fashion

Enter Japanese master Katsuya Kamo's world of fantasy headpieces

Published 5th July 2017
View gallery
10 Pictures
Katsuya Kamo 6
Enter Japanese master Katsuya Kamo's world of fantasy headpieces
Written by Tiffany Godoy, CNNTokyo, Japan
There's something distinctly punk about Katsuya Kamo's aesthetic. His otherworldly headpieces, designed for some of the world's most revered fashion houses, seem to disregard the limits of millinery, often combine hair with unusual materials.
"Feathers, paper, butterflies, animals, everything," the Japanese hairstylist and makeup artist said in his Tokyo studio, gesturing to the examples surrounding him, including outtakes from his latest collection for designer Jun Takahashi's Undercover label.
Inside Katsuya Kamo's studio
On the runway, the butterfly-inspired Undercover designs -- each of which took a day to produce -- fluttered about the models' heads, making them appear half human, half insect.
But Kamo isn't just looking to shock; his is a quest to create pure beauty.
"If it's not that, then the end form cannot be complete."
A Katsuya Kamo headpiece for designer Junya Watanabe.
A Katsuya Kamo headpiece for designer Junya Watanabe. Credit: Courtesy of Junya Watanabe

Three decades of innovation

Since 1996, Kamo has collaborated with Japanese designers Takahashi and Junya Watanabe on hair and makeup for their collections. His international breakthrough came in 2007, with his attention-grabbing looks for Watanabe's Autumn-Winter 2008 show. Wrapping models' heads entirely in cloth, Kamo transformed them into bulbous sculptures.
The show caught the attention of Stephen Gan, creative director of Harper's Bazaar's, who hired Kamo to style hair for a shoot with Karl Lagerfeld. Soon after, Lagerfeld booked Kamo for Chanel's pre-fall 2009 collection "Paris-Moscou," for which he crafted 50 braided hair crowns interwoven with pearls and metal accoutrements.
A model wearing Katsuya Kamo's headpiece for Chanel during a Spring-Summer 2009 Haute Couture collection.
A model wearing Katsuya Kamo's headpiece for Chanel during a Spring-Summer 2009 Haute Couture collection. Credit: FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
More collaborations with Chanel followed, including a series of flower headpieces crafted from paper for the brand's Spring-Summer 2009 couture show.
Since then, Kamo's reputation has blossomed. Designers and stylists, from Haider Ackerman to Carine Roitfeld, have commissioned him for works.

Finding inspiration in the mundane

A Katsuya Kamo headpiece for 7000 magazine.
A Katsuya Kamo headpiece for 7000 magazine. Credit: courtesy of Hiromasa photography
Like a mad scientist, 51-year-old Kamo spends nearly every day experimenting, toiling away in his lab with materials ranging from familiar (safety pins) to the decadent (stuffed birds and exotic silks).
Three decades' worth of work has been meticulously recorded in notebooks brimming with Polaroids, material scraps and sketches, but Kamo's biggest inspirations are found in the present, not the past.
"I'm always picking up something from the street," he explained. "Not books, not movies. Just from the street."
How remarkable the world must look through Kamo's eyes.
CNN's Stephy Chung and Momo Moussa contributed to this report.