In Akira’s Unique World

By Kati Turcu
Kati Turcu
Kati Turcu
August 5, 2010 Updated: September 29, 2015

When an Australian fashion designer is such a legend that Australia Post will produce a stamp of him, then it is time to know more. Akira Isogawa introduces The Epoch Times readers to his unique world below.

Fashion designer Akira Isogawa, one of Australia's most loved, if not iconic, designers.  (Kati Turcu/The Epoch Times)
Fashion designer Akira Isogawa, one of Australia's most loved, if not iconic, designers. (Kati Turcu/The Epoch Times)
“I have never experienced running out of ideas, but I have a problem with having too many ideas in one collection and I think: ‘My God, I don’t even understand myself.’ And then I have to streamline afterwards,” said fashion designer Akira Isogawa, one of Australia’s most loved, if not iconic, designers. And nothing says iconic more than being named an Australian Legend and being honoured by Australia Post with your image on a commemorative postage stamp.

Mr Isogawa’s ideas are no doubt fuelled by his upbringing in Japan, but what is also clear is that he has tried and largely succeeded in defining a new aesthetic in fashion design.

Words have always been rather inconsequential when describing good design. If it is good, then why state the obvious? If not, no amount of analysis will provide what is lacking.

(Courtesy of Akira.)
(Courtesy of Akira.)
But we can allow ourselves to be fascinated just a little and try to see just what is it that makes a great eye and mind for design tick.

“I think my love for fashion comes from perhaps my childhood memory of seeing my family or my relatives wearing beautiful textiles for special occasions. And I love the ceremonies and I remember when my aunty is getting married, she was in a red kimono and then the ivories and then the white, it looked very theatrical.”

When Akira turned six years old, his mother told him that he could wear a boy’s kimono for a special summer festival. “I was so excited. I remember, I was already really liking the idea of textiles, or appreciation for colours and textures, and a certain motif that appears in traditional textiles. So I guess I have a love for fashion since I was really young,” recounts Mr Isogawa.

There is a certain intuitive feel to Akira’s clothes and a uniquely demure femininity that is immediately recognisable, owing largely to Japanese culture and his own appreciation for the feminine.

“I really do appreciate authenticity and honesty and feminine side of actually women’s quality,” he explains. Although, the obsession with being thin baffles Mr Isogawa. “Everyone wants to look so slim. I find it really hard to get my head around it, really. The state of mind, that is what counts for me, not necessary physicality.

“I hope what I do is not just ageless and timeless, but also, I hope it can transcend the size and the shape of the body as well, because I think that a size 14 lady could be actually beautiful as well as size 8 models.”

His love of different cultures sees Akira rummaging in Paris’s flea markets as much as taking inspiration from Sydney’s multicultural melting pot, Chinese embroidery and then back again into Japanese origami (paper folding).

 (Courtesy of Akira)
(Courtesy of Akira)
His approach to the design process itself reflects Mr Isogawa’s unique mindset. Rather than cutting a pattern, he will often use one piece of fabric to drape over the mannequin and then, through folding and other methods, he will see how it falls to make a woman’s shape, he says.

“I guess that’s quite modern and quite contemporary in terms of actually making patterns. I just try my best to let fabrics be, rather than training fabric to shape it in a way that’s artificial.”

Among his many projects was an exhibition of his garment construction techniques, staged at Object Gallery as part of the 2003 Sydney Festival. It was the most successful show in the gallery’s history.

Since 1998, he has been showcasing his Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter collections in Paris, while continuing to gather awards in Australia.

As for his personal vision for his creations, Akira Isogawa says: “I hope what I design is ageless, like something you could share with your daughter, with your mother. You can wear it now in your 20s and you can wear in 20 years’ time in your 30s or 40s. It should transcend time.”

Mr Isogawa’s latest autumn-winter collection is monochromatic and based on the transience of nature: “Black, charcoal and grey, and ivory and white, which can be pretty, but at the same time, if the winter is long, you gotta wait months and months till it gets warm, till spring comes. And somehow, spring does come.”

So here come the reds, oranges and yellows!

Kati Turcu