“A wig has the power of changing a character instantly without any risk of changing your own hair,” says Japan-based Tomihiro Kono. The way
the master wigmaker sees it, his hair creations are for everyone. “My wigs can be borderless, so anyone of any nationality, age and gender can enjoy the change,” he explains. There’s a transformative quality to them, too. “I believe our hairstyle allows us to create our identity,” he adds. “There is more possibility for the future.”
And while today, Kono is the go-to wigmaker for houses like Maison Martin Margiela, Comme des Garçons, and Junya Watanabe, he started out with more humble beginnings. “Ever since I had started working as a hairstylist, I always wanted to make wigs,” he says of his 10-year stint as a stylist. His big break came in 2017 when he published his first book, Head Props Studies 2013-2016.
Looking at his body of work, it’s clear from his brightly coloured and wild creations that Kono takes a whimsical approach to his craft. “Inspiration comes from everywhere and changes on a daily basis,” says Kono, who has lately been inspired by deep-sea creatures. “I also tend to be influenced by where I live,” he says. “I recently moved back to Japan from New York, which actually changes what I see in daily life.”
With such intricate designs, the process of creation takes time. “It takes usually two to three weeks, depending on the density of hair and details,” he says. “Sometimes wigs take super long to make look right with cuts, style, and colour,” he continues. The end results are always standout pieces that get noticed, which has made him a long-time favourite for editorial spreads in magazines like Dazed & Confused, i-D, and Vogue Japan.
It’s no surprise that Kono continues to get tapped for collaborations with the fashion world’s top designers. “It’s exciting to see the chemical reaction between hairstyles and their clothes,” he says of the process. “And it was such an honour to be featured as one of Margiela’s five selected artists for their project,” he adds. When it comes to the runway reveals, Kono has his eyes on the audience taking it in, rather than on the catwalk.
“I’m happy when people watching it think it’s cool.” Currently, Kono is finding his groove with a newer category of hairpieces he calls “fancy wigs.” The colourful attachments come like neon crimped and braided extensions that can be added to any hairstyle. “Fancy wigs are for a wider range of people to enjoy the instant transformation by adding a partial hairpiece,” says Kono. The style has struck a chord with a subset of younger consumers “because fancy wigs open a door for anyone to start enjoying partial wigs as a new hair accessory.”
Kono has big plans for the future. “I have upcoming exhibitions in Japan and China, which seek new ways to exhibit and interact with people,” says Kono. And you know they’re guaranteed to be head-turners.