When I arrive, Akira Isogawa is halfway up a ladder adjusting one of his garments on display at Sydney’s Museum of Applied Arts and Science (MAAS). Fellow installers cluster around him, listening intently to his instructions. He’s dressed entirely in black, from his round black-rimmed glasses down to his long flowing trousers, and his black hair streaked with silver is folded into a neat ponytail.
We move to a studio area next to the exhibition hall, where inspired museum visitors will be able to create their own masterpieces. Isogawa is softly spoken and laughs frequently at himself, but as he directs a colleague installing a nearby mood board, it’s clear he knows exactly what he wants.
Twenty-five years is a long time in fashion, particularly in Australian fashion – and labels and their designers rise and fall fast. Isogawa has outlasted many of his flashier contemporaries, including those with bigger stores and even bigger budgets. Yet if you ask him about the secret to his longevity, his answer is simple: patience.
This month a large-scale retrospective of the Japanese-born, Australian designer’s work opens at MAAS, filled with more than 200 garments that demonstrate the 25-year evolution of his beautiful, distinctive designs. There’s colourful intricate womenswear, cleverly constructed menswear with a punk edge, and dazzlingly feminine bridal gowns, each piece exploring the line between fashion and art.