Horns, peacocks and mohawks: Introducing the hairy work of wig designer Tomihiro Kono
The Japanese designer, now based in New York, tells us about his wonderful process and new book – a three-year wig project featuring 111 wigs.
- Ayla Angelos
- 10 June 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
There is nothing quite like a new hair-do. Perhaps you like to buzz it and keep some fancy horns, or groom it like a peacock, crimp or wave it, spike it into a mohawk and colour it like a mermaid? Whatever it is, rest assured that Tomihiro Kono can create it.
The Japanese hair artist, currently based in New York, grew up on an orange farm and was utterly surrounded by nature. “My home faces the ocean,” he tells It’s Nice That, “and behind it is the mountains.” Despite fondly toying around with imaginative ideas during his childhood and being completely immersed in his luscious surroundings, it wasn’t until the age of 18 that he plunged into the industry and became a hair dresser. “I got so excited to go to a hair salon and change my hairstyle,” he says, telling us how he now works on anything from hair styling, head prop design to wig making.
Having worked in the industry for last 20 years, Tomihiro is thoroughly trained in hair cutting techniques. It was once he’d moved to London in 2007 that he began seeking out a new aesthetic and started making head props. Then, 2013 saw the designer move to New York where he would collaborate with Junya Watanabe of Comme des Garçons, for the next four iterations of the Fall Paris collections, before later publishing his own book on the topic of head prop designs, aptly titled Head prop studies 2013-2016. Most recently, however, his work lies predominantly in the realms of wig making. “I probably need something more easy to describe myself,” says Tomihiro when asked to explain what it is that he creates. But in short, he explains, “I am trying to achieve as many things as possible that’s related to hair and head designs.”
Tomihiro’s inspiration can come in many forms. One, specifically, is from the “pioneers” who make something from scratch and “share their creativity in any creative fields – like Steve Jobs.” Otherwise, he cites Mr Vidal Sassoon from the hair industry as a further example, and explains how music, nature, history and animations play a vital role in his thought process. “I especially love UK culture – a lot of inspiration comes from the music and youth, which is why I moved to London in 2007.”
Once these influences are compiled, the designer tends to wake early at around six before drinking coffee. He routinely heads to the rooftop to water his newly planted lockdown vegetables, and will continue with additional errands like making wigs and posting images of his creations on Instagram. The design process of a wig itself goes a bit like this: it begins the lace foundation, followed by knotting the hair into the foundation with a hair ventilating needle (“the face line is the most important!”) and then finally the styling.
Most recently, the designer has published his second book, Personas 111 – a three-year wig project featuring 111 handmade wigs, worn by Cameron Leephan, photographed and designed by Sayaka Murayama. “It took me about three years to create more than 100 wigs in the book,” he explains. “I have more wigs in my studio than what’s in the book.” In a nutshell, this book is ultimately about the handmade process behind each and every wig, alongside each of the wig’s “potential” – such as “how one person can transform into different characters” simply by changing the wig that sits on their head. So it’s important to see this publication not merely as his own catalogue, but also as an expansive resource into the outstanding possibilities that can be achieved through this discipline. The design, too, is a simple and “straightforward” contrast to what rests inside – “actually knitting hair into lace by hand took me a long time.”
Future plans may be slightly and temporarily disrupted, but Tomihiro plans to keep on working hard. Amidst the current pandemic, the designer has released an AR wig filter on Instagram and has created his very own face coverings – “a new type of mask” – using his head prop method. A fun take on a product that people will need as a means of protection, Tomihiro adds: “face coverings might be a new fashion accessory”.