When Harajuku fashion meets Marie Antoinette on a magical bed of leaves with foxes and badgers, to an electric blue alien-geisha wearing jaw-dropping full-length kimonos strapped into tight corsets and leather belts, Tia Oguri (not her real name) continues to pursue her interests in transcending cultural expectations and promoting diversity through her unconventional concepts. As the brains behind many of her shoots, Tia’s concepts are distinctively avant-garde and unique, using a diverse range of models to further enforce her belief that kimonos can be worn by anyone, regardless of race.
This Oxford-based fashion stylist is also the founder of Uber Dandy Kimono, a collector and seller of vintage kimonos, handpicked and beautifully curated for her UK market. Tia constantly surprises you with endless kimono styling possibilities, combining inspirations from different cultures, periods and fashion subcultures. She has worked with many popular brands to bring her vision to life, and worked with UK-based photographers like Ian Wallman, Magic Owen, Wbb Imagine and recently, with this writer when she is a photographer at FYi Photography. You may find Tia’s work has been published on Vogue Italia, Elegant Magazine, Feroce, Cole Magazine, Surreal Magazine and more. In this interview, Tia tells us about her thoughts as a stylist and the creative process that comes with it.
Emma Khoo - Tell us about your first encounter with Japanese culture?
Tia Oguri - Growing up, I always loved traditional attires and drew fascination from many cultures. I used to watch a lot of Bollywood and Chinese period dramas! However, it was during secondary school that I came across NHK Taiga dramas (an annual, year-long historical fiction TV drama series broadcast in Japan) and from then on, I was hooked.
Emma Khoo - I was blown away by this avant-garde editorial, ‘Electric Dreams’ featured on Glassbook magazine! Your concepts are always unique and true to your interests. Tell us more about it.
Tia Oguri - This shoot still remains my strongest to date. It started when Magic Owen made contact with me with a proposition of collaborating on a kimono editorial. She had a concept in mind but the end results were soooo much better. I was able to show off what I did best, mixing hard and soft elements, and kept that quirkiness. Coming from a more traditional fashion background, I spend more time researching and drafting moodboards for every look for every concept.
Emma Khoo - Tell us about your creative process from start to finish?
Tia Oguri - Haaa! One thing’s for sure, not all ideas take off but I’ll tell you about this shoot that did: 春, 私の春 published in Elegant Magazine was largely inspired by the amazing works of Alexia Sinclair. I knew I wanted to step up my game from doing just one look to a full-blown editorial and that the model had to be shot from above. I already had a photographer so the first thing was to draft a moodboard. I did quite a lot of research from textured hair to the type of leaves for this shoot. Finding the right model isn’t easy as well, since kimono poses are different from fashion poses. They rely on face, hands and feet, not so much on the body so I had to choose a model that looked effortlessly elegant. Once I found the right model, I contacted a salon and pitched my suggested moodboard and team. On the day of the shoot, I went out to cut some leaves, moss and anything else I could find so that it would still be fresh on the day of the photoshoot!
The first outfit and the first hour will always be the hardest because we would be trying to find the right lighting and position. As the model was on her back, I had to maintain a squatting position for the entirety of the shoot to reposition her toes, chin and kimono as required. I like things done to perfection on set simply because I don’t want the photographer to spend ages retouching or lose a great image because of a minor misplacement.
I like to make sure that everyone is happy with each look before moving on. After the shoot, I would select the images based on how they looked overall, made the crops and sent them back to the photographer for retouching. I would always try to get these images published in magazines before sending them out to the team.
Emma Khoo - Tell us about your favourite shoot to date.
Tia Oguri - Electric Dreams and 春, 私の春. The two couldn’t be anymore different.
Emma Khoo - Your works features a diverse range of models. Why do you think this is important to you and also for the industry?
Tia Oguri - As a female entrepreneur, I like to market to a wider audience as I am selling a somewhat niche product outside the country of origin (Japan) to the UK market. In the fashion industry, most people don’t even know that I am not even Asian! I may be an African but I want to show them that: “yes, it is a traditional cultural attire” but kimonos are not limited to only Japanese or Asian people.
Emma Khoo - What is your dream shoot?
Tia Oguri - I honestly don’t know as I am always constantly inspired. My dream is to be able to make my moodboards come to life.
Emma Khoo - What’s your guilty pleasure?
Tia Oguri - Using photoshoots as an excuse to buy more kimonos.
Emma Khoo - What is the most challenging part of being a stylist?
Tia Oguri - MONEY. It is not easy and definitely not cheap to be a stylist.
Emma Khoo - What do you have in store for the rest of the year?
Tia Oguri - I would very much like to pick up photography again as I initially started as a photographer. I also recently joined Antiques on High, Oxford as one of the traders selling Japanese kimono, in hopes that people would take more interest in Japanese culture.
Emma Khoo - Any final advice to survive in the industry?
Tia Oguri - Know what you want and stick to the moodboard. I have had a few photoshoots that ended up being a complete waste of time and money because people don’t stick to the moodboard.