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Tomihiro Kono “Fancy Creatures” (2023)
Tomihiro Kono “Fancy Creatures” (2023)

How Björk’s wigmaker makes his otherworldly ‘creatures’

Exploring humans’ insatiable hunger for beauty and transformation, Tomihiro Kono’s third photobook Fancy Creatures is a series of freaky nature wigs

Metamorphosis is the keyword in Tomihiro Kono’s new photobook, Fancy Creatures. The Japanese wigmaker has spent his career crafting beautiful, surreal hair creations and this latest collection is his most otherworldly yet, blurring the lines between species and dimensions as humans transform into hybrid creatures from the depths of nature. “The common underlying concept of our book is human’s never-ending desire for beauty,” says Kono. “I wanted to push the boundary of wig expression, [so it turns into more of an] interspecies transformation.” 

Photographed and illustrated by visual artist Sayaka Maruyama, Fancy Creatures documents Kono’s collection of ‘creature waves’ wigs, which he designed between 2020-2022 (and includes Bjork’s Fossora wig). For Kono, wigs have always been a form of expression, but here his pastel-infused aesthetic is combined with natural microorganisms, with references to furry moss to deep-sea creatures. The wigs themselves are moulded and set into “S”-shaped swirls, inspired by old Hollywood as well as the textures of the natural world. Japanese culture – including the live-action sci-fi and fantasy genre, Tokusatsu, and traditional stage make-up in Kabuki theatre, Kumadori – is also a motif throughout. 

Fancy Creatures will launch with a pop-up art event during EastEast Tokyo on February 17, before the wigs are transported to Hong Kong for an installation exhibit at the experimental off-space, Current Plans, followed by a two-month-long photo exhibition of the portrait series from the book at the Eaton HK Hotel. Read on for an insight into Kono’s relationship with make-up, his methodical wig-making process, and how his Björk album cover guided him into Surrealism.

How would you describe the process of metamorphosis? 

Tomihiro Kono: I think visual transformation comes first. We humans love to change fashion, hair and make-up and that’s part of the process of self-transformation. In my previous project PERSONAS 111, I used the word “transformation” to describe the relationship between a wig and our identity. In this new book, Fancy Creatures, the keyword is “metamorphosis” because I wanted to push the boundary of wig expression [so it turns into more of an] interspecies transformation.

In the book, it shows how each wig looks different by how it is displayed. When it’s placed flat, it looks like a specimen; when it’s on the head, it looks like a hairstyle; when it’s on the face it becomes a mask. 

You developed an interest in orchids and created a Paludarium while making Fancy Creatures. What inspired that?

Tomihiro Kono: I’ve been researching many different types of orchids and I wanted to start growing them myself. I got inspired by them because it all looks different day by day. I enjoy taking care of those, that is my daily routine. It’s a great hobby for meditating, and also to have my eyes rest. 

What was it like working with Björk? 

Tomihiro Kono: She told me her new album was gonna be earthy and muddy music, I wanted to make her look like a new earthy mushroom. The direction of my wig-making has shifted to a new creature-making [since working with her]. 

How do you start making your wigs? 

Tomihiro Kono: It depends. For a full wig, I start making the lace foundation and then knot hair strands into the lace. Then I do the hair colour (sometimes before or after knotting), and then cut and style. For creature waves, I start by colouring hair extensions at first, then create wavy forms using gel. Then I add some decorations like beads and feathers. When it ends … probably when I found a character in the wig. 

I definitely prefer to use human hair, as I can colour and curl it to make an ideal style and texture. To cut, colour and style wigs, I use the same equipment as hairdressers: hair colour, scissors, curling tongs and straightening irons.

It‘s as if your wigs have their own personalities. How would you describe their unifying traits? 

Tomihiro Kono: Dynamic, wild and natural. 

Do you have a favourite wig? 

Tomihiro Kono: The blond mushroom wig I created for Björk’s Fossora album cover. We had been talking over emails about what kind of colours she wanted for her new character, and she was initially into red and green. But finally what she selected was a blond wig, with a hint of pink and neon green. It was a big surprise for me but I’m happy that she found her ideal character.

You began your career as a hairdresser over 20 years ago. For Fancy Creatures, what is a new technique you learned? 

Tomihiro Kono: Keep doing what you believe in. Make sure the wig is not too perfect.

Fancy Creatures is available to purchase via konomad’s website. Have a sneak peek inside the book below.