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Tomo Koizumi thrills the world by combining art and fashion

Photo by Packychong Song
Tomotaka Koizumi, second from left, prepares his solo exhibition at the Terrada Art Complex in Tokyo.

A new year has begun. However, 2024 is unlikely to be a great year because I fear that the current social situations will bring sadness to the whole world.

The clothing and fashion markets have quite distorted profit patterns in which huge profits are made by brands from two opposing camps: low-price SPA brands (specialty private label clothing retailer) and luxury fashion conglomerate brands such as LVMH and Kering.

Among the first group, known for being cheap, China-born Shein is considered a leader of the next generation of SPA brands, which are called omnichannel SPAs because they do not have a physical store. All eyes must be on Shein since the brand filed for a US stock exchange listing at the end of November and may go public as early as 2024.

I expected an expansion of businesses related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in 2023. Awareness of the SDGs had an impact on the fashion and apparel markets, but there was not much NFT-related news. Perhaps owning fashion creations by creating non-fungible digital assets was too high a barrier.

If a fashion creation has value, even if it is not made into a digital asset, then it will be bought and sold as works of art and a market will emerge. Fashion traded as a work of art plays an important role in thinking about the future of the industry.

And yet there is an undeniable sense of stagnation in the international fashion circuit, including Paris Fashion Week, where there were hardly any collections that could be called ‘fashion creations’ with a value comparable to art. Simply put: everything is becoming too commercial. Whether it is the fashion weeks in Paris or Milan, they are all promotional events of high-end brands.

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Photo by Packychong Song
A model walks at Tomo Koizumi’s solo exhibition at the Terrada Art Complex.

Comme des Garcons, which I wrote about in the previous episode, is probably the only brand that unites art and fashion. However, the brand’s avant-garde approach makes it seem like a lonely battle that does not inspire hope.

Yet we can now have great expectations of fashion as art thanks to 35-year-old Japanese designer Tomotaka Koizumi and his brand Tomo Koizumi.

Koizumi was born in 1988 and started making clothes when he was 14. After majoring in fine arts at Chiba University’s Faculty of Education, he taught high school art before founding the Tomo Koizumi brand in 2011.

In 2019, celebrity stylist Katie Grand saw Koizumi’s work on Instagram, which led to him hosting a show at Marc Jacobs’ store on New York’s Madison Avenue. Thus began Koizumi’s Cinderella boy story.

The singer Misia wore a dress made by Koizumi in 2021 when she sang the Japanese national anthem at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics. He also designed clothes for artists such as Sam Smith, Bjork and Lady Gaga, and made headlines for collaborations with world-famous brands such as Marc Jacobs, Emilio Pucci and Sacai.

Koizumi’s colorful dresses with ample ruffles have become fashion icons. In February 2023, the brand’s European debut show took place during Milan Fashion Week, using fabric from Dolce & Gabbana and drawing inspiration from the brand’s archival pieces.

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Photo by Packychong Song
The poster for the Tomo Koizumi exhibition at Terrada Art Complex

Koizumi made his debut at Paris Fashion Week, also in February 2023, as a support project he received as the winner of the fifth Tokyo Fashion Prize. The clothing he designed has already found its way into collections of art museums at home and abroad, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

He currently has a solo exhibition at the Yukiko Mizutani Gallery in the Terrada Art Complex in Tokyo. After gallery owner Yukiko Mizutani saw Koizumi at an NHK morning show on June 17, 2022, she suggested that the designer hold an exhibition at her gallery. The subject of the show is ‘borders between fashion and art’.

Koizumi’s pieces shown during Paris Fashion Week in September have been rearranged for the exhibition and the gallery acts as a closet for the exhibits. Some works of art that he has created since 2022 can be seen for the first time. The exhibition runs until February 10.

Compared to the lonely genius Rei Kawakubo, Koizumi, who is a very open person, is the opposite. Yet they probably share the same idea that when fashion and art are united, something freer and more interesting is created.

A performance by Koizumi took place at the location on December 8. Another performance is planned during the run. Admission to the exhibition is free. It’s a great opportunity to get to know Tomo Koizumi’s worldview.

pop miura

Akira Miura

Miura is a journalist and former editor-in-chief of WWD JAPAN.



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