Student Success Story: Miki Willis

The Fashion industry in Portland is on the rise with indie apparel and unique local brands flourishing. The Pacific Northwest has been known for its outdoor & athletic apparel with major brands like Columbia Sportswear, Sorel, Nike, Adidas, Keen, Reebok, Under Armour, and Ice Breaker headquarters’ located in Portland. Several winners from Project Runway have come out of Portland such as Leanne Marshall, Seth Aaron, Gretchen Jones and Michelle Lesniak and have gone on to open successful studios and factories, such as Seth Aaron in New York City. More local designers are flipping the industry on its head with vibrant fashion and collaborating with local photographers to create cool fashion shows such as Fade to Light, FashioNXT and Modified Style, to name a few. With the industries rapid growth there has been an increase in diversity and inclusivity amongst models and artists alike. The Art of Makeup School has been integral in the city’s growing diversity with students enrolling from across the country to see what the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

One makeup artist in particular; Miki Willis has been making waves in the fashion industry with her clean approach and precise technique. Miki graduated The Art of Makeup in 2015 and has since built her career working with many fashion photographers as well as the larger local fashion shows. She is published in British Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Her reputation, experience, technique and excellent networking skills have created relationships with many local photographers and designers itching to get a chance to work with her.

Miki was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, and has always had an interest in fashion. She grew up in a creative environment surrounded by colorful fabrics with an artistic mother who was a fashion designer, but for Miki, the path to makeup artistry was a long journey ahead. Before her makeup career, Miki obtained a Masters Degree as a Dietician and worked in the culinary field as a top Sushi Chef for 16 years.

Makeup by Melanie Jackson, Wardrobe by Miki Willis

In 2001 Miki met her future husband in Japan and decided to move to the US and begin a family of her own. Spending the crucial beginning years with her son was a priority, but she still had a deep passion for cooking. She had an amazing opportunity to work with Iron Chef Morimoto and trained under him at his flagship restaurant in Philadelphia. Her career took her from PA to NY and finally to Portland, Oregon. Sushi is an art form and very much a boys’ club mentality; with 35,000 sushi chefs in Japan only a handful are women and they are often judged harshly by their peers. Through the struggles, Miki has become one of the top Female Sushi Chefs in Portland.

After 4 years in Portland and living her culinary dreams, she decided to pursue her other passion, to be a part of the fashion industry. The thought of working for fashion magazines, photo shoots and runway shows was a dream for her. To help her solidify her decision to potentially change her career, she decided to attend the Art of Makeup School. There she began to build the foundations of her makeup skills and utilized her plating skills with food to translate into creating living pieces of visionary art. Upon graduating our Master Class Program, she was taking job opportunities offered by our job board. Miki booked her 1st paid job working with Horizon Airlines for a commercial shoot and she continued to work every opportunity that was offered to help her network with the community. She has worked with Teen Idol, Modified Style, PDX Fashion Network, FashioNXT and Fade to Light, meeting a variety of models, photographers, and fashion designers. Miki has worked with professional photographers like Sammy Lin for Harper’s Bazaar, French photographer Peter Schubert and NY photographer Barbi Touron. She often takes her digital camera with her everywhere to document her experiences and post on social media where she’s often referred by her peers for her professionalism and attention to detail.

In a region yearning for cultural diversity, Miki brings her Japanese influence to the foreground of her work. She most recently helped create a plethora of modern Geishas in a publication by Elegant Magazine called “Geisha Fantasy” where she worked as the wardrobe stylist fitting the models into traditional kimonos. This past summer she worked with a Chinese designer and Chinese photographer Nicolas Tai on a photoshoot in Seattle creating stunning modern looks in the city with Asian flair. Through her pure determination and commitment to juggling her family life, being a sushi chef and a makeup artist, she is constantly breaking down social and gender barriers and creates truly inspiring work. We are so happy that she is a part of our Art of Makeup family and so proud of her many accomplishments.

Check out her work on Instagram: @miki_willis or her website at http://www.mikiwillis.com