After graduating from Joshibi University of Art and Design in Tokyo, Akiko continued her studies at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. Following this, Akiko returned to Tokyo and worked as a design assistant before launching her own label during Tokyo Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2015.
[ Website ] https://www.akikoaoki.com/
[ Instagram ] https://www.instagram.com/akikoaoki_official/
[ X (Twitter) ] https://twitter.com/kokiakioa
Launched in 2015SS, “AKIKOAOKI”, is growing surely as a women’s brand that has a distinctive philosophy and style. Recently, they are probably many people who have a strong impression of their iconically shaped shoes line, which has captivated the hearts of fashionistas. This brand is expected to excel even further both nationally and internationally. We spoke to their designer, Ms. Aoki, regarding the brand’s path up to here and its future prospects.
Please tell us how you became interested in fashion.
I attended a catholic school from kindergarten to high school, spending years wearing a school uniform, unable to choose the clothes I like. This experience led to asking myself, “what is fashion?”, “what is my identity?”. This led to an interest in fashion, so much so that I wrote I wanted to become a fashion designer when I grow up in my elementary school collection of compositions.
You started your fashion brand after graduating from art university, didn’t you?
I majored in fashion as a form of art at a Japanese art university, then attended a university in London, and started the brand after returning to Japan. I have a habit of contemplating why things turn out the way they do, so I wanted to study about “what is fashion” from a broad artistic point of view, such as artistic anatomy, photography, physical performance, textile, etc. I have not yet reached the answer to this question, but learning the difference in fashion and art, the importance of presentation, to diagnose constructively, etc. has been a valuable experience for me in building my own fashion philosophy.
What characterizes your brand?
My approach in which the silhouette becomes apparent for the first time after reconstructing a women’s body and having women actually wear it, characterizes my brand. I maintain a certain distance when contemplating about women’s bodies, thereby creating new, unique shapes, in pursuit of beauty that can be felt when worn.
What is it that you hold dear in your creations?
Recently, I am conscious of not being overly sensational at first glance. In modern society, compounded with the advancement of SNS, I think there exists a custom of being intoxicated by stimulating things. But I think that in truth, momentary stimulation does not remain in one’s memory for long. Rather than being a passing memory, I aim to create fashion which sinks in and becomes attached to one’s lifestyle, philosophy over a long period of time. Furthermore, although the word “trend” is sometimes regarded as having a negative nuance, I think of this concept as being a positive thing. I feel it is important for both the brand and myself, that while maintaining an unwavering philosophy in these fluctuating times, at the same time, we need to be flexible, and change along with the times. It is important for me to have these seemingly completely opposite concepts co-exist.
How do you decide on your collection theme?
I usually pick up a theme from daily life, such as unintentional questions, moods, feelings that come to me at the time. In 23AW, because these are liberated times, I thought of focusing on restrictions, inconveniences, and decided on the theme “Virgin Mary”, who suddenly bore the destiny of living out the role of the Holy Mother, regardless of her wishes. Rather than making it a religious homage, I felt a unique picture revealing her character would come about by adding sociability or reality to the persona of Mary, through suiting, street graphics, etc.
How was that theme applied to the collection?
As a symbolic detail, there was the vail. While encompassing a variety of types of Mary by having a vailed look appear in the show repeatedly, we created a production in which the message that the brand wishes to convey seeps out and lingers on in people’s memories. As for pieces, the theme was applied in somewhat firm uniform-like textiles, such as pin-stipes often used in men’s or dresses, shapes in which the border between the collar and body seem to melt into one another, etc.
What was the aim behind your 23AW season show, which was held for the first time in a while?
Shows are extremely powerful forms of presentation, which allows for not only expressing a worldview that cannot be expressed in lookbooks or exhibits, with a sense of live, so I challenged it with the hope to express the brand’s attitude. Thanks to an increase in exposure, we received grave response, along with business results as a brand who has presented a show at Tokyo, we did well. Also, doing a show presentation this time around enabled me to realize some issues I have in design aspects.
How is your present business situation?
Presently, we have approximately 20 domestic accounts and 6 overseas accounts, with business increasing every season. The shoes line we started in cooperation with Three Treasures as a DtoC is developing favorably. We started EC amid the corona pandemic and started shoes as a product fit for EC sales. Recently, with Southern Korean artists wearing our shoes, along with men, who we had no contact within our existing brand choosing to wear our shoes, a pattern of shoes being an entrance to the brand, then extending to buying clothes is beginning to form.
Please tell us about your future prospects for the brand.
We wish to put strength into overseas developments. Thanks to buyers of all different countries coming to visit us at the Paris showroom which we participated in for one year through the support from TOKYO FASHION AWARD, we received reactions and selections differing from that of Japan, which has taught us a lot. The 23AW was a collection created under the premise that we will be presenting a show, so it contained powerful pieces, but in 24SS, I created with the wish to apply the reality of things I felt in the city of Paris, conscious of creating clothes with margins to blend into the styles, lifestyles of people who wear them. My awareness itself has also changed, so from here, I intend to face designing with a more global point of view. Creation wise, I wish to work in collaboration with creators gathering at Paris, with a wide variety of viewpoints. In shoes also, because we are presently only developing shoes with sneaker soles, we hope to increase and broaden the variation.
Interview by Tomoko Kawasaki
Photography by Kenji Kaido