Tomihiro Kono Heads for Wonders

Hairdresser and headpiece craftsman showcased his talent for mixing the old with the new at Spitalfields last week.

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London is full of creative people – fashion designers, hat makers, music artists etc – that all work with new and polished materials, be it fabrics or melodies. But, like hair stylist Tomihiro Kono has discovered, it is when old materials mix with new that true magic happens.
 
Originally trained as a hair dresser at one of Tokyo’s premier saloons, Tomihoro left Japan two years ago to bring his creative empire to London. And it’s not actually far from an empire; except for the hair styling and making of headpieces, Tomihiro creates photographic art (exhibitions, books etc) with partner Sayaka Maruyama under their Neon O’clock Works moniker, and he also churns out hair styling concepts for fashion shoots and magazine editorials.
 
The other day Tomihiro took his hats, props and wigs down to East London’s Spitalfields market – not to sell them (although many people offered money) - but merely to show us what can be done with a bit of junk from the street, some wire and lots of imagination. Afterwards Dazed Digital sat him down for a tea break at the nearby Coffee Market House.
 
Dazed Digital: Where do you find material for the hairpieces?
Tomihiro Kono: Mostly from markets and on the streets. Or from friends – I have one who works in a pet shop and every other month he gives me parrot feathers that he has collected!
 
DD: How would you describe your style?
Tomihiro Kono: I love vintage fabrics, but I want my designs to be more contemporary.  I mix old and new, that’s my style!
 
DD: How come you are exhibiting in a Spitalfields market stall?
Tomihiro Kono: Well, I’m not here to sell my stuff – more to show it so I can find fashion designers and other creative people to collaborate with. But antique dealers seem to like my stuff – many have asked to buy pieces. And earlier on Jónsi Birgersson, the singer in Sigur Rós, came by and wanted to use hats for a video!
 
DD: Which exhibited piece is your personal favourite?
Tomihiro Kono: The chandelier crystals, because it’s a quite simple idea, but I've never seen something similar to this before. It reflects light and looks great in pictures. It's all hand-stitched on one by one!
 
DD: What other hair stylists and hat designers do you admire?
Tomihiro Kono: I really like Juien Dys and Kamo Katsuya, who works a lot with Comme des Garcons, Junya Watanabe and Undercover. It’s all about creating concepts and doing hairpieces and styling together. One person doing both – that’s how I work as well. I create concepts and packages!
 
DD: What’s your preferred material to work with?
Tomihiro Kono: I really like wire because I can make and control the shape of the hat.
 
DD: Generally, what inspires you?
Tomihiro Kono: Antique objects and old portrait pictures I find in markets or on the street. Dadaism and Surrealism from the 1920’s and 30’s, which was an amazing era.  After World War II there was a movement called Assemblage that I find very interesting. They made three-dimensional artistic compositions, put together from different objects.
 
DD: Did it help having been a hairdresser for 10 years?
Tomihiro Kono: Yes definitely, because learnt about head shapes and techniques to work with hair.
 
DD: You also worked with traditional Japanese Geisha styles in Japan!
Tomihiro Kono: Yes, that experience was actually impressive because my teacher used any commodities and materials around him to make his own hair-styling tools. I found the process very inventive and primitive and I thought I could do something similar, which was head wear making for me. So I'm quite different from milliners in terms of flexibility on the shoot - I can change and arrange styles either with my head wears or without, depending on what the team wants.
 
DD: You have also worked with performer Theo Adams – how was that?
Tomihiro Kono: It was great, he’s an incredible performance artist. I contacted him and he understood my ideas and concept, so now all dancers in his show wear my hats. His shows are very contemporary and it’s difficult to find dancers like him  - most others are classical and not so avant garde.
 
DD: You have lived in London for two years – how does the UK compare with Tokyo?
Tomihiro Kono: I like London, it’s easier to create here. I was very stressed in Japan. But I also like Paris – it’s all about decadence and classical beauty there! London is more contemporary, which I like.
 
DD: What else are you working on?
Tomihiro Kono: I would love to find a designer to collaborate with for London Fashion Week, but until then I have two London exhibitions coming up – one off Oxford Street and one in a book shop on Charing Cross Road. And early next year I’m doing a short film for a show in Dubai!
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