Japanese designer Seiran Tsuno has a very clear vision of an idea that may seem very vague: creating dresses that can communicate with an unseen world. Whether they achieve this goal or not is for you to decide, but you have to agree that these front-facing only, 3D pen-made, fluorescent designs are extremely captivating. Only the mind of a wacky, philosophical young woman – who used to be a nurse at a psychiatric hospital – could have come up with this overly complicated and ambitious project.
Hi Seiran, could you first tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a 27-year-old Japanese fashion designer. Until recently, I had worked as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital for six years.
When did your interest in fashion first appear in life? And what drove you to create your own brand?
I used to like making things since I was little. After graduating from high school and having had a rough time, I entered nursing university. From that point on, I started walking on the street with flashy dresses and shironuri (white makeup) on myself. Being dressed like that made me feel that I was able to become an unrealistic presence, sort of like a ghost, a ‘nobody’, and I felt very comfortable being seen like that. After that, I started styling others because I wasn’t satisfied by only doing it to myself.
Still working at a hospital, I started attending fashion school Coconogacco in 2016. There, I deepened into my creativity (from a fashion design perspective) and found my own point of view after having researched on what I wanted to express. My personal vision comes from me deeply sympathising with people who got saved by believing in and communicating with the unseen world. And I wanted to make a modern version of such dresses. This is what drove me to create my own brand.
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 9.jpg
As you’ve mentioned, you’ve been studying at Coconogacco, a fashion school in Tokyo founded in 2008 with an unorthodox way of teaching, unlike other established universities like Bunka – which has garnered a lot of attention recently in the fashion industry for its novelty. When and why did you decide that this was the right place for you? Wasn’t it safer to get into a more traditional school for your future, job-wise?
As I kept making dresses while working at a hospital, my aim was to make a living as a fashion designer. To achieve this, I looked for a place to receive an education. Then, a friend of mine introduced me to Coconogacco, and I started attending it in 2016. Famous fashion schools in Japan like Bunka teach techniques but not so much about design and creation. From the first moment, I did not intend to learn how to make clothes. Regardless of clothes, I wanted to create dresses in a broader sense. That is also why I chose this school, as we are able to learn about dresses from a wider viewpoint.
Were you taught to use 3D pens while attending Coconogacco? And how did you first come up with the idea of using them for dressmaking?
While in Coconogacco, I was making headpieces. And I was also falling into a slump. In February of this year, one teacher told me to stop making them and to start designing clothes, so I started focusing on human bodies. Since I didn’t know how to make clothes and didn’t want to try making them as other people do, I felt like creating a new type of dress by using materials that hadn’t been used before. The concept was ‘dresses for communicating with an unseen world’, so I started looking for visuals that conveyed the concept I wanted to express.
When I went to a DIY store to search for materials, I found 3D printers. They greatly interested me because they’re newly-created machines. I made some samples using them, but they didn’t reach my heart. In the store, I also found 3D pens and used them to make more samples. They didn’t look nice either, they even looked sort of pitiful. But to me, they were lovely and saw a huge potential.
What’s the inspiration behind your latest collection?
The main inspiration is the way of capturing spirits by Japanese people. Others include: out-of-the-body experiences, fluorescent colours used in Ukiyo-s and posters of theatre companies in the ‘70s in Japan, and the shape of earthen figures excavated in my hometown.
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 11.jpg
When it comes to campaigns, one in particular really stuck with me. You used your grandma as a model! What prompted you to do that? Was she willing to do work with you from the get-go?
I’ve loved my grandmother more than anyone else since I was little; she is my muse. She has a very unique and lovely appearance, it’s unbelievable that it actually exists in reality. I’ve always wanted her to be a model, and so I asked her to do it. But she didn’t accept the first time. She says that my dresses are weird, but generally speaking, she loves fashion. Finally, she reluctantly agreed because I implored her to model for a world-famous contest.
Do you have any funny stories from the shooting?
Sadly, my grandmother broke her leg and is in a wheelchair in the photos. But after putting my dress on her, I realised that the design, which only has the front side, makes it possible to be worn by anybody – for example, people of different sizes or who are in a wheelchair. In the end, when I told her that her image was shown on the screen of the Italian venue of the contest, she was delighted. She said, “Thanks for taking me to Italy”.
Let’s talk about this contest: the ITS Platform Contest, competition that rewards young emerging talent in fashion. You got to travel all the way to Italy to showcase your collection, what was that experience like?
That was the most severe and wonderful experience in my life. I re-experienced the joy of creating dresses and the marvelousness of fashion itself. The aspects I treasure the most from the trip are the romanticism experienced in creating new things, and being able to get the best comrades to support me and cooperate with me. And I got the intention of presenting my works to the world from now on.
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 10.jpg
Also, you’ve worked with one of the coolest duos of photographers ever, Toki . What was it about their style that inspired you to start this collaboration?
With a wonderful lighting sense and technique, Toki’s photos show the subject as a very mysterious and extraordinary being. I feel delicacy and pureness in the balance of their light. I felt that their pictures matched with the delicacy and concept of my work, so I asked them to work with me. I also love their personalities, so I want to put my works in their hands wholeheartedly.
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
I would like to focus on the fashion field mainly, but I want to continue creating with a wide range of perspectives without being bound by the frame. And I do want to make my brand well-known worldwide. For the moment, I will continue my research on the materials and techniques of the work I am currently creating and will chase the possibilities. The most important goal is to get Björk to wear one of my dresses and to work with John Galliano.
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 5.jpg
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 6.jpg
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 21.jpg
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 20.jpg
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 22.jpg
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 17.jpg
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 19.jpg
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 12.jpg
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 13.jpg
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 15.jpg
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 16.jpg
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 18.jpg
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 14.jpg
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 7.jpg
Seiran Tsuno Metalmagazine 4.jpg