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"The purest form of art evokes ones emotion" says fashion designer Akira Isogawa, in describing the ideology behind his brand. Wearers should be "moved by what they wear" and "I try to express timeless beauty and femininity that emanates from your inner soul." The colour pattern, in his latest collection, SS13, is quite bold and vibrant, inspired by Australia's light and unique fauna, but also "sourcing inspiration and developing textiles in Kyoto, Japan or Ubud, Indonesia for example." Akira tells us he tries "to incorporate some traditional Japanese techniques that are applied in textile design. Shibori is one example I have been using for my collections and has become somewhat of a signature. Shibori is a hand dyed technique that originated in Japan."

"A garment can transcend, 
giving it a soul."

It’s the quality of the hand dyed craftsmanship that really sets the Akira brand apart from other RTW labels, as is the importance Akira places on "paying respect to the environment in which we live. It is our responsibility to let the next generation survive. I visit manufacturers and oversee the process and methods of production." Akira is renowned for his innovative manipulation of fabric, which we see in the hand painted silks of SS13, fuchsia pinks, burnt oranges and deep reds evoking images of vintage kimonos and hand crafted embellishments and embroidery adding exquisite depth and texture.

"Distressing fabrics and 
alchemically treating them, 
gives the feeling of already 
‘being loved’, thus evoking 
emotion. Even one-off fabrics 
found in flea markets can be 
given new life."

Whilst enjoying some Padang dishes in Indonesia, which originated from Sumatra Island, Akira tells us he "really likes" and has "never got tired of Japanese food. Salmon Sashimi with Wasabi and soy is always refreshing." He recently saw a film shot in Paris called "Before Sunset," whilst in France and "all of the dialogue is something you could relate to, this unassuming film has stayed in my mind for quite some time." Travelling, meeting people and films are some of the sources of inspiration behind his work which have even led him to create hand woven designer rugs. Isogawa’s international status rose in 1998, when he started showing his collections in Paris and perhaps the film "Before Sunset" evoked strong memories of his first few visits there.

"I translate fabrics into soft 
and romantic silhouettes, 
using natural fabrics like 
silks and cottons, which are 
kind to the skin."

Born and raised in Japan, he has held an appreciation for fashion from a young age. Venturing to Australia fifteen years ago, saw the passion turn into a serious career and he opened a store in the early 90's. He is an avid collector of vintage fabrics and kimonos and there are many artists Akira favours and admires, "If I may choose one, then Christiane Lehman is one of the artists I have been working with for my collections. I met her when I arrived in Australia. Her view of the world inspires me." Working with small workshops, the approach is very much hands on and "I personally relate to all who work within the place. It appears these small artisan workshops have a much better understanding of our needs, especially creatively."

"Richly embellished fabrics echo 
Eastern influences, and I have 
great respect for their traditions.
Inspiration can be found from 
the past – re-using vintage 
textiles and sometimes creating 
replicas of them, incorporated 
with specific craftsmanship."

There is a fine line between fashion and art, RTW and Couture. Akira tells us "when you design RTW, you have to consider that all the styles will be manufactured. It ought to perform and function. Couture collections to me are more like creating an art piece. There is a sense of a "One off" quality to couture. Designing ballet costumes for the Australian Ballet was a fulfilling experience, creatively. It was like designing couture pieces endlessly. It inspired my own RTW collections."

"I see craftsmanship as an 
implement with which to realise 
one’s vision. Past, present and 
future; that slogan continues in 
almost everything around which 
my work evolves."

Akira studied fashion design at the Sydney Institute of Technology and is excited about how "fashion changes and never stays the same. The constant evolution of styles makes it exciting," and his own approach has evolved and is evolving. "I work intuitively and it is really an organic process. Now, I work with fewer styles in my collections and spend more time in the development of individual styles." He has won a string of awards, exhibited at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art, designed costumes for the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Sydney Dance Company, whilst continuing to show at Paris and Australian fashion weeks. He is currently working on a new collection, which will launch next March. To see more of his work and design philosophy, visit:

Interview by Nardip Singh

Images provided by
M + M Management
Copyright © Akira
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