Turning Japanese

Chanel couture Spring 2009; Kamo for Shinbyio, Photo by Kazuo Arihara.



For his Spring 2009 Chanel couture collection, Karl Lagerfeld looked East: But while his stunning, sculptural white-on-white dresses were marvels of geometry, it was Tokyo-based milliner and avant-garde hairstylist Katsuya Kamo who brought Karl’s “wearable origami” fantasy to life with custom-made, medium-defying paper-cut out headpieces. Amazingly, Kamo, whose signature hats and wigs have capped off countless editorials and the runways of Margiela and Wutanabe, spent a mere three weeks in preparation for the show, flanked only by a crew of seven loyal helpers and a few dozen sheets of  standard 11×7 paper. From those humble utilitarian roots sprang the floral “crownpieces” of Chanel’s collection: veritable paper cornucopias of roses, fronds, feathers, even twigs, all of which Kamo painstakingly manipulated onto twisted, towering tiaras.  While Karl is the ambitious conceptualist behind his great “Japonaise” haute papier experiment, it was Kamo’s innate tactility and incisive execution that electrified a collection that otherwise could be defined by sterile restraint. It made us ask: what is the value of paper, anyway? In response, Karl and Kamo explored two extremes: while the price of couture Chanel can run easily into the hundreds of thousands; but Kamo’s head-pieces de resistance are, ironically, unprocurable.