Japan through the lens of Giulia Hepburn

Giulia Maffioli, also known by her artistic name Giulia Hepburn is a London based visual designer and fashion photographer working in both commercial and lifestyle. Today we interviewed her about her trips to Japan, where she shows the Japanese lifestyle and all of its beauty and contrast.


- What inspires your photography?

It may sound like an obvious answer, but my inspiration comes from everything around me. I love looking for the details, especially ones that are usually ignored. A newspaper could be draped over a model and become a dress, cut branches found in the street can create a perfect naturalistic set for photos. My philosophy is to always let myself be surprised as if I looked at things with the eyes of a child. I try to observe as much as possible every place where I am. I often take notes in a notebook or directly on my mobile phone to save ideas. Obviously, my experience greatly influences my photographic choice. Cinema, art in general, the world of illustration, music, everything is a source of inspiration.


- As a fashion photographer, what was the biggest difference you found between London - Japanese fashion style?

What I often see in Japanese Fashion is the attention to detail and tradition. Even the most eccentric style always has an element linked to the world of Japanese tradition. It could be a detail in the hair like a kanzashi, or the cut of a jacket reminiscent of haori. I love this aspect because it fully represents Japan: ancient and modern are not opposites, but they merge to create something new. I think Japanese fashion is inspirational, almost conceptual. Their mixing of western and eastern elements is something unique. London fashion is more “street”, with inspirations and mixes that refer more to Western fashion. However, in both places, people care a lot about their aesthetics in dressing, not just "dress to impress", but also to communicate something with their garments.


- Among your Japanese series, what's your favorite photograph? Why?

I think one of my favorite images is the one of the girl in Lolita clothes inside the sticker shop. The photo was taken in the Harajuku neighborhood the day before returning home. It was already evening, and I was ready to go back to the hotel when, turning into an alley, I saw her. It felt like, while she was standing under the light, everything else around her had stopped moving. At that moment I just thought I had to capture that moment as soon as possible. I think that, even years later, this photo still has its charm.


- A memory from Japan?

There are probably too many, but I’ll try. One day I was on Miyajima Island, during low tide. I saw many people with buckets and shovels collecting shells and I didn't understand why. I approached a lady, and I asked her if I could take a photo because I thought she was beautiful (all said in my extremely beginner Japanese). She was so kind and agreed to it while telling me she was collecting clams to cook for the night. In the end, I got invited to dinner at her house because she was very happy with the compliment and the photograph.


- What is your favorite subject to photograph?

My favorite subject is people. I am totally fascinated by them and often try to observe and imagine their lives.


- What advice would you give to someone who is traveling to take a good picture?

My first advice is to have an idea of what to see and to photograph and follow a theme. Japan is full of creative inputs in every direction, and following them all can become tiring and counterproductive to getting beautiful images. Having a plan is an excellent way to train creativity, but at the same time, getting lost in a place could lead to the unexpected and often to wonders.

Personally, I believe there is a time to photograph and another to enjoy what you are experiencing to the full. The journey is not just trying to see as many things as possible and then showing them on the way back. The journey, as well as the photos, are experiences to be fully enjoyed, made up of breaks and moments of reflection.


- Favourite place in Japan?

It is very difficult to choose just one place! Kamakura is one of my favorite places because I have wonderful memories of moments spent there and above all, it is where I saw the cherry blossom at its peak, an unforgettable sight. Honorable mention to Takayama, a mountain city in Gifu prefecture, which welcomed me during the autumn Matsuri. This is also an experience that must be lived at least once.


 - What have been the best places in the world to visit/photograph? 

Well, for me, Japan is absolutely the best place to visit and photograph. In a city like Tokyo, you will already have thousands of things to do and to photograph. You will never be bored exploring this metropolis.


- Which city do you consider the most stylish?

I follow many accounts of people around the world that are showing streets full of stylish people. I think in general all big cities have fashionable people. Personally, I really like the Parisian style. 

- Where, as soon as you are allowed, will you go?

I have a huge list of places where I would like to go! First Japan, because I was supposed to go in 2020. Also, I really would like to visit Canada and to do a car trip to the West Coast of the USA.

You can find more images from Giulia on IG @giuliahepburn or at www.giuliahepburn.com

All rights reserved images by Giulia Hepburn. 

← Older Post Newer Post →

Japan in London



Sei Watanabe our Tokyo based Managing Director introduces the concept behind the new season ahead..   Welcome to Spring and Summer ’24. This Ukiyo collection represents the world...

Read more

A Q+A with our new thank you card illustrator, Claudia Curto.

We discuss design processes, influences and inspiration with the Spanish illustrator whose work will soon accompany each Yaccomaricard London order. Please tell us about your...

Read more