Tomo Koizumi points out gay clubs in Tokyo, Georgia O’Keeffe

It began, as so often, in the gay bars. It was there that clothing designer Tomo Koizumi discovered for the first time a world that considered his outsider status to be something very valuable. “I was a shy and a little chubby boy when I was growing up, but when I was 14 I started going to these gay clubs and admiring high fashion.” Koizumi attributes the points of contact to gay culture and high fashion and their often overlapping interests, which opened his eyes and dubbed his axis. His dream of becoming an origami teacher (“I don’t even know if there is an origami teacher,” he laughs) was abandoned in favor of something that could nurture the desire for creative expression. Origami is about accuracy; Koizumi looked for anything that would allow creative expression.

Thanks to his fashion-loving mother, Koizumi got her hands on fashion magazines at a young age in his hometown of Chiba, about an hour outside of Tokyo, and even groundbreaking books like John Galliano for Diorwho all helped pave him on a path that would, years later, lead him to make his New York Fashion Week debut with a model list that included Emily Ratajkowski, Bella Hadid and Joan Smalls. (As for the early catwalks, this was in no way an understatement.) Koizumi poured herself these books and magazines in an effort to not only understand fashion better, but also to see as much of it as possible. He even combined his experience in the club with the works of Galliano. “I immediately understood the culture of the club – especially the drag queens – which is strongly linked to Mr. Galliano’s aesthetics: the exaggerated clothes and make-up, the big hair … everything was so connected and inspiring for me.” from there he started designing dresses for the queens and even the go-go dancers.

But it wasn’t just fashion and nightlife. His influences included everything from Magical Girl to anime like Sailor Moon (“I’m always inspired by these girls who are sweet and strong at the same time”) to the paintings of Mark Rothko and Georgia O’Keeffe (“I loved the way they used paint on canvas.”) Without formal training, He began experimenting with making clothes for his friends, but saw it only as a hobby that he enjoyed and could bring joy to others. He graduated from National Chiba University with an art degree and started his label of the same name in 2011 as a side project. a year before graduation. There is a tactility in Koizumi’s approach that keeps cropping up in our conversations looks nice, he might ask, but does it? feel Nice?

Photography: Tim Walker

He started working as a stylist and costume designer before becoming a costume designer. And when he was working as a costume designer in 2016, he received the call from Haus of Gaga asking for one of his looks: a white and gray ruffled dress from his “Ballet” collection that the Oscar winner could wear while her Japanese leg was on Joanne Promotional tour. Dubbing Gaga as one of his greatest inspirations, Koizumi was thrilled for all the obvious reasons, but also because of the greater impact it had on the advancement of his designs. “I was so encouraged because she only wears unique and strong pieces, and that has made me more confident about my uniqueness.”

As he got more and more work outfitting Japanese singers, Koizumi faced challenges of getting people to see his work on the large scale he envisioned. “Even though I tried to make high fashion pieces, people in the fashion industry in Japan often pigeonholed me as a costume designer and never as a fashion designer.”

Two years later, during a presentation to Sara Maino, the deputy director of Vogue Italia, Koizumi would have another career-defining moment that would cement his status as a fashion designer – and one to watch. Impressed with his work, Maino posted it on her Instagram, which led to new followers, including designer Giles Deacon and actress Gwendoline Christie. The subsequent reposts caught the attention of Katie Grand, the founder and then editor-in-chief of Love magazine. “Katie DM told me, ‘This is the best I’ve seen in years.’ We talked and decided to put on a fashion show 15 minutes later. “

Grand pulled out big arms to support Koizumi on his New York Fashion Week debut: Marc Jacobs provided his famous 655 Madison Avenue store as a location and the talents of Guido Palau, Pat McGrath, Tabitha Simmons, Anita Bitton Victoria Hunter and Jin Soon helped Grand bring the show to life. At a fairly closed moment, Christie closed the show in a dress made from 200 yards of Japanese polyester organza. “It was definitely a life changing moment for me,” he says. “Up until that first show, people often only thought of my design as a costume and not as fashion, not even myself. This show changed everything.”

Last month, two years after their original relationship, Koizumi and Jacobs reunited when Koizumi produced a capsule collection for the Jacobs label of the same name. He created a variety of Snapshot bag straps from his signature tulle and t-shirts that appropriately feature ruffles. “Marc is a great designer and an icon in the fashion industry,” says Koizumi. “He already has a lot of strong design handwritings that make working with him very easy.” He is proud of this collaboration, as well as the one he did with Pucci the year before, and says Nike is on his list of brands, with whom he would like to work next.

These days, Koizumi can be found visiting local factories and craft stores across Japan. Talking to the workers there is just as important as touching the materials. He wants the stories, the parentage, the lived life, not just the beauty or the possibility of what can become of the material. “I’m looking for more beauty to discover and make.”

Welcome to “Turn me off”, a column by a pop culture fan Evan Ross Katz that takes a look at the week in celebrity dressing. From award ceremonies and movie premieres to grocery store stores, he’ll keep you updated on what your favorite celebs have been wearing to the biggest and most trivial events lately.

Photos courtesy of Tomo Koizumi

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