I call TOMO KOIZUMI as “alchemist”, who appeared two years ago out of the blue and got attention in the blink of an eye. Neither designer nor couturier, it should be “alchemist”. If you look at the fabric itself, is the cheapest and vulgar color made of 100% polyester organdy, yet, it’s transformed into an artistic beautiful dress that invite us into a fantasy world instantly by his hands. The dress that not only looks beautiful, but evokes even the innocent feelings of believing in fantasy that lie deep inside the heart of each one of us. The transformation is almost magic, but the reason that I call him “alchemist” rather than a magician is that he forges and acquire techniques through the accumulation of wisdom, effort, and training. Therefore, the dress is made by the alchemy-like craftsmanship and creation that he has acquired through the various elements accumulated in his life.
One of the highlights of his attention was the debut show at Fall-Winter 2019 New York Fashion Week. Unnamed Japanese designer at home and abroad showcased a volume and dramatic dress with plenty of frills inside Marc Jacobs’s Madison Avenue store. Directed and styled by Katie Grand, the founder and stylist of the magazine “LOVE”, hair by Guido Palau, makeup by Pat McGrath, and Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, Joan Smalls showed up on the runway. “I didn’t expect it would be such a big deal, because I didn’t know the details of the show. It was sort of sightseeing trip” Tomo said laughably. After sweeping the topic of New York Fashion Week in this season, he couldn’t spend much time sightseeing after the show to respond to requests of buyers, press, and celebrities. “I never dreamed of having a show in New York. When Sara Maino from VOGUE Italia participated in Tokyo Fashion Week in 2018, she and her assistant allowed us to give a presentation. They posted my work on Instagram, and it seems like the designer Giles Deacon and the actress Gwendoline Christie who saw it followed their Instagram, and they showed Katie the dresses I made. January 2019, there was a group exhibition in Tokyo, so when I introduced it on Instagram, Giles reposted again, and Katie contacted me and chatted for about fifteen minutes. As a result, she said let’s do a show.”
He started out making dresses for the show in New York that would take place in three weeks. “I didn’t know any details, whether it was a show, an exhibition, or a group show, but I thought it would be a nuisance to keep asking Katie, because she is busy. I was just crazy I devoted myself to the production of the new work and complete it at once. It was surprising by the reaction from audiences after the show.” Many buyers, including Dover Street Market and net-a-porter, have asked him to place an order, but he didn’t even price the pieces at the time as he had been focusing on his creations. Since it was his first time to be published in an overseas magazine, he was initially confused when it came to responding to leasing requests. After all, he did everything from sales to press by himself. In that year, he participated in MET GALA and was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The roots of his creation, which caught the eyes of many people all over the world and established a fantasy world view, are in traditional Japanese costumes. “I aim to have the Great Buddha. It is huge and intimidating, at the same time it gives a sense of security. As I was working on costumes, I was able to use traditional Japanese costumes such as twelve-one, shrine maiden costumes, and mourning dresses. My relatives are engaged in funeral-related businesses and I had many opportunities to touch wreaths (funeral offerings). One day I noticed both of my creations and wreaths are huge and colorful in a common feeling, which means the memories of my childhood have influenced myself.” He saw John Galliano’s haute couture work on a magazine when he was 14 years old, it became the turning point in his life. “I wasn’t particularly interested in fashion until then. But Galliano’s work, I was impressed with the overwhelming beauty that transcended expression, and it deeply stabbed in my heart. I still have the pure emotion of those days when I wanted to aim for the fashion world.” He said.
The days began to dismantle old clothes and devote him to making clothes since he received a sewing machine as a Christmas gift that year. At Chiba University, he majored in art education and gained experience as a stylist assistant at the time. When he was about 23 years old, near graduation from university. “A friend of mine who went to the night club wearing a dress I made was taken a picture and published in a magazine. The owner of a concept store in Tokyo saw it and offered me to sell them, so I made several dresses. I was thrilled when I met YOON recently, who I did not know at the time, purchased it, she told me she still has my dress.” After that, the stylist who visited the concept store contacted him and request for costume provision, then the brand TOMO KOIZUMI started. “Early after the Lehman shock, it was a risky era in whichever path you chose. In that case, I decided that I would do what I wanted to do without regrets.”
The work at that time was a colorful body-conscious dress with a different color. It seems that the birth of the current iconic frilled dress was surprising for himself. “About three years ago, when I was asked to make costumes with a minimal budget, I went to wholesale stores to search for cheap fabrics and found the polyester organdy that I am currently using. I liked the variety of rich colors about 170 different choices and the fact that it is durable and easy to wash and handle. Because it was deadstock, the length and shape were different, so I had to devise while repeating trial and error. It was a dress that was born under all those restrictions.” He is buying new fabrics from a vendor instead of deadstock now. From this October, he will switch to using 100% recycled materials from plastic bottles that look and feel precisely the same. A rough design is created based on the figure of the wearer, and a dress is formed while making a silhouette with the fabrics. By cutting off the edges of the organdy and letting it fray, it has a feeling of feather-like texture and a commitment to creating brittleness. “I value the visual effects that add volume and contrast so that a woman can look beautiful on the stage. Using the sense of color cultivated by studying art as a weapon to create a melodic harmony. I’ve always wanted to make dresses with the wish that society as a whole can enjoy the colors of each person and play beautiful harmony.” His dresses contain a wish for joyful society.
When I asked about the possibility of starting ready-to-wear, “I don’t want to make clothes that are consumed.” he responded. “I separate creativity from a business. I don’t want to think about extra things in creation, such as being captivated by business and numbers because I can’t do anything clever as my personality. I just want to focus on pursuing creativity. However, of course, I want to bring an image to the world, and hope that many people will have more opportunities to touch my work. Rather than getting a millionaire and fame, I will work on sharing extraordinary fantasy world views with many people.” With his extraordinary sensitivity and sincere attitude towards creation, I can’t wait to see him continue to hone his alchemy. “Ready-to-wear is the predominant at the present time, but I have no reason to fit in the majority of the society. You don’t have to live by boxing yourself in, right?”
Koizumi’s interest in fashion began from seeing his fashion-loving mother in his childhood. His encounter with the book John Galliano for Dior in his early teen, was very eye-opening event and made him decide to become a fashion designer. His own brand “TOMO KOIZUMI” was successfully launched in 2011, after a boutique owner was attracted and picked the dress – which he created while he was a university student. Ever since he earned his experiences as assistants of stylist and costume artist, and then moved on to the next career step as a costume designer. In February 2019, his very first runway show took place in New York with the supports of the world-famous Katie Grand, Marc Jacobs, and KCD Public Relations, Inc. Bright colors and bold silhouettes are the significant characteristics of his made-to-order collections and costumes, and celebrities and artists worldwide favor his such designs.