Kosuke Tsumura

Alessandro Esculapio

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA268

Kosuke Tsumura is a fashion designer and artist born in Saitama, Japan, in 1959. Tsumura started working at the Issey Miyake Studio in 1984 and began conceiving his own label, Final Home, under Miyake’s supervision in 1991. After leaving the Miyake Studio officially in 1994, Tsumura made a name for himself in the fashion and art world. His work rearticulates the idea of clothing by reducing it to its primal functions: protection and comfort. In doing that, Tsumura experiments with technology and fabric development on the one hand, while on the other he designs fashion with a social impact.

As the name of his label suggests, clothing is to Tsumura the architecture of the body. Early prototypes of what was to become the Final Home coat, the piece around which the brand was built and which is still being produced in the early twenty-first century, were created between 1991 and 1992. The original coat was inspired by the practicality of hunting jackets and army attire and their sheltering quality in extreme situations. It is made of nylon, a durable fabric that is easy to wash, and features forty-two pockets that can be used to carry goods or can be filled with newspaper to ensure warmth during the winter. Tsumura himself tested the coat by spending a night on the street in 1993 while GQ Japan documented the experiment. In the same year, the designer presented the first Final Home fashion show and in 1994 the Issey Miyake Studio started distributing the garment.

When the label became independent in 1994, Tsumura’s work began to diversify, often bridging the divide between fashion and art. In 1995 he displayed several Final Home coats made of Kevlar at the Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts and then at a waste control exhibition in 1995. On this occasion, all the garments featured in the show were donated to AMDA (Association of Medical Doctors of Asia). A similar interest in social justice characterizes the brand as well: once customers no longer need their Final Home products, they are encouraged to bring them back to the label’s store, which will donate them to not-for-profit companies that work with refugees and victims of natural disasters.

In the early twenty-first century, the brand offers several products alongside the coat. Nylon teddy bears and inflatable cushions are meant to comfort the wearer, while cardboard sofas provide a light seat to carry around. Installation and runway pieces are also promoted under the Final Home label. For the exhibition “Tokyofiber09 Senseware” at the Milan Design Triennale, Tsumura presented the installation Cocoon Cradle—Mother Piece, which was inspired by the qualities of FELIBENDY™, a tunable nonwoven fabric created by textile manufacturer Kurarai. The lightweight white material is characterized by high water and acoustic absorbability and can be manipulated to embrace the human figure. Tsumura therefore created multiple cradles that hosted newborns and then clothing for their respective mothers. The garments hugged the women’s bodies, creating another kind of protective shell. The designer showed once again how clothing can be recontextualized as architecture and vice versa.

Final Home has featured in several exhibitions around the world, including the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2000, “Safe: Design Takes On Risk” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 2005, and “Dokumenta 13” in Kassel, Germany in 2012. Tsumura has also worked as an educator, holding workshops around the world as well as a professorship at the Musashino Art University in Tokyo.

Kosuke Tsumura, Spring/Summer 1999. Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Antonelli P. Safe: Design Takes On Risk . New York : Museum of Modern Art, 2005.

Find in Library Mitchell L. The Cutting Edge: Fashion from Japan . Sydney : Powerhouse, 2005.

Find in Library Quinn B. Fashion Futures . London and New York : Merrell, 2012.

Find in Library Szabo J. ““Wear House”.” i-D magazine 46, no. 3 (May 1999): 58–63 .