The Fashion Folk S02 ep4 : Akira Isogawa, Isogawa Fashion, [Sydney]
Interview with Akira Isogawa
Akira Isogawa is one of Australia’s most celebrated designers. Born in Kyoto Japan, Akira moved to Australia in 1986 where he studied fashion design at the Sydney Institute of Technology, drawing inspiration from contemporary Japanese design. Since 1998, Akira has shown his collections in Paris, where he presents Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter collections to international buyers each year. He has achieved international recognition for his exquisite contemporary designs, which are sought after in every major fashion capital throughout the world. Akira continues to maintain a strong presence in Sydney, where he has shown his Resort collections during Australian Fashion Week since 1996. He has four stand alone boutiques in Australia – in Woollahra and the Strand Arcade, Sydney; the GPO in Melbourne; and, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. Since being named Designer of the Year and Womenswear Designer of the Year at the Australian Fashion Industry Awards in 1999 Akira has received a string of awards. In 2007 Akira was awarded the inaugural Australian Fashion Laureate Award for his contribution to the Australian Fashion Industry. In 2006 Akira received the Award for Fashion Excellence. And, in 2005 he was honoured by Australia Post and his image appeared on an ‘Australian Legend’ commemorative postage stamp – to name just a few.
Spiritually Akira means in Japanese "Sun and the Moon", which means light.
I arrived in Sydney when I was 20 on a working holiday visa and working as a waiter,
kitchen hand, tour guide and so on- 15 years ago. Then I decided that I would actually like
to get involved in something more creative and that is when I enrolled myself in the fashion
college of Sydney.
I am based in Sydney which is really a multi-cultural city and I tend to be away from the
idea of that 'its got to be that, its got to be this' when I design, I try to be as free spirited as
I respect the fact that Australia being so far away affects a lot of the designers now,
especially with the new generation there is fresh power - a willingness to find its own
Nowadays I believe that it really doesn't matter where you are, as long as you are willing to
travel with what you do, that is really all that counts.
KM – Do you take your collection to Paris?
KM – When do you exhibit in Pairs in October and …
October and March.
KM – Are you an artist or a designer? How do you characterise yourself?
A bit of both - I am determined that I am a designer who designs collection, but I have a
love for art. Within my collection there is always an element, which I feel true to myself, and
then there is another part of it, which is maybe commercially oriented.
There is a different level of emotional stage that I go through while designing; sometimes it
is like extreme pain and sometimes there is extreme joy.
Designing, for me is a form of self expression so I do if for myself first of all and then
imagine who could wear what I believe in at the moment, how I feel right now. For women
KM – So you don't look at the women first and then….
Not really. I look at myself first and it is also inspiration of whatever you are going through.
It has to be practical for the female. It also has to be flattering on the body.
The inspiration comes from me, within myself but then when I get to the stage of
determining, or deciding what has to be in the collection then it is really a group decision.
And then when it comes to the pricing and so on, I am no longer involved…. I am pretty
much detached from that area.
KM – With the Japanese styles that I have seen I don't see this overt sexuality, I see more
mystery. How do you explain that?
I think it has a lot to do with styling. Traditionally Japanese clothes are shapeless - it is
called Kimono. It is based on a square format as far as construction is concerned. Also
there is a relationship between the fabric and the body - the space between fabric and
body. When the fabric moves, it animates and generates a spontaneous design like itself.
My idea of covering is seductive. When you hide things - something unseen, which makes
you feel like you want to see it - for me that is more desirable than actually showing
I definitely see myself as being heavily influenced by Japanese culture in that sense or
Eastern culture, but at the same time I believe in something new. I am not designing
Kimonos - I am designing for the 21st Century.
Couture dresses are constructed by draping on a mannequin so that it shapes beautifully
according to the body shape, whereas Japanese designs are more set about the shape.
KM – They are not worried about the body shape?
No not really, not at all. They are more focused on colour and texture and the fabric itself.
I am really interested in mixing those two elements together and fusing them to create
Usually I source inspiration while I travel like when I am in India and visit some hand
embroiders and see what is happening and then I come back and start receiving swatches
of fabric and then I sort of bring all those little swatches together and then …
KM – It talks to you.
That is when I can start mixing things, colours and so on. And understand exactly what it
For example, if it is some sort of partially textured fabric then where it could be and if there
is a partial body in the fabric then maybe it would be fantastic because it could add some
body on the shoulder for instance. And that is how I start to sketch.
KM – You build from there.
Australia being young, there is a certain energy that you feel that you can do anything
really. You create your own recipe.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Akira Isogawa, Isogawa Fashion, Sydney