Tsumori Chisato talks cats, princesses and superheroes
The superheroes Tsumori Chisato grew up with are now in print, and flashier than ever — the fashion designer shares more in our candid interview
"Colour my life with the chaos of trouble."
If I could sum up Tsumori Chisato's fall 2015 collection, this iconic Belle and Sebastian line would be it. Primary colours lit up the runway in superhero fashion (quite literally) as models thundered down in outfits a caped crusader would be proud of — if they were set in a Roy Lichtenstein art piece. Quirky is Chisato's unofficial middle name, and if she had a story to tell, it's this: The Tsumori Chisato girl isn't afraid of not growing up.
Evidently so, as proved by my interview with the designer last week. In town to showcase her FW15 collection, I cosied up with Chisato in the Four Seasons lobby bar, along with her entourage of brand associates and a translator — an essential part of every Japanese designer's toolkit. The frustrating thing about speaking with someone who doesn't speak the same language is that the translator always gets first dibs — obviously — to your subject's candid responses. Which is more of a good thing, really — it kept me at the edge of my seat as the translator giggled at Chisato's replies, which is often said with a twinkle in her eye.
An alumni of Bunka Fashion College — the same renowned institution in Tokyo which produced graduates such as Yohji Yamamoto, Junya Watanabe and Kenzo Takada — Chisato went on to work under Issey Miyake as the head designer for Issey Sports. She debuted her own line and show at Japan Fashion Week in 1990, and opened her first boutique out of Asia in Paris nine years later. Her brand has since expanded worldwide to countries such as United States, Italy and Russia.
In the heart of it lies Chisato, now a 61-year old who still plays dress up — this time, she's decked out in a piece from her pre-fall collection, with a multi-coloured scarf draped around her and a ring in almost every finger. When I ask what her favourite colour is, she doesn't name one, but five.
Tell us what growing up in Saitama was like. I hear you used to make clothes for your dolls. I'm the third daughter from a family of six — there were two boys and two girls. It was so noisy everywhere. I spent a lot of time in nature, and there were a lot of animals: Dogs, cats, birds, turtles and rabbits. My father loved to bring me to fish by the river. I also used to make flower crowns and bracelets.
We see masked heroes in your current Fall collection. Who was your hero growing up? Mickey Mouse! I love Disney.
That's adorable. What were the other characters in your childhood? The American army trained near my house, so my childhood was very Americanised. I was inspired by Disney and loved Mickey Mouse. I also loved wearing jeans and t-shirts.
You also wanted to be a manga artist. Yes, but my mother told me that it was hard work to be a manga cartoon writer. I can't make stories — I just draw.
All the drawings found in your collection were hand-drawn. Which stories from your childhood inspired them? Retro superheroes. Catwoman and Batman — I loved watching their movies when I was young.
What do you think of Ben Affleck starring in the next Batman movie? I prefer the former versions of Batman. I always like the old ones.
You've travelled to Kenya and Arizona, and we've seen anecdotes from those travels appearing in the Spring 2011 and Spring 2013. Did any of your recent travels appear in this collection? Ah, you know very well.
Well, I googled a lot. The latest one was from the space inside my head.
... So what's inside? I don't know! [laughs] Sometimes happiness, sometimes noise, sometimes craziness.
"I haven't changed since my high school days. I still like to wear jeans and T-shirts."
You once said you're your own style icon. Does this still ring true? Well, a woman can always transform herself. Sometimes I can be an actress, and sometimes a princess.
How has your own style changed over the years? I haven't changed since my high school days. I still like to wear jeans and T-shirts. Now I wear more dresses...I have a princess dress, it's long with tulle and embroidery.
Who's it by? It's a secret!
Lastly, are you still obsessed with cats? I love cats! I love all animals, except for cockroaches. But I don't have cats because I travel a lot and my son is allergic. If I could have a cat, it would be one that's lazy.
Tsumori Chisato is available at 538 Orchard Rd, Forum The Shopping Mall, #01-03.