As the editor-in-chief of Vogue Japan, Mitsuko Watanabe is a key figure in one of the world’s largest and most influential fashion markets. Watanabe began her career in the editorial division of Figaro Japan, but left after less than a year to take up a role at Elle Japan, where she would stay until 2001, when she was appointed fashion features director of Vogue Japan.
Watanabe rose through the ranks at Vogue Japan, becoming deputy editor in 2005 and editor-in-chief in 2008, just five days before the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the onset of the global financial crisis. “I had to come to terms with the fact that it was going to be a rough time,” Watanabe told Fashion Headline Japan.
Having steered the magazine through some challenging years, in which she focused on a small number of key themes, which were regularly addressed in the title, Watanabe has proved herself a talented editor with vision and conviction. Under Watanabe’s stewardship, Vogue Japan has grown into a successful multimedia brand; the print title has a readership of 310,785, while the website receives over 1.2 million monthly visits. In addition, Vogue Japan communicates with its audience through mobile apps and SMS.
Watanabe was one of a number of Condé Nast editors who signed a ‘health initiative’ aimed at setting safety standards around the weight and size of fashion models, telling press, "We, as creator of image, should not edit our publication in a way that would reinforce the ideal image of beauty built on lopsided ideas. We will make suggestions also for diet and health.” Watanabe went on to stress that the magazine values the individuality of a person, saying the concept of beauty varies from one person to the next.