Japanese designer Tsumori Chisato has a built a super loyal following for her prints and patterns, painted by hand and inspired by Japanese manga and all things adorable and cutesy. She very rarely comes to the US to meet her American fanatics, though, so the whole city was thrilled when she stopped into Soho shop Kisan in New York City to share a cocktail with some of her biggest fans. She loves flowers and felines and all things femme and fun, and we asked her through a translator about her wide range of influences (cats have been a strong recurring theme in her designs since way before #LOLcats), her time working with Tokyo legend Issey Miyake and singing while she works.
What have you been doing in New York? I’m shooting a catalogue in New York that I usually shoot in Paris every season and for this one I wanted to have myself doing interesting things in New York. For example, I did a shoot with myself making cupcakes and then today making a bouquet of flowers. I’m also going to check out the Dia: Beacon museum and the design library too.
You grew up in Japan and live in Paris now. What’s are the biggest style difference between both places? The cultures in Paris and Tokyo are very different. The biggest differences I think are the colors. Everything is more colorful in Japan.
A lot of your work references manga prints and characters. Where did your interest in this come from? I’ve just always loved drawing.
Do you create your own prints? Yes, I create my own prints by hand. Sometimes I use watercolor or pencil. A million kinds of things. Sometimes I mix in digital, but I normally hand paint everything.
What’s the secret to looking great wearing so many prints and colors? You have to just try it and have fun with it. That’s it.
Cats are always in your collection and you even have a diffusion line called CATS. Yes, I love cats and I used to play with them when I was small. Surprisingly I don’t own one because I’m always traveling but my mom loves cats too and I grew up with them. We grew up with cats, dogs, birds, rabbits and turtles. We used to live in the countryside and we had a lot of animals. Maybe one day I’ll get another.
Why did you choose to feature Georgia O’Keeffe’s artwork in your Spring collection? I went to Sedona in Arizona and really enjoyed it. I realized that all of the rocks and landscapes really reminded me of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work with the skulls and everything. Arizona is a very spiritual place where you can get rest your mind.
You worked with Issey Miyake a lot in the ’70s. What did you learn from working with him? The main thing I learned was that team work is very important and creativity is very important. He says women tend to focus on details, but he told me to see the big picture.
What’s unique about Japanese fashion? Japanese fashion can be a little childish but colorful compared to other countries. It is very cute. I think it’s joyful. I hope I create fashion in this way but for adults to wear.
What do you like to listen to when you’re working? Actually I like to sing when I’m by myself. I sing all kinds of songs. I love singing.
How do you feel about J-pop? It’s so-so. Sometimes I listen to it.
Do you have a style icon? There’s no icon for me, but I’d like to be one for others.