As I step into athalie, I am transported to a serene lounge with a feel of luxury, that somehow also gives me a feeling of comfort. With the white clean walls, carefully selected furniture pieces, Japanese-style garden at the back and warm greetings from none other than Hiroko Hirayama, the 4th generational owner of athalie.
You may wonder, so what is athalie? There is designer clothing on the rack, crystal ornaments in the showcase, and tasteful artworks that surround you. Some may call it a select store, although I see it as a place where fashion, art and interior design come together to propose a lifestyle for the customers who appreciate the finer things in life.
The owner and the employees however, are also what makes this place special – and this is traced back to almost a century ago, when Toshiko Yamawaki first introduced European fashion and aesthetics to Japan in 1928. This was a time when the ‘modern’ western influences were reserved as luxury for the upper class, and Toshiko Yamawaki led the trend with the boutique Azare in Ginza. Her daughter, Fuyo Yamawaki continued to introduce the newest European designs and trends to Japan, after her educations in Parsons at New York City.
The matriarch passed on next to Yoshiko Yamanashi, who opened and established athalie’s branding as a lifestyle salon for upper class women. She took inspiration from European high fashion to establish her own aesthetics, and applied it to Eastern art and fashion. Which brings me back to athalie in 2021 with Hiroko Hirayama, who has brought her own spin on the family business by producing art and jewelry exhibitions, collaborations with Japanese designers such as Tomoumi Ono, and providing opportunities to young artists and designers.
“I’ve been thinking, and I have the perfect piece for you,” Hiroko says every time she sees my wife. And of course, the selected clothing fits her style perfectly. She seems to understand that luxury fashion is also about feeling comfortable in the best materials and fit. I also appreciate the conversations with her over tea and sweets, as she has extensive network with domestic and foreign fashion designers, museum curators, and wineries.
With the age of new normal, situation in athalie is gradually changing as well however, as the business shifts to the digital platform. As it becomes more difficult for the customers to experience the physical interaction in the store, athalie will now pass on the knowledge and experience of the lifestyle and cutting-edge art and fashion topics digitally. We hope to welcome you to the world of athalie, at any location.