Sonya Park

by Catherine Shaw
Sonya ParkGlobetrotter, leading fashion stylist and creative director of six chic shopping emporiums in Tokyo, Sonya Park is internationally renowned for her distinctive personal style. The Seoul-born, Hawaii-raised Park has lived in Japan for 20 years and is author of Sonya’s Shopping Manual, a compendium of 101 must-haves for looking fabulous and living well. WIFM talks to Park about her favorite things and places.

My personal style goes beyond fashion, labels or luxury for the sake of it. I see fashion as a useful tool, but in the end it is only one part of lifestyle. Genuine quality is more about something that matures and starts to carry the personal value that only time adds. I love the structure and detailing of vintage clothes, for example, and so started to make patterns of those things — in fact, that is how I started doing fashion lines. I know what I like now so I don’t see the point in following new trends every season. I prefer to work with what I know is already good, what works well and perfect that with little changes or improvements here and there, keeping it interesting.

Sonya’s store Favorite weekend escape is Asaba ryokan, in Shizuoka, because of its deeply relaxing traditional hospitality and modern architectural touches. There is a beautiful outdoor onsen and a very unusual Noh theater stage on a small lake so you have all elements of Japanese culture at your fingertips. It is such a relaxing place to escape. I enjoy discovering more of Japan and finding out how beautiful it is; before now it was all about Tokyo and my work here.

The luxury I can’t do without is sleeping — I love a good seven to eight hours a night. This can’t always happen with the lifestyle I have, but I try my best. My bedroom is like my sanctuary; that’s why I am quite obsessive about bedding and things in the room. I have lots of products in my store that are related to sleep, in fact the first clothing I ever made was an all-in-one pajama that took two years to perfect.

Asaba ryokan Inspiration for my work dates back to even when I was very young — I loved a very different look to mainstream American fashion style. Coming to Japan had a lot to do with fashion because when I was growing up in the States I didn’t “fit” the popular look and I tended to wear boy’s clothes. Then I saw Comme de Garçon and immediately thought I have to go to Japan. I was convinced it would be so beautiful — all traditional Japanese gardens with beautiful women wearing Kawakubo’s unique clothes — of course, it wasn’t exactly like that but I still love her style after all these years. I do still also look to vintage clothing for inspiration — I love its craftsmanship and sense of design.

I feel most at home in Tokyo, even with the limited space that living here brings, although I always try to live with beautiful things. When I was building my house in Tokyo and didn’t have a lot of closet space I decided to buy only things that were beautiful, that I didn’t mind seeing all the time — like the most beautiful bathmat or even the dishcloths. The idea was to have nothing that needed to be hidden away. Current fashion is all about appearances, but true quality and craftsmanship make life so much more pleasurable. I only buy things I find beautiful and apply that principle to what I sell in my shops.

Clothes brush from her store Favorite website is but I also use an online currency calculator and world time clock.

Twitter or not? Not.

Future Plans? Perhaps to go a little further with Arts&Science globally. We are currently in London, Paris and Asia, but a presence in North America would be good. My ideal plan for the future is to stay simple and not to be greedy. Quite a few people have recommended I also consider e-retailing, but I don’t buy things through the internet — other than books. Some things you have to touch to get a feel for it and besides, I prefer to keep communication and knowledge at the core. All our staff members know exactly what the story is behind our products and that our customers want to be informed. After all, these are precious things. I suppose I am really obsessed but I really love it!