Akira Isogawa Fashion Designer – Japanese inspired fashion

Exquisite, contemporary womenswear from Akira Isogawa – one of Australia’s most celebrated fashion designers

View recent Akira Isogawa Clothing Collections on Australian Fashion Review Blog
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Born in Kyoto, Japan in 1964, Akira Isogawa moved to Australia at the age of 21 to study Fashion Design at the Sydney Institute of Technology, drawing inspiration from contemporary Japanese design. Akira Isogawa set up his namesake womenswear label, Akira, in 1993 with the opening of his first boutique in Woollahra, Sydney. He began to show his seasonal collections at Mercedes Australian Fashion Week in 1996, deciding to also show his collections in Paris each year since 1998.

He quickly became one of most celebrated Australian fashion designers, known for his feminine and romantic fashion aesthetic. His work has been warmly received by fashion industry and critics, drawing favourable reviews from leading figures such as Anna Piaggi and media including The New York Times and US Vogue.

Akira Isogawa - Australian-based Fashion Designer

Japanese-born Fashion Designer Akira Isogawa

The Akira fashion label is not only at the forefront of the Australian fashion industry, but also has been embraced by the Australian arts sector. Throughout the history of the brand, it has taken part in number of high profile fashion exhibitions, perhaps most notably in 2004 with the opening of Akira Isogawa: Printemps Été at the National Gallery of Victoria. It was the first solo fashion and textiles exhibition by an Australian fashion designer presented at a major institution (as of 2011 the exhibition was still on tour in Asia). Additionally, Akira Isogawa has designed costumes for four Sydney Dance Company productions, and most recently designing costumes for the Australian Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet.

His exquisite work for the fashion and arts industries has made Akira Isogawa one of Australia’s most celebrated fashion designers and Akira one of the countries most successful fashion labels. As of 2011, the Akira fashion label had four standalone boutiques in its native Australia as well as being sought after and stocked in some of the finest boutiques in every major fashion capital throughout the world.

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Akira Fashion Label: The history of the Japanese-born fashion designer

  • 1986: Japanese-born Akira Isogawa arrives in Australia to study Fashion Design at the Sydney Institute of Technology.
  • 1993: Akira Isogawa founds the Akira fashion label with the opening of the first Akira Isogawa boutique in Woollahra, Sydney.
  • 1996: The Akira fashion label presents at Australian Fashion Week, Sydney, for the first time with the 1996/1997 range, entitled New Generation Collection.
  • 1998: The fashion of Akira Isogawa is featured at the Fashion of the Year retrospective exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. His work is also featured at the Museum of Contemporary Art, also in Sydney. Also this year, starting a long standing career creating costumes for the arts, Akira Isogawa collaborates with the Sydney Dance Company, designing costumes for Salone.
  • 1999: Akira Isogawa receives the Australian Designer of the Year and Womenswear Designer of the Year accolades at the Australian Fashion Industry Awards. Also this year, Akira Isogawa once again collaborates with the Sydney Dance Company, by designing costumes for Air and Other Invisible Forces. Additionally, the Akira fashion label features in several exhibitions, including the Fashion of the Year retrospective at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum and the Tokyo Vogue Exhibition ate the Brisbane City Gallery.
  • 2001: In a busy year collaborating with the arts industry, Akira Isogawa is an exhibitor at the MCA Unpacked exhibit at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art; and Australian Designers Collection at Melbourne’s Crown Casino; as well as a solo Akira Isogawa exhibition at Sydney’s Customs House. Additionally, the label designs the performance outfits for the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
  • 2002: This year sees the third collaboration with the Sydney Dance Company, with the Akira fashion label designing the costumes for their production, Ellipse. Unsurprisingly, the brand is once again featured in several exhibitions including, the Sourcing The Muse Exhibition at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, the Dressing & Dreaming Exhibition at Sydney’s Sherman Gallery and the Australian Fashion & Textile Exhibition in Seoul, Korea.
  • 2003: It’s another busy year contributing to the Australian arts industry for the Akira fashion label, once again designing the performance outfits for the Australian Chamber Orchestra as well as contributing to a number of exhibitions. Notable exhibitions this year include the MAC Deck of Cards exhibition at New York’s Gagosian Gallery and Sydney’s Art Gallery of NSW, and the 10th Anniversary exhibition of the Japan Foundation Cultural Centre at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.
  • 2004: The Akira Boutique store opens in GPO Melbourne and the Akita Printemps Été Exhibition launches at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
  • 2005: Akira Isogawa is honoured by Australia Post with his image appearing on a commemorative Australian Legend postage stamp, as well as receiving the Best Australian Designer Award from Prix De Marie Claire. Also this year, Akira once again collaborates with the Sydney Dance Company to present a special event at Sydney’s Australian Fashion Week, as well designing the costumes for Grand. Additionally, a new Akira Boutique opens in The Strand Arcade in Sydney.

Akira for the Sydney Dance Company's Production, Grand - 2005

Some of the Costumes Designed by Akira Isogawa for the Sydney Dance Company’s Production, Grand.

  • 2006: This year the automotive industry recognises the influence Akira Isogawa has, with Honda making him a brand ambassador. Also this year Akira receives the Award for Fashion Excellence at the National Retail Association Fashion Design Awards.
  • 2007: Akira Isogawa is awarded the inaugural Australian Fashion Laureate Award for his contribution to the Australian fashion industry.
  • 2008: It is another year full of exhibitions for Akira Isogawa, most notably with Seamless: Where Costume Meets Dance Exhibition at Melbourne’s Art Centre, which featured costumes from Air and Other Invisible Forces, Salome, Ellipse and Grand. Additionally, some of Akira’s pieces were included as part of the Shibori Exhibition at L’Elaireur Boutique Paris.
  • 2009: A new Akira Boutique store opens in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane and the label designs a one-off cover for the IKEA Kipplan, which is later auctioned for charity. Also this year, as a Hands that Shape Humanity Ambassador, Akira Isogawa creates a piece for the Limited Edition Artisan Collection, which was launched at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week.
  • 2010: The Akira Fashion label collaborates with artist Lindy Lee to create a one-off dress for Being Born Again. Additionally, the label creates a one-off piece for the Synergy of Art and Fashion project exhibition in collaboration with Cara & Co.
  • 2011: Akira designs the costumes for the Australian Ballet’s production of Romeo & Juliet.

Akira for the Australian Ballet's Production of Romeo and Juliet - 2011

Sample of the Costumes Designed by Akira Isogawa for the Australian Ballet’s Production of Romeo & Juliet

Akira Isogawa – Fashion Design Philosophy and Aesthetic

“A garment can transcend, giving it a soul…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…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. Timeless beauty and femininity in my design is profound, in a way for the wearer to express their inner soul.” — Akira Isogawa

The Akira Isogawa aesthetic draws heavily on traditional Japanese designs and techniques, including shibori (a resist-dyeing process whereby fabric is bound, folded or twisted to create a pattern), origami (folding), embroidery, printing and hand painting. Each Akira collection is undeniably feminine, while steering clear of over-the top revealing or figure hugging designs, instead opting for soft, romantic silhouettes.

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Each Akira Clothing Collection also incorporates traditional Japanese apparel such as the Kimono, modifying them for a contemporary look. He works almost entirely in natural fabrics to create layered and intricately embellished garments that are instantly recognisable as Akira and highly coveted throughout the world.

Akira Isogawa: The future of the Akira fashion brand

The Akira fashion label is an Australian institution – for many years to come Akira will without doubt continue to have an enormous impact on the fashion and arts industries, not only in Australia, but throughout the globe.

Visit the official Akira Isogawa website or view Akira fashion collections on Australian Fashion Review Blog.