AKIRA STUDIO AND SYDNEY

Akira Isogawa is one of Australia’s most recognised fashion designers, with his Japanese-inspired collections now sought after in every fashion capital in the world. Penny Crasswell visited his Sydney studio to find out how design figures in his life and to find out his five favourite things and places in his adopted home town, Sydney

12 Oct 2011
 
 
 

Akira Isogawa has just returned from showing his latest collection in Paris and is busy preparing more catwalk shows. There are only five weeks to go until the event an his studio is abuzz with activity. Heading past the main room where his staff are busy at work, I am welcomed into a separate studio, where Akira spend much of his time hand-drawing ideas for his collection. 

 
He is softly-spoken and there are moments of silence where he concentrates on questions and decides how best to answer them. However once he gets going, it is obvious that he is passionate about his work.
When asked about the mayhem involved in a creating a collection in under two months he makes it clear that even though his work is shown regularly, twice a year in Paris and once a year in Melbourne – the work is not made to fit around the shows, Akira explains:
“Even though I call it a new collection, for me, showing new work is a continuation of what I have done previously. I can’t just cut the thread from one collection to the other, because I am presenting who I am through my work.”
Akira’s work is very attuned to who he is. 
 
He moved to Sydney as a young man, studying fashion at Sydney Institute of Technology and then launched his Sydney boutique in 1993. But even though his career has been in Australia, he is still very connected to his Japanese roots.
He fondly remembers growing up in Kyoto, where he was ”surrounded by fabrics,” including the kimonos that his mother and grandmother wore. In turn his designs are heavily based on this, taking his inspiration from patterns colours, and fabrics of vintage kimonos. Taking these cues, he creates contemporary designs with modern shapes designed to be practical for the modern working woman: “ The women tend to like what I do are confident and independent. I want to make something that those women feel is useful and comfortable to wear. I’m inspired by strong women.”
Akira’s love of craftsmanship means that beautifully-worked textiles are also key to his work. One of the pieces in his current collection features hand-painted wooden sequins sourced from a trip to the sub-continent. 
 
 
“I made a trip to India and I found a textile manufacturer who produced prints, hand-crafted textiles such as beading and embroidery,” he says. The sequins were then stitched onto silk, with Akira specifying the pattern often found in vintage kimonos.
They were even able to b stitched in such a way that the sequins can be flipped to reveal a different coloured surface beneath. The effect is beautifully tactile.
“I didn’t stitch the sequins myself, but I have been fortunate to be able to be in touch with artisans who are able to produce such beautiful work.” 
 
The next question “What role does design play in your life?” I s a difficult one to answer.
After having a think about it, we side-step he issue and the conversation turns to Akira’s collaboration with Designer Rugs. In his second collection for the rug manufacturer, he created a range based on contemporary variations on traditional Japanese floral patterns.
The cross-over from designing clothes to designing rugs was not something that he was worried about. For Akira, it doesn’t matter whether you’re designing clothes of if you are an artisan or even rug designer for that matter, or an architect – it’s about whether you have the right aesthetic sense. 
 
“Designing clothing, objects, interiors, a house or a building – there isn’t too much difference between them, Marc Newson, started designing chairs,but now he is with Samsonite designing suitcases or with Qantas designing airport lounges or the NYE 2012 with Imagination. If you have a particular aesthetic, you can break boundaries – you can design anything you like,”
And it’s not just about designing. Akira believes that he has a connection to design that goes beyond what he car create. He is also in tune, not only with objects he loves, but also every day objects that he uses all the time. 
 
  
FAVOURITES  
 
FAVOURITES
No. 1 Sydney Botanical Gardens
I think the botanical gardens have got the best view of Sydney. Sydney is not a small city by any means, but nature co-exists nicely within the urban environment. 
 
 
 
FAVOURITES
No. 2 Vintage Kimono
My work is often inspired by vintage kimono. It’s a memory from my childhood- maybe I’m a bit homesick, but when I think about my kimono I really feel in touch with my origins. 
 
 
FAVOURITES No. 3 Akira cut-out dolls collection by Christiane
In 2004 I was asked to exhibit my work at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. They told me I could present anything I wanted and I thought ‘What am I going to do with this big room with high ceilings/’
I wanted Christiane Lehmann, who is an artist I used to work in our shop, to work with me for this specific project. We went to the markets together to find inspiration. She pointed out this little cut –out doll and I said that is great inspiration let’s dress these little doll. 
Interview taken from Habitus, issue #1