Interview with Tsumori Chisato who has been designing for twenty years.
Your fashion is light-hearted, playful, popping with your almost naïve drawings... Do you draw on your childhood memories to create that universe?
T.C. My childhood does inspire me, of course, but more than that I love to travel and I love life.
This collection is a bit like a “best of” retrospective of your last 20 years. Which trip had the most impact on your design?
T.C. Paris is my biggest source of inspiration! I come back here six times a year for work and for shows. Travelling is mostly a chance to meet lots of people and those meetings give me ideas to consider when designing. Of course, at the origins of my inspirations there’s often a trip, but that’s before everything I’ve been able to feel. For example, before this new collection I went to Kenya. Africa’s influence isn’t that visible, but there are certain colours, leopards, giraffes and certain landscapes which can be seen in the drawings which are embroidered onto the dresses. A whole collection will never be built on a trip, but it’s a starting point.
How has your fashion changed over the years and since you’ve shown at Paris?
T.C. My style hasn’t changed so much in the last twenty years, but I’ve integrated an evolution: I want to create more adult and more mature clothes. I’m not very limited and I design collections which I like. My design is free, it doesn’t follow commercial needs. There’s always a childish side to it. Even though I’m a woman of a certain age, on the inside I feel like a young girl and for that reason I like wearing clothes which are a bit “naïve”. I see myself as an actress who likes to change skins, who wants to be sexy, cute and relaxed at the same time. She can use my collection as an ideal disguise to correspond to her different states of mind.
How did you manage to attract women in this light-hearted and playful trip, full of colours, drawings and embroidery?
T.C. I like developing and keeping this light-hearted side. If I made collections in a more neutral tone, it would be easier to coordinate the different pieces but I prefer to work with bright colours because it’s a creative challenge: my collection should give people the desire and the courage to be bold with colour. I have fun bringing a bit more colour to the streets and to our daily life.
Your work screams freedom. Do you sketch spontaneously, following inspiration and tase; or have you learnt to adapt your lines to commercial points of view?
T.C. At the start, I did it naïvely which I liked and I knew how to keep that freedom. But I’m listening more and more to what my collaborators in marketing or in sales are suggesting to me. On top of that, I understand if it’s more trousers or warm clothing this season. But I’m mindful of maintain the identity of the label and its strong sense of femininity. I am a woman who wants to dress women, so I never forget the little feminine touches which make all the difference and make women want to wear these clothes.
In the last twenty years, the image of the woman in fashion has changed a lot: There were the Belgians and their minimalism, their deconstruction, the androgynous look, the porn-chic look, the throwback to the big shoulders of the 80s etc. Have you gone through all these standards, all the while keeping your own vision of femininity?
T.C. I have always wanted to make “happy” clothes, which are light-hearted even other designers swear by black and sombre... I went through these years looking at what others were doing without adapting myself to their trends, for example their slightly harsh, androgynous style.
What inspires your design and your sketches? Manga? Rousseau?
T.C. As a young girl I wanted to be a Manga illustrator but building stories is complicated, it’s an enormous task. Now my drawings come from the inspiration of the moment.
Your summer collection shows simultaneously your naïve drawings, graphic motifs (with stripes and spots) and floral prints. How did you manage to combine these three different “colours” within your work?
T.C. I wanted to do a pop collection with an enormous amount of cats! I really love animals and in particular cats. They slipped into the details and shapes of the clothes, sometimes in a secret fashion. This collection is a big mix of everything I’ve loved in twenty years of design – patchwork, flowers and stripes. For my 20th anniversary I wanted to put on a very special show.
You have no muse, no model who embodies the brand. Who is the Chisato woman? Does she have children, is she childish, frivolous, a party girl, excessive?
T.C. My customers are very light-hearted and they have a big heart. I like dressing women from 16 to 60.
Does your colourful fashion have uplifting virtues?
T.C. Yes, what I try to do is to give a feeling of vitality, of joy to people who are often a bit sad in their daily grind. I use my colours and my drawings to go against the surrounding gloom.
What’s your remedy for the blues?
T.C. Obviously I have a penchant for anything light and very colourful. This combination gets me up on my feet very quickly!