Akira Isogawa is a self-confessed former "fashion victim". Now recognised as a leader of the fash-pack, this Japanese-born creator of designer threads wowed a gathering of interiors aficionados last night with his I-want-one range of rugs created in collaboration with edgy local company, Designer Rugs.
Akira has boutiques in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and a stellar career which sees him showing regularly in Paris.
"I have long been obsessed with textiles and am drawn to the hand-made," he says. For many years, Akira has scoured flea markets for random old and new remnants and originally he used these to make of one-off garments. "But vintage fabrics are precious so I now only keep them as a source of inspiration or create replicas."
Since opening his first boutique in Woollahra in 1993, this quiet achiever has become celebrated for designing romantic dresses that are feminine and softly flattering without being in-your-face figure-huggers. What's striking is the way the patterns are asymmetrical: dresses may feature a collage of textural panels which are different from front to back while a kimono lining may be used inside-out.
Many of the garments in his Autumn/Winter 2012 catwalk collection are so-now interpretations of traditional kimonos with their exuberant bursts of Fanta-orange plus inky blues fused with references to Japanese motifs and themes.
The collaboration with Designer Rug wasn't too difficult a transition to make. "I'd never thought about designing rugs until the idea was presented to me by Yosi Tal [DR's MD] in 2005," Akira said. A serendipitous meeting, it resulted in an adventurous Japanese-inspired limited edition range of rugs. Interestingly, its sold-out success led to Designer Rug's partnering with other notable designers, such as Dinosaur Designs and Catherine Martin, to create rugs that are as much art piece as floor coverings.
Meanwhile, Akira went on to design six more rugs with DR, launching them during Fashion Week 2007. That collection incorporated courageous colours such as Nippon red, head-turning turquoise and sizzling sunshine yellow.
And now comes this very latest edition of seven bold, bolder, boldest rugs. Called Hirameki - meaning inspiration – they are a contemporary take on Japanese icons and all subtly reference Akira's latest punchy catwalk collection. "I specially selected hand-made textiles that I'd found abroad to use as a starting point," he said. From whoa to go, it took nine months for Akira and senior DR designer, Christine McDonald, to turn sketches into a living, breathing product.
One rug is named Ayame (meaning iris) and another Kiku (chrysanthemum). "Both flowers are commonly found in Japanese gardens and the motifs are depicted on kimonos. I found the original fabric [that the Ayame design is based on] in Kyoto: it was block and screen-printed onto silk," Akira recalls.
Another rug is called Shibori which translates as twist. "Shibori is a sophisticated tie-dye technique that creates pattern. The fabric the rug design is based on featured a floral and wave pattern that was created by this technique."
Batik was the result of Akira's travels to Bali where he was introduced to the skill of hand-embroiderers and also the beauty of batik, a water-resistance dyeing technique where wax is used to hand- paint onto the cloth before colour is added.
Not surprisingly, these unique rugs don't come cheap: $4,950 from Designer Rugs showrooms in NSW, Victoria and QLD. But don't let that floor you: consider that they are 100% wool with bamboo silk adding lustre. And, if you think they are too good for underfoot, they also look spectacular used as wall-hangings.