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 the current social situations will bring sadness to the whole world.

Apparel and fashion markets have rather distorted profit patterns in which huge profits are made by brands from two opposite camps: low-price-range SPA (specialty store retailer of private-label apparel) brands and luxury fashion conglomerate brands such as LVMH and Kering.

Among the first group, which is known for being inexpensive, Chinese-born Shein is regarded as a leader of the next-generation SPA brands, which are called omnichannel SPAs because they do not have a brick-and-mortar store. All eyes should be on Shein since the brand applied for listing on a U.S. stock market at the end of November and may be listed as early as 2024.

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

If a fashion creation has value even without being made into a digital asset, then it will be bought and sold like works of art and a market will emerge. Fashion traded as artwork holds an important key when considering the future of the industry.

And yet, there is undeniably a 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 value on a par with art. To put it simply, everything is becoming too commercial. Be it the fashion weeks in Paris or Milan, they are all becoming promotional events of high-end brands.

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

Comme des Garcons, which I wrote about in the last installment, is probably the only brand that unites art and fashion. However, the brand’s avant-garde approach makes it look like a solitary struggle and evokes no hope.

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

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

In 2019, the famous stylist Katie Grand saw Koizumi’s works on Instagram, leading to him staging a show at Marc Jacobs’ on Madison Avenue store in New York. Thus started Koizumi’s Cinderella-boy story.

The singer Misia in 2021 wore a dress made by Koizumi when she sang Japan’s national anthem at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games. He has also designed attire for artists such as Sam Smith, Bjork and Lady Gaga, and he 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 runway show was held during Milan Fashion Week, at which he used fabric provided by Dolce & Gabbana and drew inspiration from the brand’s archive pieces.

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 Fashion Prize of Tokyo. Clothing he designed has already made its way into art museum collections at home and abroad, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

He is currently holding a solo exhibition at the Yukiko Mizutani gallery in the Terrada Art Complex in Tokyo. After gallery owner Yukiko Mizutani saw Koizumi on 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 “boundaries between fashion and art.”

Koizumi’s pieces shown during Paris Fashion Week in September has been rearranged for the exhibition, and the gallery acts like a closet for the exhibits. Some artworks he created since 2022 is on display for the first time. The exhibition runs through Feb. 10.

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

A performance by Koizumi took place on Dec. 8 at the venue. Another performance is planned during the term. Admission to the exhibition is free. It is a great opportunity to learn Tomo Koizumi’s worldview.

Akira Miura

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