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In the spotlight: Tomo Koizumi When dreams come true

By Oktober 27, 2020 Oktober 31st, 2020 No Comments
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Julia Kryshevich

In the spotlight: Tomo Koizumi When dreams come true

Just a few updates before we start. PH proceeds with the ‘In Focus’ column, exploring and highlighting art by the most distinguished photographers of the modern world. However, from now on, we also talk about fashion. Brands that have changed our idea of vogue, and people who stand behind the labels, extensive overviews of fashion collections, and many more. Meet our new ‘In the spotlight’ column! 

And our first guest today is Tomo Koizumi, Japanese designer who has rocked the fashion world with his organza ‘make-a-cake’ dresses.

Tomo Koizumi says he has always been interested in designing clothes. His childhood environment was a breeding ground for such an interest: his mother just loved vogue. Having discovered a work of John Galliano for Dior at the age of 14, Koizumi finally made up his mind to go in for fashion.

Koizumi’s A_W 2019 collection. Photo_ Jonas Gustavsson_MCV Photo for The Washington Post

His first education was rather general: Koizumi graduated with a fine arts degree from the National Chiba University (Chiba, Japan). Meanwhile his personal brand came to life and evolved progressively. In 2016 the young couturier took a chance to dress Lady Gaga, he also designed for some Asian celebrities such as British-Japanese singer and songwriter Rina Sawayama and female members from the Dreams Come True pop band. Sounds good, but no room for complacency, Koizumi probably thought. He kept on elaborating his taste and style and proceeded with studying at Coconogacco, Japanese fashion school founded by the Saint Martins graduate Yoshikazu Yamagata.

Lady Gaga in Tomo Koizumi’s dress, 2016. Image_ Vanity Fair Italia

Singer Rina Sawayama performs dressed in Tomo Koizumi’s, 2019. Photo_ Vogue Japan

‘I really like to make big gowns, but in Japan nobody wears them as there are no galas. I still wanted to make something big and extravagant, so the only way for me to fit in the Japanese market was to dress singers for performances’.(Tomo Koizumi, from the article on SCMP, 2019)

Tomo Koizumi recalls, he used to create rather fitted clothes in his early career since he wasn’t acquainted with the sophisticated technique of making voluminous gowns back then (may the latter be also a less obvious decision for ready-to-wear collections). Studying at Coconogacco gave him a pair of wings (in the sense of freedom to experiment) and a perfect chance, which happened almost by accident. 

Backstage. Preparing for the debut A_W 2019 fashion show. Photo_ Lexie Moreland_WWD

‘Working in the fashion industry means you eventually must think commercially so you can sell something, but I would still like to make something to entertain people’. (Tomo Koizumi, from the article on Vogue UK, 2019)

One day in October 2018 Sara Maino, Deputy Editor of Vogue Italia and Head of Vogue Talents, briefly interrupted her business trip across Tokyo to visit Coconogacco, a local pool of fashion talents. Among the other school students, Maino got to know Koizumi and posted one of his works on Instagram later. And then six handshakes came to aid (actually, even less than six). Designer Giles Deacon couldn’t help but admire a pumped firebird-colored dress made from Japanese organza and immediately resent the image to Katie Grand. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say, it was eventually Grand who launched the international career of Tomo Koizumi. Famous stylist, fashion-journalist, and head of Love Magazine at that time, she knew what links to use to polish the designer’s genius with the right opportunities.

Sara Maino’s publication of Tomo Koizumi’s firebird-colored dress. Image_ Sara Maino’s Instagram

A Love Magazine shoot, featuring a few dresses by Koizumi, became a good ground for further collaboration between the world-renowned stylist and the emerging designer. Tomo Koizumi claims it took him and Katie less than a half an hour to set up his first fashion show. Initially, the choice of the venue fell on London, but later it was changed to the big apple, considering a greater support possible there.

A_W 2019 Collection by Tomo Koizumi. Catwalk. Model_ Sara Grace Wallerstedt. Photo_ Armando Grillo _ Gorunway

A_W 2019 Collection by Tomo Koizumi. Catwalk. Model_ Emily Ratajkowski. Photo_ Armando Grillo _ Gorunway.com

A_W 2019 Collection by Tomo Koizumi. Catwalk. Model_ Bella Hadid. Photo_ Armando Grillo _ Gorunway

‘I don’t want to follow trends. I may be checking trends in order to not follow trends. I want to do something opposite of trends.’ (Tomo Koizumi, from the article on WWD, 2019) 

Tomo Koizumi had been in the US just once before. In early February 2019 he arrived at New York with three suitcases filled with the carefully packed 28 looks. Though feeling like a newcomer, the designer certainly enjoyed the best conditions while preparing for his upcoming show. Marc Jacobs lent Koizumi his boutique on Madison Avenue to use as a venue, Pat McGrath and Guido Palau agreed to take makeup and hair, while models Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski and actress Gwendoline Christie were invited to walk down the runway. With all the services being provided for free, needless to say, Tomo Koizumi was enormously grateful to his newly-minted team and Katie Grand in person. 

A_W 2019 Collection by Tomo Koizumi. Catwalk. Model_ Shanelle Nyasiase. Photo_ Armando Grillo _ Gorunway

A_W 2019 Collection by Tomo Koizumi. Catwalk. Model_ Zoe Thaets. Photo_ Armando Grillo _ Gorunway

A_W 2019 Collection by Tomo Koizumi. Catwalk. Model_ Londone Myers. Photo_ Armando Grillo _ Gorunway

‘After that show, I got many great compliments from all over the world. I want to give something joyful back to them.’ (Tomo Koizumi, from the article on Vogue UK, 2019)

Koizumi’s debut fashion show aka his Autumn/Winter 2019 collection was compiled within a couple of days. On February 08, 2019 around 6 p.m. in the Marc Jacobs store as agreed, Tomo Koizumi showcased his flight of fantasy featuring three dozens of frothy outfits. Each of a unique colour combination, dresses from Tomo Koizumi F/W 2019 remind anything but an exquisite dessert. There is quite a complicated background behind the collection, though. To create his magnificent gowns, Koizumi sought inspiration in rather diverse things, such as creations by the Italian designer Roberto Capucci, performance pieces by Leigh Bowery, and Japanese kind of funerary banner called hanawa. Another important and pretty unusual source of enthusiasm for the designer was the figure of Sailor Moon, a Japanese fairytale character and a symbol of a cute yet strong female capable of doing magic.

Tomo Koizumi’s Bridal Collection 2021. Courtesy of the brand

Tomo Koizumi’s Bridal Collection 2021. Courtesy of the brand

Tomo Koizumi’s Bridal Collection 2021. Courtesy of the brand

‘My dreams are coming true and I want to follow them’(Tomo Koizumi, from the article on Vogue UK, 2019)

As for the show, it was nothing but a success. Koizumi was accepted as a perfect dream catcher, persistent in following his vision and ideas. An American Dream for the world of fashion, no differently. Indeed, the designer has been doing well: in 2019 he took part in the high fashion art exhibition ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion’, organized by the Costume Institute Gala, where he presented two of his models. Koizumi also carried on with fashion shows, introducing his Spring/Summer 2020 collection at the New York Fashion Week. Instead of 28 fantasy gowns, there were just 7 new looks that time, yet Tomo Koizumi decided to take a deep dive and created even bigger pieces to showcase at NYFW. And that doesn’t even count numerous publications in glossies and individual orders performed by the designer.

Spring 2020 Ready-To-Wear Collection by Tomo Koizumi. Courtesy of the brand

Spring 2020 Ready-To-Wear Collection by Tomo Koizumi. Courtesy of the brand

Spring 2020 Ready-To-Wear Collection by Tomo Koizumi. Courtesy of the brand

All right, what’s next? Is Koizumi going to further evolve his signature style? If so, how long will this ruffles craze last? 

‘I keep thinking about this. I know that I’m known for my ruffles, but I want to keep this signature and develop it in different ways. I’m not a big brand that has to sell all kinds of clothing, so I can only do this for now’. (Tomo Koizumi, from the article on SCMP, 2019)

Curious to see what Koizumi will come up with, considering his unwillingness to go commercial. Yet the designer has collaborated with the haute-couture brand Emilio Pucci recently. The results of the collaboration you could see at the latest Milan Fashion Week. The Pucci collection of tender youthful looks was slightly seasoned with Koizumi’s ruffled gowns, colours snow white, peach, and lemon yellow. Wait, ruffles again? Well, yes. So far it makes sense.

Cover: Designer Tomo Koizumi after his debut A/W 2019 show. Photo by Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post