Designer draws inspiration from Inuit eskimo tribe
For decades, to the fashion cognoscenti, shopping in Korea was like being in a duty-free shop that lacked choices in merchandise or variety in designer labels ― until a new breed of stores called select shops arrived. At stores ― popularly known as “multi-shops” in Korean ― like Boon The Shop, Mue and G. Street 494, don’t ask for a nylon Prada satchel. Instead namedrop from the fashion hall of fame on runways from around the world ― store managers will be impressed with, and provide, designer labels like Hussein Chalayan, Rick Owens, Roksanda Ilincic, Viktor & Rolfe and Sophia Kokosalaski.
And that’s how the Japanese brand, Tsumori Chisato, came to be known here ― through an upscale select shop inside the Avenuel department store. After three years, the brand, which has an exclusive local distributor, Irving Place, in Korea, is opening its first store on Aug. 20 inside the Galleria department store in southern Seoul.
Dressed in a burnt-out velvet wrap dress and carrying an orange fur bag from her own 2006 fall and winter collection, the soft-spoken Tsumori Chisato introduced herself to a group of Korean fashion journalists at a press event in a trendy Cheongdam-dong restaurant last week. The designer said that, inspired by the Inuit tribe, she drew a fairytale-like drawing of the Eskimo and their landscape and transferred the image to her clothes.
Despite the child-like drawings of Eskimo girls and animals, nothing looked childish about the clothing. Allegorical animals wrapped around the model’s body in the form of a dress, coat and cape; colorful snowflakes abounded in flowing silk blouses and mini dresses in turquoise blue, burgundy, orange and brown. The richly layered look consisted of woolly Fair Isle sweaters, billowing velvet shorts and boxy tunic tops bearing ethnic motifs above suede knee-high boots. It was all a highly imaginative poetry of fashion.
The IHT-JoongAng Daily spoke with the Japanese designer at her label launch. She said, smiling, that she may appear “shy” when speaking in English but not so when speaking Japanese:
Q. Have you been to Korea before?
A. I’ve been to Korea three times [before this trip]. The first time was 20 years ago to work and then about six years ago to play. And then because of this work, I came to Korea again.
What’s your favorite material?
I like to work with silk although I used a lot of wool for this collection. My clothes are cut loosely in the waist for women of all figures.
Since you’ve shown your collection in Paris, have you made any changes in your design?
I wouldn’t call it a change. In Paris, I can show more of what I really want to do, so it’s great as designers sometimes have to listen to managers and other people to do what the market demands.
I love fairy tales and love to draw fairy tale-like pictures like those you see on the clothes. I draw pictures and they become part of the dresses. I will have a picture book that has my drawings out in November and automatic wristwatches by Seiko in September.
Which fairy tales do you like in particular?
I don’t remember ― I have a grown-up son who’s in college now. These days, I’m into watching “Daejanggeum” on TV in Japan because we’re a bit behind. [The Korean actress] Lee Young-ae wears beautiful, oversized hair pieces, and the story line is based on the lead character’s spirit of “never-give-up.” There are similar “never-give-up” stories in Japan too, but I find the Korean drama to be very interesting.
by Ines Cho