Meet Tokyo Gamine, SF’s Very Own Haute Couturier

Tokyo Gamine's designer Yuka Uehara stands in the middle of her showroom
Tokyo Gamine’s designer Yuka Uehara stands in the middle of her showroom

Photo Credit: Richard Van

It used to be that stylish San Franciscans would have to go to Paris or New York to have a custom couture gown made for them. However, thanks to the arrival of Tokyo Gamine and its sprite-like creator, Yuka Uehara, that has all changed. Tokyo Gamine is Uehara’s brainchild—an innovative new fashion collection that involves a completely personalized experience. While Uehara has designed pieces that are part of a line, she shines when it comes to making one-of-a-kind clothing. More art than everyday, her hand-painted couture dresses have caught the eye of SF’s socials. Sonya Molodetskaya wore one last spring and several of Tokyo Gamine gowns were spotted last week at the Symphony Gala and Opera Ball.

Uehara hand sews one of her gowns
Uehara hand sews one of her gowns

Photo Credit: Richard Van

A native of Tokyo, Uehara is the daughter of Ryuji Fukuyama, a well-respected Japanese film producer and director. Although she studied premed, she didn’t have the heart to become a doctor. She returned to Japan after giving up med school and was at a crossroads in her life. Luckily her father offered her a job at his production company. “I got involved with the costume department,” she told Haute Living from the beautiful sitting room of her dad’s Nob Hill home. “It’s pretty much the first step to fashion. I got interested in the story side. The film creation—my background is in film—it’s about stories. What really interested me about costume is that it completely transforms a character.” This emphasis on transforming a character led Uehara to develop her unique style of haute couture. She’s passionate about forming relationships with her clients because learning their stories and what they would like to achieve influences her designs. Fashion is incredibly personal to her: “it’s not about trends. Fashion sends a message about who you are and where you come from. We do that in film all the time. For me, I really like to make it personal. That is why I paint a lot of things and I hand sew a lot of things. There is a story there and it can capture the energy of a person.”

Uehara in her own Tokyo Gamine couture dress at last week's Opera Ball
Uehara in a Tokyo Gamine couture dress at last week’s Opera Ball

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Uehara is a self-taught designer who learned everything she knows from costume departments and old-school tailors. When making couture gowns, she uses antique kimono techniques and sources her luxurious fabrics from all over the world. When you meet with her you can’t help but get excited about the clothes she creates—her enthusiasm is contagious and childlike. Although Tokyo Gamine is only a year old, Uehara has already staged a fashion show, opened a pop-up shop, and a second collection of ready-to-wear, perhaps highlighted in a film collaboration with her father, is in the works. Fans of her work can expect more of the modern, feminine designs that are edgy, daring, playful, and sophisticated all at the same time. We can’t get enough of her urban fabrics, intricate details, and keen sense of style. At the end of our conversation Uehara describes herself as a fashion rebel, but after spending some time getting to know the designer, we’re considering her San Francisco’s very own revolutionary fashion fairy.

Interested in learning more about Tokyo Gamine? Set up an unforgettable appointment with Uehara now.