How Cultural Influence Shapes Australian Fashion: A Designer Shares


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Amongst the many notable names presenting at the upcoming Fashion Week Australia is iconic designer Akira Isogawa, who has participated nearly every year since his debut in 1996. Born in Kyoto, Japan, the designer has become a fixture in Australian fashion and culture throughout his longstanding career.

Akira’s impact echoes far beyond the fashion industry, as his work is an art form in and of itself. In addition to designing costumes for a number of Sydney Dance Company productions, his designs have also been exhibited in the National Gallery of Victoria. In honour of his accomplishments, he was even featured on “Australian Legend” postage stamps, highlighting the nation's most notable citizens. And one could argue that part of what makes him stand out as being truly unique (in addition to his talent) is his ability to encapsulate his multicultural influence, essentially crafting it into wearable art.

Arkia is now one of Australia's most famous designers, so we were curious to hear his perspective on the role of cultural influence in Australian fashion. Preaching wise words, the designer was quick to acknowledge our country’s multiculturalism, highlighting it as one of the many reasons why Australian fashion is so special. To find out more about the designer’s process, as well as a few hints on what we can expect from him this Fashion Week Australia, read on.


Supplied by Akira

A lot of your designs are based on Japanese textile design. What goes into this?

We have a range of shapes printed to textile with our original designs. We provide artwork for our printers, then we produce, or manufacture, our own textiles. Some of them are printed and some of them are embroidered. We also hire people who are skilled in  sewing, permed sewing, sequins, and beading onto silk; so we produce a number of individual, unique textiles every season. Right now, we’ve been really busy working on designing textiles for fashion week. And at the moment, I’m in Sydney sewing and cutting the actual garments for the show. We cut and sew all of the garments in our studio.

Where do you get inspiration for your textile designs?

For the collection that we’re about to show at fashion week, the prints are inspired by vintage. It’s a vintage 1970s and 80s textile which has actually come from Australia—I found it here.

How has your cultural background influenced your designs?

Australia is a multicultural country, so it has a diverse range of ethnicities, including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and also many from Europe. So I think not only me, but everyone in Australia. We express our individualistic point of view, including our heritage—and I do so through fashion.

I’ve been here for 32 years, so I feel more Australian now than Japanese. I turned 52 last year, so I realise that I’ve spent most of my life in Sydney. I feel very much Australian even though I use Japanese heritage as a source of my main inspiration for my collection.

Feeling inspired already? If you can't wait until Fashion Week, browse through Akira's past collections until then.

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