The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Kodue Hibino
Kodue Hibino
The costume artist Kodue Hibino was born in Shizuoka Prefecture in 1958. In 1982 she graduated from the Visual Communications course of the Design Department of the Fine Arts School of the National University of Fine Arts and Music, Tokyo. Since her professional debut in 1988, Hibino has continued to created unique costume designs for magazines, posters, TV commercials, theater, dance, ballet and TV with a different sense from usual fashion designers. In 1984 she won the Encouragement Prize of the Japan Graphic Exhibition. In 1989 she won the Annual New Artist Award of the Japan Graphic Exhibition. In 1995 Hibino won the New Artist ward and the Shiseido Encouragement Award of the Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix. In 1997 she changed her artist name from Kodue Naito to Kodue Hibino.
From August to October of 2007 an exhibition of her work titled “Hibino Kodue Works – Tashihiki no Anbai (Balancing Plus and Minus)” at the Contemporary Art Center of the Art Tower Mito. This large-scale exhibition showed a wide range of works from Hibino’s 20-year career as a costume artist and more recent works in furniture and household goods design.
13rd NODA MAP production Kiru
(December, 2007 – January, 2008 at Bunkamura Theatre Cocoon)
Written and directed by Hideki Noda
Costume designed by Kodue Hibino
Photo: Masahiko Yako
1st NODA MAP production Kiru
(January – Febrary, 1994 at Bunkamura Theatre Cocoon)
Written and directed by Hideki Noda
Costume designed by Kodue Naito (Hibino's maiden name)
Photo: Kazunori Ito
an overview
Artist Interviewアーティストインタビュー
Pioneering a new realm of creative design   The world of costume artist Kodue Hibino  
In the 1980s when magazines as media made a big impact and set the trends of the day, costume artist Kodue Hibino rose to fame as her creative designs graced the covers of fashion magazines. At the time, she was the only one to use the term “costume artist.” In the 1990s she designed costumes for the theater productions of Hideki Noda, a playwright who represents the artistic directions of the ’80s, her creations gave expression to Noda’s fictional worlds. Hibino’s costumes have brought fresh ideas to film and television and even new-wave Kabuki by contemporary theater directors, and she has also taken on the challenge of industrial design for home electronics. Shortly after a large-scale exhibition celebrating the 20th year of her career as a costume artist, we spoke to Hibino about her art and the course it has taken.
(Interviewer: Kumiko Ohori)

Presently you are engaged in a wide range of work in design, extending well beyond your primary field of costume design. How did you become interested in design in the first place?
I liked drawing pictures from early in my childhood, but I wasn’t the type who would rather spend all my time alone doing oil paintings and never get a job. At first I wanted to be a manga (comic book) artist and make that my job, but when I was a child there weren’t many information sources like there are today and I didn’t even know the word “design” or that there was such a profession. But it happened that one of my classmates had an older sister who was applying to the design department of an art college and it was she who told me that design was an interesting profession. That was when I first became interested in the idea of becoming a designer.

Eventually you were accepted to the Design course of the Fine Arts Department of the National University of Fine Arts and Music, Tokyo (Geidai). Could you tell us something of what you learned there?
At Geidai they teach you about “artistic expression” in the large sense of the word, but in the case of design, the courses don’t teach you about the “how to” skills of the actual design work. And, looking back, I think it was actually better that way. So, the most important thing I got out of art school may be the friends I made there. The information I got from talking with the people I met there who were my same age but had knowledge and individuality that were new to me was always stimulating and inspiring.
I was in college during the 1980s when pop art was at its peak, the popular artists were Andy Warhol and Lichtenstein and in the movies it was American Graffiti; American culture was at the forefront and there was an enjoyable atmosphere to so much of what was going on at the time. It seemed like a waste to spend all your time holed up in the classroom in front of a canvas because there were so many new and stimulating things to find if you went out and around the city. That was the kind of era it was, in my opinion. There was an emergence of fashion and designer brands in Japan at the time, whereas before there had only been the Ivy League look or plain clothes. All of a sudden there was a huge variety of design coming out.

At that time, you and several of your Geidai friends formed a creative group called Diamond Mama, didn’t you?
That group name was the idea of Katsuhiko Hibino (Kodue Hibino’s partner). We were a group of students who felt that they didn’t fit in the academic environment of university, and were considered a nuisance by the professors (laughs). We held a few group exhibitions but mostly it was just an excuse to get together and talk, and it proved to be a very stimulating environment for me.
That is the way I spent what was a truly enjoyable four undergraduate year. It wasn’t until just before graduation that I was confronted with the harsh realities ahead. As I began to search for a job, I was shocked to realize that in the advertising industry that I wanted to work in there were no companies recruiting people with my background [in design].
Because magazines were the exciting media at that time, I ended up going around to the publishers of some of my favorite magazines. At the time I was really anxious yet and I just had the idea that it would be nice to work for a magazine I liked. Unlike the usual job-hunter, I went around with my portfolio of works and a desire to know how the magazines I like were actually put together, so I was the one who asked the questions and listened to their explanations.

Were you interested in clothes and fashion at that time?
It wasn’t that clear a thing at that stage. But, as I mentioned earlier, it was a time when the first designer brands were emerging in Japan and there was also the new trend of imported used jeans and other clothes from the U.S., so I had the feeling that interesting things were happening in the fashion and clothing industries. As my graduation project, I had done designs that might be considered patterns for clothing fabrics, but at the time I was only thinking that I would like to work as an illustrator or a magazine layout designer.

When was it that you actually began to design clothes?
In fact, I don’t really recall very clearly when it was. After graduation I would do some costumes when [Katsuhiko] Hibino would mount a performance work, and would help out on the costumes for the theater group Buriki no Jihatsudan, that I came to know from going to theater performances. And, to tell the truth, it had become a job for me before I was really aware of the fact.
In my profile I write that I began working as a costume artist from 1988, but actually that is just the time when I came to accept the fact that that is what I was doing professionally. That year I terminated the illustration and other creative work that I was doing with the intention of concentrating solely on clothes design as my profession.

What made you decide to concentrate solely on clothes design?
Stated simply, I thought I had no talent for anything else (laughs). I had not seen anyone else designing clothes like I did, so I sort of had the feeling, “Hey, this could be OK” (laughs). With the other types of work I did there was always some degree of stress involved, but with clothes I felt that I could express my own originality and do the kinds of things I wanted. Although it was work, it was something that I could really enjoy. That was a certainly an important factor.
Also, by taking the job description “costume artist” I felt that I was giving myself the freedom to do really anything that I chose; anything goes. I had been doing stage costumes, but to tell you the truth, with my education in design and my original intentions of working in something related to advertising, I really had no intention of becoming a stage costume designer.

Some of your early representative work was for the covers of the information magazine Travail (a weekly job magazine for women published by Recruit Co. since 1980). The voluminous costumes in pastel colors that you created for the cover models of that magazine were highly acclaimed as one of the most notable developments in the magazine culture of that period. That work for Travail that made the cover models into “living objet” figures seems to be very different from the theater costumes you designed, considering the fact that “mobility” for acting is the primary functional requirement of stage costumes.
As creations, the two were fundamentally the same for me. That is why I used to cause the actors a lot of headaches by making costumes that were heavy and hard to move in when I first began doing theater costumes (laughs). The complaints seldom reached my ears but Hideki Noda, the theater person I have worked with longest, couldn’t help by comment a couple of times how hot and hard to move in my costumes were. Hearing that, I promised to try to make them lighter next time, and in that way I gradually learned to make costumes better suited to the stage. If there is any significant difference between the two types of designs it lies in the fact that with stage costumes there is a story and a character involved.
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