Part fashion film and part documentary, Nobu is a stylised portrait of a Japanese immigrant
This short film tells the story of Nobu, a first generation immigrant to the Netherlands, in which he wears a collection based on his life story – designed by his daughter.
- 13 March 2020
- Charlie Filmer-Court
Lisa Konno’s fashion collection Nobu was based on the experience of her father Nobu, who moved from Japan to the Netherlands as a young man. A beautiful collection was designed for a film of the same name made in conjunction with childhood friend Sarah Blok.
Lisa’s motivation to branch out from fashion stemmed from a desire to use the prominence of the industry in a positive way. “I think it would be much more interesting if as a designer I could use this seductive power that fashion has, but instead point to socially-relevant stories,” she tells It’s Nice That. This was when the collaboration with Sarah, who has previous experience as a theatre writer and director, began.
Sarah describes the collection as “a colourful and exaggerated ode to Lisa’s father. It reflects Dutch and Japanese identity, caricaturising cultural misunderstandings and the hype about Japan,” she says. “At the same time, it draws an intimate portrait of Nobu as an immigrant.”
The film reflects this, but also remains light-hearted and fun, this is due, in part, to the bright aesthetic provided by the clothes, as well as the fun and bubbly character of Lisa’s father.
“Since the collection was built around his cultural identity and story on integration, it was an easy choice to have him model the collection as well! Him walking the runway was a nice way of trying to broaden what and whom the 'muse' of a collection could be,” says Lisa. “For once I could dress him up in a giant pink coat that was a nod to the big plastic colourful raincoat he wears on his bike to work every day - the only way in which he has truly become a Dutch man.” The imagery this created is fantastic, with the bright clothes from the collection perfectly juxtaposing a grey Amsterdam day.
The choice of having Nobu as the model was also an intentional deviation from industry norms: “I think Lisa and I are both attracted to beauty that is in touch with life - a more comforting beauty,” says Sarah. “Young thin models that rule the fashion industry are also beautiful, but far from comforting.”
As well as Nobu posing and roaming the streets in the collection, it also includes studio footage of him posing and answering questions. “In these conversations he told us some anecdotes that we wanted him to say again on set, but most of the questions in the interview we asked for the first time,” says Sarah. “We wanted to surprise him on camera. If he had time to prepare he would probably give Japanese diplomatic and evasive answers.”
The overall aesthetic is a considered one throughout, with non-studio locations purposefully chosen to mirror the collection, which obviously in turn mirrors Nobu. Far from being just a stylistic film, you emerge from it having experienced a range of emotions. Much of this is achieved through an impressive amount of family footage, providing a human side to the film and an insight into important life events such as how Nobu met Lisa’s mother.
In addition to the visuals, the dialogue provides a comedic aspect to the film, and is extremely impressive considering the majority of it is unscripted. “Only a small sequence in the film where Nobu is tour-guiding is scripted by Sarah, who used her background as a theatre writer,” says Lisa. “Everything else was spontaneous, so in that sense it is more of a documentary.” The film does blur the lines with regards to genres though, primarily due to the stylised elements. “The spontaneous conversations were held at places that we carefully styled beforehand, making the film visually more of a fiction or fashion film,” Lisa explains.
After the success of Nobu, the pair recently made another film Baba, which revolves around a collection modelled by their friend’s Turkish immigrant father. “We always wanted the project to be a trilogy of three different Dads,” says Lisa. “We are going to continue working like this, and are currently in the process of searching for the third and final Dad of the series!”
GalleryNobu. Photographer: Laila Cohen
About the Author
Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.