency who provides me with my working visa, they do all of those documents… And many other people need to do it by themselves, go several times a day to the immigration office… It’s hard… But it’s worth it I think everything’s possible if you really want it. I think you need to try if you really want this The living expences… The prices for flats are quite high here… I rent my flat together with roommate for 1600 $ a month, each of us pays 800$ Including utilities, yes The food is approximately 30 dollars a day. Of course you can tighten up your budgetm but honestly I don’t really want to do it anymore… Yes you can live only eating rice and beans for awhile Or some miso soup… But then you just want to care about your body… Yeah, 30$ a day is OK for food. Modeling job is really helping me out Of course sometimes there’s a quiet time and when it happens my kimono shop is really saving me. I mean if you live in Japan I think you need to do multiple jobs And now thanks to internet we have many opportunities for that It’s really important to survive in Japan or even elsewhere, yes Thank you so much for sharing your story. – You’re welcome It was really nice and interesting to chat with you Thanks, I hope I wasn’t too slow… I just feel that I’m so sleepy lol

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