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Tsumori Chisato In Egypt

Tsumori Chisato In Egypt

To the uninitiated, discovering Japanese fashion designer Tsumori Chisato is akin to discovering the fashion world’s Peter Pan.

She embellishes silk dresses with hypercolour manga. Her graphics of choice are animals, stars, flowers, hearts and children. She is a lover of sequins, sparkle and the feather fringe.  She is cat-obsessed, loves Mickey Mouse and her snack of choice is potato crisps.

Her life reads somewhat like a children’s novel as well. While she’s based in Tokyo, she also has an apartment in her favourite city, Paris, and travels elsewhere five times a year – always with her husband, and sometimes with her son.

It’s an essential ingredient to her label’s success, as every new collection is based on a new adventure to an exotic locale. 

“I always say originality is the key in design,” says Tsumori. “It’s not about copying other designers. Going back to basics and keeping things original is what’s important.”

While Uluru is her favourite place in the world, New Zealand, Hawaii and Guatamala are all among her creative victims – think kiwi bird watercolours,  hula girl print and vibrant gold and red parrots. In Antigua she was inspired by the brightly coloured handicrafts and mainly ate fruits and beans (“annona squamosal [sugar-apple] was the best fruit I ate,” she allows), while in Australia she was struck by the spirituality of the natural world.

Her most recent journey however was to Cairo and the Valley of the Kings for a perfect, glorious week. And we’re certainly glad she chose Egypt. 

The heroes of her newest collection are embroidered pharaohs, sparkling thread pyramids, ripstop Cleopatras, watercoloured snakes, camels and dogs on skateboards, and silky Tutankahems.   Vogue summed it up as “a riot of colour and graphics,” while the designer herself was more honest: “There’s a childish element to it, but I don’t care. I’m free.”

Probably the most notable difference between Tsumori Chisato and Peter Pan is that she happens to be one of the most serious and highly-esteemed fashion designers to come out of Japan since her former employer and mentor Issey Miyake.

A graduate of the it-college of Japan, Bunka Fashion College, (the same renowned institution in Tokyo responsible for the likes of Yohji Yamamoto and Junya Watanabe), Tsumori Chisato was recruited by Issey Miyake, in 1977 and became head of the brand’s biggest-selling line: Issey Miyake Sports.

“The main thing I learned was that team work is very important and creativity is very important,” says Tsumori. “[Issey] says women tend to focus on details, but he told me to see the big picture.”

By 1990, Mr Miyake had convinced Tsumori Chisato to start her own label – and it couldn’t be more different than the minimalist, conceptual work of her mentor.

“I was supported by Issey Miyake so even for my brand there was no limit,” she says. “I didn’t have a real plan, I was just doing whatever I wanted to; I felt like what I was doing was right and that’s it. Nothing was planned, really!”

Twenty five years, and countless accolades and awards later, it seems to be working out just fine.

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Highlights from Tsumori Chisato's SS19 Egypt Collection are available online and at our Westfield Sydney pop-up until 17 February, and the full collection is available in our Martin Place store at No 1 Martin Place, Sydney.

 Photography: Andrew Braithwaite