Laughing Geisha began with some self-taught screen printing in a cramped NYU dorm room—and technically launched less than a year ago—but carries influences collected throughout Nicole Tiedemann’s well-traveled life. Tiedemann remixes vintage jackets, sweats, and graphic tees with her painterly takes on Japanese art, backed by an intimate relationship with the culture itself. Below, the 23-year old designer talks influence, Harajuku, and streetwear’s desperate need for diversity (on all fronts).
Where are you from, and where are you now?
I was originally born in New York, then moved to Japan, then moved to Australia for my father’s job. We then moved to Los Angeles, where I lived up until I left for NYU. I graduated in 2020, and currently am residing in Los Angeles, working from my art studio.
What is your first memory with streetwear?
My first memories of streetwear are in Japan (my mother is Japanese, and I have relatives who live there, so I go at least once a year to visit). I walked through the back streets of Harajuku and people watched, admiring all of the experimental and innovative styles I saw. I fell in love with Japanese streetwear because designers could take western fashion trends—like the American grunge movement of the ‘90s—and reinvent it with a unique Japanese perspective.
If you had to compress your personal style into one outfit, what would it be?
I love anything workwear related, so a good pair of Dickies pants, a baggy tee, a puffer, and black low Air Force 1’s. I also love trucker hats and silver jewelry.
When did you first feel inspired to create your own designs?
Ever since I was little, I have always been a creative and loved painting and drawing. It wasn’t until I went abroad to London in my junior year of college that I realized I wanted to take things more seriously. I taught myself how to screenprint in my tiny dorm room, and have been printing ever since.
Describe your design aesthetic in one sentence, if you can.
Punk, gothic, hip hop…I also love to incorporate modern Japanese design like anime as well as traditional Japanese art. A mixture between western culture and traditional to modern Japanese culture.
Where do you feel the most inspired?
I feel most inspired when I am around other creatives who are madly in love with their craft, and possess an intense inner drive for what they do. There is something so intimate and personal about being in someone else’s work space—It’s almost like an escape into their mind. It’s a glimpse into one’s own reality and how their cultural, political, and social influences have shaped the way they see the world. It is such a beautiful thing.
Which living designer do you most admire?
Atsuhiko Mori, Jun Takahashi, Nigo, and Bobby Hundreds.
What’s your biggest creative or career milestone so far?
My first international Laughing Geisha order. Someone from Japan bought one of my hoodies, which was definitely my biggest career milestone so far.
How do you want people to feel when wearing your designs?
Unique, individualistic, confident…I want people to be able to style my stuff however they would like, as long as they feel good about themselves. My clothing is a form of art and expression, I want people to feel like each piece is personal and made just for them.
What would you most like to change about the current fashion industry?
I want to see more Asian streetwear designers. I have always felt an innate connection to Asian-owned brands—specifically Japanese brands, I relate to and understand the brand on a deep and personal level. I have such admiration for Japanese creatives, and want to see more emerging Asian designers recognized. In addition, the streetwear movement is primarily made up of men, which was a daunting reality for me since I am an Asian American female. I’ve always felt like I had to prove myself more than a man would have to. This is a disadvantage that women entering the streetwear industry have to face.