Maiko Takeda talks about the subtle dramas created by her otherworldly headdresses.

Maiko Takeda’s Head Games.

The milliner about the subtle dramas created by her headdresses.

Text: Zofia Ciechowska
Photos: Dan Wilton
Maiko Takeda adjusts one of the headpieces that Björk wore on her tour this year.

Between art, millinery, jewellery, design and fashion.

It is very difficult to pin the highly talented artist Maiko Takeda down: this woman of (literally) many hats works on the cusp between art, millinery, jewellery, design and fashion. The recent graduate’s creations have been seen by people all around the world as Björk wears them on stage during her tour this year, leaving people in awe of their gravity-defying forms and morphing colours. Raised in Tokyo and educated at London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins and Royal College of Art, Maiko works with extreme precision when honing down concepts and methodically assembling her surreal pieces. Her work has recently been showcased at London Fashion Week and later this autumn you’ll be able to see her work at MuseumsQuartier Wien.

Dancing with Björk.

After a bumpy cab ride we seek shelter from the rain in what was once an old brick timber mill in the heart of London’s Islington. We sip tea and take in the stunning views of colourful canal boats drifting to the west and London’s rising skyscrapers to the east.

In a moment of complete ease, Maiko recounts a situation in which she found herself dancing to folk music with Björk in a pub on the outskirts of Dublin. No one knew who they were. It was magical.

Why do humans put things on their heads?

Wearing something on your head is traditionally seen as a symbol of status and power, it makes you look bigger, taller and more important. It’s a very powerful body part to put something on. I think in terms of fashion, it really transforms you into a different person. By covering your face or eyes, or putting something on your head, you can easily acquire a new personality.

Maiko Takeda's intricate creations are made of laser-cut acetate, held together by minuscule silver rings that are hardly visible to the eye.
Her work has been compared to

Sharing surreal moments.

What do you want your wearers to feel when they put on your pieces?

I want to create surreal, subtle dramas around the person wearing my piece and the people near them. I imagine the people who wear my pieces want to experience or share surreal moments in their daily lives, at a party or in the privacy of their own home. I want my pieces to give people those magical experiences. It’s also amazing to learn how other people interpret my work, which has been compared to “Hellraiser”, hedgehogs, caterpillars and acupuncture.

An opera as inspiration.

Your headpieces were inspired by Philip Glass’ opera “Einstein on the Beach”. What do you find so compelling in this piece?

I can’t really explain it in words, but it had a powerful effect on me when I saw this opera at the Barbican Centre. I went to see it a second time, in Amsterdam. It is a very repetitive, non-stop physical work. The actors move like machines, but at the same time you can see them sweating and running out of breath. I found that very interesting to watch.

Her inspiration
Maiko Takeda working on a piece.

Wearing headpieces on stage.

What did it feel like having Björk appear on stage wearing one of your headpieces? Is there anyone else you’d like to design for?

I couldn’t believe it! The first piece she wore actually covers the whole face, so I wasn’t sure if it would be comfortable for her to sing in. I went to bed thinking she probably wouldn’t wear it in the end.

In the morning I woke up to seeing pictures of Björk on the internet wearing my headpiece. That was the most rewarding moment for me. There were many tears and sleepless nights as I worked on my collection, so that was the best encouragement I could ever receive. Besides Björk, I would love to design for Tilda Swinton.

Jeweller extraordinaire Maiko Takeda wears one of her headpieces.

From Japan to London.

How has your move from Japan to London influenced you as an artist?

It influenced me in many ways. In Japan there are very few immigrants. At my school we were all similar in terms of appearance – hair, eyes, skin tone – but we also had similar aesthetics and a similar way of seeing things. When I moved to London, I really felt more comfortable being myself than I had in Japan. In a way, I can be more Japanese here. When it comes to my work though, I never try to be too Japanese. I personally don’t like bringing my own cultural references into my work, I think it’s a very obvious device, and too easy. Having said this, I obviously can see that my work is quite Japanese, but it’s not intentional.

Differences between millinery traditions.

Can you see differences between Japanese and British millinery traditions?

Millinery and the culture of wearing hats is a British tradition. Japanese people wear a lot of soft hats in daily life, which is interesting to me. In early Japanese history, the emperor would often wear a flat object on his head, it was made of natural fibres, unlike the crowns of the English monarchs which were made out of gold and jewels.

her creative toolkit.
An otherwordly headdress.

Maiko Takedo about her future.

What do you hope life has in store for you in the future?

I’d love to be making pieces that make me happy, seeing as I’m really self-critical.

It would be great if I could keep on making pieces that create these subtle dramas and experiences for the people who wear them.

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