WITH HIS FANTASTIC, LARGER-THAN-LIFE RUFFLED GOWNS AND EVEN MORE FANTASTIC INSTA-SUCCESS STORY, TOMO KOIZUMI IS THE DESIGNER WE’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR.
Tomo Koizumi, fashion’s new crown prince, greets his adoring crowd at the finale of his Fall Winter 2019 show in New York
The Tomo Koizumi story is the stuff of modern-day fairy tales – albeit one made possible by the democratic virtues of social media, and that remains quite extraordinary. How he shot from a self-taught designer, unknown beyond his native Japan, to a globally viral fashion phenomenon has been widely documented.
The British designer Giles Deacon had discovered his work on Instagram and shared it with his pal/superstar stylist Katie Grand. Some DMs later, and the 30-year-old Koizumi had his own show at New York F/W ’19 Fashion Week; Grand the digital era Isabella Blow to his manga McQueen.
Marc Jacobs spared his Madison Avenue store for the venue; Guido Palau and Pat McGrath their directional hair and makeup skills. The models included Bella Hadid, Karen Elson and Game of Thrones actress Gwendoline Christie - a top-tier cast some established names can only dream about. Naturally, Grand – the go-to sorceress among heavyweights like Jacobs and Miuccia Prada for conjuring up trendsetting, indelible imagery – put every look together.
Now, all that megawatt stardust gathering behind a newcomer seemingly spontaneously – Koizumi reportedly arrived in New York five days before showtime with his clothes packed into just three boxes – guaranteed fame. Every review that followed hailed him as a breakout star. Yet, even if Instagram and Grand had not intervened, the affable Tokyoite’s backstory is one of romance.
Arts – not fashion – trained, he has largely specialised in bespoke showpieces for pop stars and actresses back home; his influences running from John Galliano to Sailor Moon to plastic floral wreaths gifted at Japanese funerals. According to sister’s humble living room, where he and a single assistant sew every garment by hand, with each piece taking up to three weeks to complete. Commercial success is not what he’s after.
Put together by superstar stylist Katie Grand and with a star-studded model line-up, Koizumi’s Fall/Winter 2019 New York Fashion Week show happened all because Grand had fallen in love with his hand-sewn candy-coloured ruffled confections over Instagram.
“I make my clothes not for selling, just for showing what I can do,” he tells WWD. “It makes a difference. I think that’s why I get so much attention.” (To score a piece, contact him via his website – or do a Grand and slide into his DM.)
Then there are his momentous designs that feel like a Starburst-scented blast of fresh air in an increasingly pragmatic fashion scene: fluoro-hued gowns that resemble corporeal cotton candy, each a laborious assemblage of ruffles that Koizumi lovingly sees as “armour” for girls. Like in couture, a piece reportedly calls for an average of 50-80m of fabric, but because he uses polyester organza, it’s machine-washable and can be easily squished into a small ball (it explains his NYFW travel load).
So outlandish are his pieces that the Met’s Costume Institute included two of them in its camp-themed fashion blockbuster exhibition that opened in May. That’s just three months after his sensational NYFW (and global) debut, and a first when it comes to having his work shown in a museum.
The Tomo Koizumi story is a fashion fantasy come true in what, to some, has become a dystopic industry. “I want my next collection to be even bigger - bigger dresses and even more extravagant," he says in an interview with the South Morning Post." I think the reason that Katie (Grand) invited me to do the show is that I’ve been following my dream, and I want to keep doing that."