The 2020 Tokyo Olympics finally kicked off with an opening ceremony that was thrilling enough to (at least momentarily) distract from the numerous controversies that have dogged the games this year. With stunning performances featuring thousands of dancers, lit-up drones, and nods to everything from the Japanese flag to video game culture—and of course, culminating with national treasure Naomi Osaka lighting the Olympic cauldron—it was a subdued spectacle that nevertheless offered a glimmer of hope that this year’s games might mark a step forward for the beleaguered sporting body.
But for fashion fans, there was another, more unexpected, highlight. As singer-songwriter Misia stepped out to perform the Japanese national anthem “Kimi Ga Yo” to an eerily empty stadium, attention quickly turned to her dramatic gown. Cut from dozens of layers of recycled organza and with a multicoloured ombré effect—produced by spray-painting, nonetheless—it set Twitter aflame as many compared it to everything from snow cones to cotton candy to cherry blossoms.
The dress itself was designed by Tomo Koizumi, whose rapid rise to fashion world fame came in 2019 after stylist Katie Grand spotted his work on Instagram and swiftly set about arranging a grand debut for the designer at New York Fashion Week show. (Staged in her friend Marc Jacobs’s Madison Avenue store as a favour, naturally.) The illustrious guest list for Koizumi’s first show was matched only by the star wattage of those walking the runway, including Gwendoline Christie, Bella Hadid, Joan Smalls, and Emily Ratajkowski; it also earned rave reviews for his unique balance of frivolity, flamboyance, and couture-level craft.
Since then, Koizumi has gone from strength to strength. In 2019, his work was featured as part of the Met’s annual costume exhibition, Notes on Camp, while his most recent collection that appeared earlier this month on the haute couture calendar was live-streamed from an Edo-period castle in Kyoto. Still, there are few moments as sweet—in more ways than one, given the dress’s frothy, candy-coloured delights—as seeing your work beamed around the world to represent your home country on the global stage. With Koizumi’s widely-noted reverence for Japanese culture past and present, it’s a delight to see him carving out its future, too.
This story was originally published on Vogue.