Here at True Colors Festival, we’re one big family of artists, creators and planners. This week we introduce Kao Kanamori, producer of the True Colors FASHION series of events. Her fascination with the power of the human body has led her to create fashion events for people of diverse body types.
By True Colors Festival Team
Name: Kao Kanamori
Accolades: Producer of True Colors FASHION series of events and Director of THEATER for ALL, a barrier-free theater company. Kao works in the theater and fashion spaces and even launched her own fashion label “Theater Products” in 2011. Since 2011, she has taken on the role of Executive Officer/Public Relations/Branding Director of precog Co., Ltd, the company behind THEATER for ALL.
Q: How did you get into producing events?
The first time I organized an event was when I was in the first grade of elementary school! My uncle wrote a script for my cousins and I to put on a play. When I was young, I used to be active as a solo artist performing on the street in a band. After I launched a fashion brand with my buddies at 26, I started to think about my concept of work as a relationship between the body and the city, and the body and history through organizing a fashion show every season. It became my life’s work to give shape to my concepts. I’ve organized music and performance events, but my interest is in the “power of the body” — not necessarily in a form that can be communicated in words, but rather in creating “theater” with the human presence, without a script or a venue.
Q: What inspired the True Colors FASHION project?
Fashion is an extension of our daily lives, and it has the power to reach people who do not usually have the opportunity to experience art. In addition, I have had the opportunity to create fashion shows with people with disabilities several times, and I have felt that the process of the creation has as much, or more, meaning than the result of the event, so I planned this documentary film with a strong desire to create a work of art that combines the dialogue about the physicality of people with disabilities and the design process of making clothes.
Image description: Kao Kanamori’s award-winning Clothes in Conversation documentary embedded via YouTube. The opening frame is an image of one of the models in the documentary, chibiMOEKO, a professional burlesque dancer with dwarfism.
Q:What was the selection process and criteria for the designers and models featured in TC Fashion?
For the documentary film project, we looked for models with unique bodies and personalities which would inspire the designers to create for body shapes and such individuality that fashion has never tackled before. The designers are undergraduates and graduates of the design school Coconogacco and were handpicked by the school’s founder Yoshikazu Yamagata.
Q:Share with us some memorable moments while putting the True Colors FASHION events together?
The fashion shoot at the end of the Clothes in Conversation documentary was the most impactful part of the filmmaking. Up to that point, it had not been an easy road for each of the models and designers in terms of verbal communication. But in the end, when the outfits were made and people wore them, there was a dialogue that surpassed everything, a dialogue that went beyond words, as if the models and designers were mutually “throwing stories” at each other.
Q:What do you hope for audiences around the world to take away from the fashion series of shows?
Through the power of diverse bodies, I want people to remember that the world is diverse to begin with. I want people to realize the importance of diversity in society and how it makes the world more vibrant. I hope that through the subject matter of fashion, people will be able to leap over the walls of prejudice with ease.
Image description: The third part of the True Colors FASHION series titled “The Future Is Now” embedded via YouTube. The series kicks off with a runway presentation and 11 dialogues between designers and models of diverse body types.
Q:Diversity and inclusion is having a big moment. Can you describe how issues around these ideals are gaining attention in Japan and how you feel about this?
Diversity and Inclusion have recently become trendy words in Japan, but I feel that it still takes a little more effort to change the way we think. Improvements in physical barriers, such as the installation of ramps, are becoming commonplace. However, people do not know how to assist people in need in person — this would be a good chance for both the person who does the helping and the person who receives the helping to learn things about each other. In creating opportunities for people to experience diversity, my hope is that having people support each other in society will become the norm.
Q: The message of True Colors Festival is “One World One Family”, what does this mean to you personally?
I believe it means that we can reach out to each other and transcend barriers such as race and disability. It means not being daunted by the idea that it’s a big world out there, and still wanting to talk to our neighbors, listen to them and enjoy discussions with them for the rest of our lives.
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True Colors Festival (TCF) presented by The Nippon Foundation is a series of performing arts events presented across geographies, in celebration of diversity and inclusion as “One World One Family.”
Through festivals since 2006 in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, and Japan, TCF has presented more than 1,100 performing artists from more than 30 countries and attracted more than 40,000 people.
The re-start of TCF 2020/2021 marks its commitment to tap on the power of the arts to connect artists and audiences in experiences such as music videos, film screenings, children’s programs, musicals, concerts, and workshops.