Taro Hanabusa is not your average dentist, Japanese or otherwise. With a fondness for body modification and a desire for a non-dull life, he started daydreaming one day about how to mashup his avocation with his chosen career. "I was working as a dentist and thinking that it would be interesting if my hobby and work life could overlap," he explains. "That was the beginning of the idea — the desire to combine my dentistry work with body modification. I always thought that it would be dull if I just continued being a dentist my whole life, and I’d always wanted to try something different."
I'd say he succeeded - wildly - creating a category of jewelry so novel there wasn't (yet) even a term for it. "There’s a word I’ve been using to try and encapsulate the brand," he continues about his somewhat difficult-to-define Fangophilia creations. "I guess ‘body extension accessories’ would be closest. The idea of extending or developing certain parts of your body beyond the limits of the surface — continuing the line of the body part, that kind of nuance."
His intensely-customized pieces start with a mold of whatever body part someone wants immortalized in silver, be it an ear, cheek, kneecap, finger, or, of course, teeth. Hanabusa then uses gypsum plaster to make a model, which he covers with wax and casts with silver metal. A skill he learned in dental school rather than in a class on jewelry design. "To be honest, I wasn’t that interested in jewelry per se," he continues. "What I was always really interested in was tattoos, and piercings. So I wasn’t interested in ordinary accessories, but rather body modification. I feel the accessories I make have this element of body modification."
Hanabusa's initial customers were the trendy Harajuku kids who - like Lady Gaga - enjoy shopping at cult-fave Dog, which is known for its selection of "outlandish" vintage and upcycled fashion. But accessories this juicy couldn't remain a local secret for long. This cool campaign directed by Shunsuke Okabe doesn't hurt, either. Although he's toying with the idea of creating a few pieces that can be bought off the shelf, the heart of his work, as he sees it, is customized one-of-a-kind. "It’s difficult for my accessories to be stocked at shops since it requires the customers’ molded parts. This is also what defines my accessories too, and I don’t really want to have that aspect compromised."
- Lesley Scott