KOICHI TSUKAMOTO, 77, FOUNDER OF WACOAL
Byline: Karyn Monget
NEW YORK — Koichi Tsukamoto, founder and chairman of Wacoal Corp., died Wednesday at Takeda Hospital in Kyoto at age 77.
Cause of death was pneumonia, according to a company spokesman here.
Tsukamoto, who was active in the company until his death, was a pioneer in the intimate apparel industry in Japan. He began Wako Shoji Co. Ltd. in 1949 with three partners, a team he called “the four samurai.” Tsukamoto’s company introduced bra pads to the Japanese market, an accessory that gained tremendous popularity as Japanese women adopted Western fashion trends.
The company, which was renamed Wacoal in 1959, became the largest intimate apparel concern in Japan and one of the largest manufacturers of intimate apparel in the world, with overall sales — including the core company Wacoal Corp. and 33 international subsidiaries — of $1.23 billion in the fiscal year ended March 31. The U.S. operation, Wacoal America, posted a 19 percent increase in sales to $65 million.
In an interview in 1995, Tsukamoto told WWD that his company had invested $120 million in the U.S. operation over the past decade. The previous year had been the “first solid, profitable year” for the U.S. unit, Tsukamoto said. He credited the licensed Donna Karan Intimates as “an important move” in growing the Wacoal business in the U.S.
In describing his career, Tsukamoto compared himself to the late Kokichi Mikimoto, who launched the cultured pearl industry: “He wanted to hang a string of pearls around the neck of every woman in the world. Similarly, I wanted to beautify the bodies of all of the women of the world with our products.”
Tsukamoto is survived by his wife, Yoshie; a son, Yoshikata, who is president of Wacoal Corp., and two daughters.
A private funeral is scheduled for Sunday at Okazaki Temple in Kyoto. A memorial service will be conducted by Wacoal Corp. at a future date.