Kamo Katsuya is the mastermind behind the brilliant barnet's of Junya Watanabe's girls, Karl Lagerfeld's muses and the Undercover bunnies. We'd love to kiss you Kamo but we just washed our hair... so we'll settle for hairdresser chat instead!
Mad hatter meets hair magician, Kamo Katsuya is like no other. After being introduced to hair styling by a friend in the 80s, Kamo picked up a pair of scissors and never looked back. Joining Mod’s Hair, in Tokyo, in 1988, it wasn’t until 1996, when he began working with Junya Watanabe at COMME des GARCONS, that Kamo achieved worldwide fame. Fast-forward over a decade, and Kamo has created hair confections for the likes of Fendi and Chanel; produced an array of pieces for glossies such as Vogue; and has overseen campaign visuals for his ol’ pal Kenzo. From sinister spiked crowns to delicate snow bunny ears, Kamo’s creations dazzle the mind. Something that was highlighted when he won the Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix award in 2003, and celebrated in 100 Headpieces, a solo exhibition documenting the life and career of one of the most fascinating figures in fashion, held in Tokyo’s Laforet Museum, in November. We caught up with Kamo to talk Paris in the 90s, Karl Lagerfeld, and being lost in translation.
Where did you grow up?
How did you go from simple hairdressing to designing such surreal sculptural headpieces?
Because I was asked to design for Junya Watanabe. And other designers kept asking me to make some for them, so that’s why I’m keep on making them.
What was it like working at Mod’s Hair and assisting Mr Tamura?
It was really exciting. I grew up in the countryside and didn’t know anything, but he told me a lot of things. He was in Paris in 70s and worked with Helmut Newton, so it was exciting to hear and see his experience.
What was it like going from Japan to Paris in the 90s without being able to speak French?
I had such a hard time when I was in Paris for the first time. The moment I arrived in Paris, I thought "I cannot stay here’’. I decided that the next time I went to Paris, I wanted to work with a man who speaks Japanese.
Describe your relationship with Junya Watanabe and COMME des GARCONS?
Our relationship is so simple that there is nothing to explain. Junya Watanabe and COMME des GARCONS and I have a desire; we want to do something new. That’s it.
What's so important about dressing the head in fashion?
There are people who need hairdressing, and those who don’t. The ones who need it will ask me to make some pieces; I just make them whenever I have an offer.
Would you ever consider designing for the rest of the body?
Yes, actually, I have done it before.
Would you define your pieces as artworks turned accessories or accessories turned artworks?
I have never thought about it, so I don’t know.
What are you most inspired by and why?
Everything that I see in daily life. I don’t try to find inspiration. I also don’t watch TV, movies, or read books - so I don’t get inspired by that. It’s just what I see in daily life.
Which stylistic movements does your work relate to most?
I don’t know.
What’s your favourite decade for hair?
What’s your favourite material to work with and why?
I don’t have favourite material. I make head pieces when I am asked to by designers, so I just make them to match their designs.
Are you in a tradition of millinery/hairstyling or do you deliberately set yourself against it?
I think I am just myself.
You’ve done numerous collaborations, how do you negotiate between your own aesthetic and that of your collaborator?
I make pieces whenever I have an offer from someone and I will always try to make the headpieces match their design; but I do have my own vague preferences too. When designers want something that is different to my preference I will always say my thoughts.
Who is your dream collaborator?
Anyone is welcome.
What’s it like working with Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel?
It’s very nice. Exciting, even. He is a man of high caliber and big capacity.
What was it like having all of your accomplishments celebrated in your solo exhibition 100 Headpieces in November?
It was very exciting! I would like to do one in London too, with you.
What was the idea behind recreating your real life studio in the exhibition?
I did it because I thought it would be fun. Our atelier was so messed up at that time that I thought it would be interesting to show everyone.
Any plans to launch your own commercial label?
I would love to. I really want to try something new. I definitely want to try it in future.
Where are your other plans for the future?
I want to do collections in Europe and New York. I am thinking of publishing a photo book too, so I will work on that also.