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FASHION PUPPETRY: KENJI KAWASUMI

Text by Anna Battista

Young Japanese designer Kenji Kawasumi talks about the inspirations behind his MA collection recently presented during London Fashion Week.

Kenji Kawasumi studied art and design in Tokyo for one year and then moved to London to study fashion. After a foundation course at the London College of Fashion and a BA in Knitwear Design at Central Saint Martins, Kawasumi decided to continue his education achieving a MA.

His BA womenswear collection was inspired by wooden textures and based on armour-like garments, while Kawasumi’s MA collection, presented during the Central Saint Martins” graduates show at the latest London Fashion Week, reinterpreted the theme of wood in a new key. Inspired by wooden dolls and puppetry, Kawasumi sculpted out of foam softly rigid menswear garments including coats, jackets and trousers. The designer then splashed his material of choice with thick brush strokes using paint in soft pastel colours that gave the foam a marble-like consistency.


ZOOT Magazine: How did you feel when you showcased your collection at the Central Saint Martins” show during London Fashion Week?

Kenji Kawasumi: Before doing it I felt a bit like holding breath, but then there was also a huge sense of relief. It was very interesting to hear what people said about my collection: someone said it was sweet strawberries and lemon garments; others that it was eco-friendly and sustainable. I guess people decide with their criticism and comments what artists or designers think!

Z: Can you tell us more about your creative process?

KK: I usually do a rough sketch as I need to feel I have something in my hands. This process also allows me to see unexpected accidents happening.

Z: Is there a theme behind your collection?

KK: I looked at wooden blocks, toys, dolls and sculptures. I mainly used foam to make the designs and tried to control this material to be able to recreate the appearance of wooden dolls. I realised this was the best material to make the cartoonish shapes I had in mind and create my curving silhouettes.

Z: What inspired the silhouettes in your collection?

KK: Wooden dolls such as marionettes, puppets, souvenir dolls and woodcuts. I felt a bit like Geppetto creating a wooden doll that was alive. I like the thought of craftsmanship, of an artisan transferrring his vision onto a craft, like Geppetto with Pinocchio.

Z: Some of your designs seem to have architectural silhouettes, are you ever inspired in your work by architecture?

KK: I’m particularly interested in houses that look handmade and unfinished, like the cardboard houses made by Japanese homeless people.

Z: Who has been the greatest influence on your career choices so far?

KK: I was shocked when I saw Hussein Chalayan”s “The Tangent Flows” collection with its garments made with fabric that had been buried with iron filings in a garden. My views on fashion and textile radically changed since then.

Z: Who would you like to collaborate with one day?

KK: It would be very interesting to work with someone specialised in a different field from mine as I like creating unexpected things. I had a collaboration project with an interactive designer who worked for W&K. He programmed augmented reality showing a 2-D animation on a screen while I made a wooden dress, it was a similar idea to Cassette Playa’s A/W 2010-11 fashion show.

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