Q&A with Tomihiro Kono -
A true creative, Tomi Kono started his career as a classically trained Japanese hair stylist. His passion for hair soon lead him to begin exploring more creative hair and head designs, leading to Tomi’s very own head prop designs. In 2007 Tomi moved to London and branched into session styling, quickly shooting for Dazed & Confused, i-D, and 10 Magazine. He continued to exhibit his head props and began using these in his editorials, making bespoke pieces. Tomi is now based in New York and is represented by Julian Watson agency. His impressive portfolio consists of numerous shoots for worldwide Vogues, Luomo Vogue, Luncheon, document journal, Interview, W Magazine and V Magazine.
We recently caught up with Tomi to discuss everything from the opening of his first ever wig exhibition in Paris, to his latest project with legendary photographer Albert Watson.
- Tuesday 19th June 2018.
23-24 June, 2018
@ The Community Paris
Opening on Friday, 22 June 19h00 – 21h00
Saturday 12h00 – 20h00
Sunday 12h00 – 19h00
Visit : The Community : Offline
65 Rue du Château d’Eau, 75010 Paris
Q. What made you decide to start your career in hairdressing?
A. I was going to be a trimmer for dogs because I loved animals. When I proposed that to my parents, they suggested that I become a hair stylist for people instead. Their advice was basically that dogs never say thank you but people do. Once you can cut hair well for people, you can also do animal hair! So I followed their advice :)
Q. What made you decide to leave salon work in Japan and move to London?
A. I had worked in a hair salon in Japan for 10 years before I moved to London in 2007. I had a lot of cultural influences from London in terms of fashion and music so I had always wanted to visit. In the beginning, I was only going to stay in London for a year but I ended up staying there until 2012. I met many creative friends, it was really exciting to work there and at the same time it was very comfortable for me.
Q. It was in London that you started your session stylist career, it wasn’t long before you were shooting for the likes of Dazed & confused, i-D and 10 magazine. Tell us about that, was it difficult coming from Japan to London?
A. At the beginning of my career, I had a stall showcasing my head props in Spitalfields Market on Thursdays next to an antique dealers. I was lucky enough that Dazed and Confuzed came over to interview me about my head props. This is how I started my career as a sesson hair stylist in 2008, just a year after I had moved to London. It was difficult for me to start my career in London because I didn’t speak any english at all. My english was totally poor. It was quite stressful for me, when you have a lot you want to talk about but you just can’t do it.
Q. What advice would you give to young hairdressers who are thinking of leaving their home country to pursue their dreams?
A. It’s always challenging to move from your own country to other countries where they have a different language and culture. However, what I like about leaving my home country is that being in a totally different culture inspires me a lot in different ways. I think it’s a positive thing. You’ll have wider perspectives by living abroad, in terms of expressions, although it might take a while before you get used to the new environments. However, it is also important to have your own time, maybe a quiet period in your life. When you create some work, or you want to improve your skills, you need more time for yourself, without people distracting you so much. I apprecite both quiet & busy periods in my life. For me, coming to Europe is very exciting always.
Q. When and why did you decide to focus on making head pieces?
A. It was a big moment for head pieces and masks when I moved to London around 2007. Many stylists asked me to make something special for magazines. It was very organic the way I started. I‘ve been looking for my originality as a hair styling signature.
Q. In 2013 you moved to New York, why did you decided to move again?
A. Actually my agent asked me to move to New York, so it wasn’t my choice at first. I decided to move to New York without knowing much about the city and it was a big challenge for me.
Q. Your book “Head Props” is a real documentation of your work and creative process from 2013 - 2016. What made you decide to publish a book and share your ideas?
A. It’s a real documentation of my work indeed. It’s purely the record of my creations. Incomplete / unseen works are sometimes very interesting and most of the work / ideas are never seen by the public. People only have a chance to see the images from the show but not the process, behind the stages. By making this book, I wanted to share my ideas and the process, which will also be something interesting for me to look back in the future.
Q. Where can we buy your book? is it available in the UK?
A. I guess you can buy my book at Donlon books otherwise you can order at konomad, they will ship worldwide. - http://www.konomad.com/page/shop/book_HEADPROP.html
Q. Do you have a particular shoot/editorial or moment that you can say was one you will never forget?
A. Working with Albert Watson for a personal project in NY. We’ve been shooting a series of theatrical images with many different models. It was my dream to work with him.
Q. you have kindly given us a preview of your latest work with albert watson (see left). Being such an important project for you, can you tell us more about it?
A. I met with Albert at an editorial shoot for Vogue Japan. After that, he asked me to collaborate with him for his personal project. We’ve been making theatrical characters inspired by A Midsummer Night's Dream and clowns. By using extravagant / classic wigs, models can transform into the characters in fantasy. I like the dark and romantic mood. It’s always my pleasure to work with such a legendary photographer like Albert. It was pleasure to complete the series with him. We might still keep on shooting. He’s really passionate about our collaborations. He will be exhibiting these images in the galleries in Canada, and possibly in Europe. - www.albertwatson.net/
Q. What really inspires you?
A. Nature, art, the world, artists ateliers
Q. We are excited about your new focus, wig making. Tell us about the movement from head pieces to wigs? What is it that you enjoy about wig making?
A. I’ve always wanted to try making wigs since I started my career. Historical wigs are very inspiring and I wanted to know their structures and how they're made. Wigs have been around for hundreds of years and we still make wigs by hand, with almost the same techniques. It’s a kind of romanticism for me... To literally create wigs that I’ve always dreamt of making, being inspired by worldwide fashion and hair history. I appreciate the artisan mind, people who take so much time making one elaborate piece of wig. Wig making requires technique and patience. It’s a meditation for me, making wigs while listening to music.
My curiosity of hair design or head prop design never stop, however, now that I’m based in NY, that I feel like people want to see more believable hair-do, which wig can be more accepted in a way.
Q. Do you have a favourite wig and why?
A. I would say coloured short cut wigs. It’s fun to play with different haircut styles because I love hair cutting also. With wigs, I can try any radical, playful styles, there’s no limit in expressions.
Q. Your wig installation is soon to open in Paris. Tell us why you decided to showcase your wigs and what we can expect at the exhibition?
A. It’s actually my first exhibition in Paris, which is very exciting. I’ve been following the activities of 'the Community', an experimental art, fashion, design, publishing and culture space taking the form of a multidisciplinary platform based in Paris. I got inspired by their gallery spaces, so I contacted them a year ago and we’ve been discussing working together. Now my dream has come true. Finally I can do my exhibition with them.
Chateau D’eau where the community is based is the area where many beauty shops and hair salons are located. I heard that the building of 'the Community' used to be a hair salon in the past, so I thought it would be the perfect place to exhibit my handmade wigs.
My handmade wigs will be be hung from the ceiling to look as if they are floating in the air. I wanted to make them look more like art pieces, objects floating in the air. Also because I knot each strand of hair into the foundation lace, I want people to be able to see inside the wig as well as the outside. I'm fascinated by the beauty of wigs from the inside.
Q. It’s very exciting to hear that limited copies of the book and posters of “Head Props” will be available to buy at the installation in Paris. If we wanted arrange a book signing how would we do that ?
A. To be secure, please come to the opening on the 22nd, 19h00- 21h00. I’m going to be in the gallery most of the time, so Saturday - Sunday noon - 17.00 might be good. (I might pop out sometime)
Q. And finally what is your favourite tool?
A. My favourite tool is my hand ; )