Born in Kyoto, Japan, Akira Isogawa moved to Sydney, Australia in 1986 without much knowledge of the country and the English language. By 1993, he opened his standalone boutique, and five years later presented his collection in Paris to international buyers. Known for his contemporary take on traditional Japanese designs and fabrics, Akira creates breathtakingly soft and romantic silhouettes with draped layers of textures and fabrics. Prior to his retrospective exhibition as part of Telstra Perth Fashion Festival, the designer spoke to BAZAAR‘s Fashion Stylist Debby Kwong about his first fashion memory, style icons and the power of social media.
The Akira woman… often has her own particular mindset. She tends to be independent, not concerned about opinions of others, she believes in her choices and decisions.
I am inspired by… any kind of activity. It doesn’t sound exciting but I think every moment you experience, which can be as simple as hearing the sound of nature and the breeze. You keep your eyes open and need to sense what’s going on around you.
My first fashion memory… was when I was four years old. One afternoon my mother was preparing dinner and I grabbed one of the kitchen towels she used. I started to observe the size of it and the shape of it and I clearly remember I wanted to actually wear it. So I wrapped this cloth around my body, but being a kid you know, I was tiny so I was able to drape or wrap it around my waist and wear it. And my mother told me, “Yes, that’s what you always used to do.”
My personal style is… a little bit in between. I hope I’m not contradicting myself but sometimes I do feel that I don’t care about fashion at all, really not at all. I care about style and invest money on expensive knitwear and at the same time I just find something that I don’t care if something is worn or torn, I mean I’ll wash it and wear that but I think I like things that are extreme.
Being Japanese… I’m very organised. The Japanese think about what’s going to happen, not just next week, but 6 months in advance. At work, I try my best to introduce introduce Japanese characteristics of being organised and a little bit serious.
A great style icon is… anything that Rei Kawakubo makes. She is not afraid of making something that you’ve never seen before, it’s a bit wabi-sabi, and that element of surprise is very exciting and makes me feel that I want to wear it.
My life mantra is… do less and get more. My parents were very religious and when I was in kindergarten and university, I learned about Zen Buddhism.
Social media is… amazing. I mean, when I first went to Paris and showed the collection, we were faxing invitations to our friends and clients—that has all changed now. I think it’s really positive, but at the same time I step back and do not want to be on social media 24 hours a day, because that world is a virtual reality.
My advice to young designers is… Stay true to your vision on a daily basis and work hard, because you can’t show anything if you don’t work hard. Invest 16 hours a day into your work if needed. It may not pay off but you just got to believe it, then it’ll happen.
Text by Debby Kwong