When it comes to the head, or more specifically, what one puts on top of the head, Tomihiro Kono is a magician. Beginning his career as classically trained hairdresser in Japan, he has since become the man behind some of the most jaw-dropping headpieces in fashiondom, the go-to collaborator for Mr Junya Watanabe and a selection of other important fashion sorts. They’re basically queueing up. Not forgetting (of course) his work’s frequent appearances on the pages of our very own magazine. Here, we talk to the head-based genius all about his work, accompanied by a selection exclusive images of his process for added visual stimulation…
Where did you grow up? Do you have memories of fashion from your childhood?
I grew up in a small village by the sea and the mountain in Uwajima in Ehime, south of Japan. I was a country boy playing around in beautiful nature! When I was a junior high school student, I started to arrange my hair in styles inspired by rock musicians, so that’s when I started to have fashion in my life.
You started off in hair, but have since moved towards creating headpieces, which you are now most known for. What prompted the change?
I love both hair styling and creating head props, it just depends on the job. For the moment I mainly create head props for shows, I started making them when I moved to London in 2007. At that time fashion needing something strong and unique and different and think it’s good for me to continue with hair and head props, helps to keep up my creativity.
Tell me about the way you work – do you have a team? What’s your studio like?
I have a studio in New York and in Tokyo. When I prepare for shows, I work in my Tokyo with a great team. My Main team is around 3-4 people when making head props but I have some good friends coming to help me when I am in need of extra hands. My studio isn’t big, and there’s not enough space when I need to make more than 30 headpieces just before the show. So this is also where my friends help and support me and kindly offer their studio spaces too – I’ve always been supported by good friends.
How important is craftsmanship to you? Is everything handmade in your studio?
Craftsmanship is very important to me, because all the headpieces are handmade even though some pieces may not look handmade, for example the geometric sculptures don’t look handmade but are. I do try and make everything in my studios, but as always there maybe slight changes when I arrive to locations, especially when fitting pieces to the models head, so I may need to remake headpieces from the beginning and in the last minutes before show time. I’m so glad my team are highly skilled.
As for the last few collections for Junya, we had to precisely measure using compasses and circle cutters to get the right sizes and perfect circles… Very much how product designers work, which is not common for hairstylists! It’s been a challenge but I think we’ve did well.
You’ve had this amazing working relationship with Junya for the past few years – how does the collaborative process work?
When I work with Junya, our collaboration starts when I send him my first proposal by email, about 1-2 months before the show. I can come up with whatever idea I’m interested with in that moment, but at the same time I try to propose what Junya might be interested in too, to help with feedback and our collaboration.
What do you think of fashion at the moment? What’s next for you?
Well, for hair & makeup, there’s not much space to play as the “undone” style is what people want. Right now I’m working on publishing a book of my hair & head prop archives.
You’ve lived in London, New York and Tokyo, as well as working in Paris and many other cities – where is your favourite place to be?
London. It’s creative and inspiring to me.