Who is Yusaku Maezawa? Artist, entrepreneur, fashion tycoon, space traveller

Maezawa will become the first private passenger to fly around the moon as soon as 2023 - but who is this self-deprecating, artistically inclined entrepreneur?

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa speaks near a Falcon 9 rocket during the announcement by Elon Musk to be the first private passenger who will fly around the Moon aboard the SpaceX BFR launch vehicle, at the SpaceX headquarters and rocket factory on September 17, 2018 in Hawthorne, California. Japanese billionaire businessman, online fashion tycoon and art collector Yusaku Maezawa was revealed as the first tourist who will fly on a SpaceX rocket around the Moon. / AFP / DAVID MCNEW
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“I choose to go to the moon, with artists.”

Anyone keeping a close eye on Yusaku Maezawa’s Twitter account recently may have guessed that something was up. Over the past week or so, the Japanese entrepreneur has started tweeting in English, as opposed to his native tongue, and has been posting increasingly expansive statements such as “there are no limits”, “it always seems it’s impossible until it’s done” and “logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere”.

And then yesterday, the big reveal. In a conference at the SpaceX headquarters and rocket factory in Los Angeles, Elon Musk announced that Maezawa will become the first private passenger to fly around the moon aboard SpaceX’s Lunar Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) Mission, which could take place as early as 2023.

He will take six to eight artists on the five day trip 

Notably, Maezawa didn’t only secure a spot for himself on the BFR, but bought every available seat, as part of a new project that he has dubbed Dear Moon.

SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk, left, announces Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, right, as the first private passenger on a trip around the moon, Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, in Hawthorne, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
SpaceX founder Elon Musk, left, introduces Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, right, as the first private passenger on a trip around the moon. Chris Carlson / AP

“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon,” he said. “Staring at the moon fuelled my imagination. It is always there and has continued to inspire humanity. That is why I could not pass up this opportunity to see the moon up close. At the same time, I did not want to have such a fantastic experience myself. That would be a little lonely.”

In an attempt to share the journey with as many people as possible, Maezawa has chosen to take between six and eight artists with him on his five-day trip – upon their return, they will be tasked with creating masterpieces that capture their experience. He has yet to decide who will join him, but says he will be reaching out to top creatives in various artistic fields, including painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians, film directors, fashion designers and architects. A dedicated website for the project, https://dearmoon.earth/ has already gone live.

So, who is he? 

epa07028777 (FILE) - An undated file photo made available on 18 September 2018 shows Yusaku Maezawa, 42, the founder and CEO of Zozo, Japan's largest online fashion retailer. Aerospace company SpaceX announced on 17 September 2018 that it will take Yusaku Maezawa into space to fly around the moon, making this Japanese billionaire the first space tourist to do so.  EPA/JIJI PRESS/START TODAY JAPAN OUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/ MANDATORY CREDIT  NO ARCHIVES
Yusaku Maezawa, 42, the founder and CEO of Zozo, Japan's largest online fashion retailer. Photo / EPA

But who is this self-deprecating, artistically inclined entrepreneur who kept apologising for his English and talking about world peace? The 42-year-old Maezawa is the 18th richest person in Japan, with a fortune of $3 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He is a renowned art collector, having amassed a number valuable works of modern art, including a Jean-Michel Basquiat masterpiece worth $110.5 million, last year.

Maezawa started out selling CDs and records of his favourite bands by mail from his home and is now chief executive of Zozotown, an online e- platform that dominates Japan’s e-tail scene, selling international brands as well as its own private label, ZoZo. One of the brand’s most recent innovations is the ZoZo Suit, a body-measurement system that is being presented as an answer to the fashion industry’s sizing problem. “At ZoZo, you will never see the option to select a size on our website or find a size tag in your clothing. At ZoZo, we are building a size-free world,” says the company’s website.

The ZoZo suit app. Courtesy ZoZo
The ZoZo suit app. Courtesy ZoZo

The ZoZo suit has already been has sent off to more than one million Japanese customers, free of charge, in the past three months. The skin-tight, full-body suit is covered in about 350 white dots, which act as fiducial markers - a point of reference for precise measurements. Shoppers slip on the suit and slowly rotate as their smartphone takes photos. The ZoZo app will take a series of photographs of the wearer and capture where each unique dot is in located. A proprietary algorithm then processes this data and triangulates a 3-D rendering of the body.

“ZoZo was created to be adaptable to each and every person. You don’t have to adapt to ZoZo. ZoZo adapts to you. People are unique, but they also want to be treated and accepted as equal. This concept is reflected in the ZoZo logo. The circle, square and triangles are all different colors and shapes, yet they have the same surface area. They are all unique but still equal,” says the ever-philosophical Maezawa, who, in terms of travel experiences and accumulated air miles, will have few equals once 2023 rolls around.


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