Opening day at Fall 2006 Olympus Fashion Week in New York welcomed industry veterans and newcomers alike to the famed Tents in Bryant Park, one such designer to make her glorious debut this season was Akiko Ogawa. After much success in her native Japan, where Ms. Ogawa, has already opened ten stores, the young designer has set her sights on the U.S. presenting the range of eveningwear, outerwear and luxurious knits from her eponymous line. The Kuwasawa Design School graduate designed for apparel conglomerates Onward Kashiyama and Sanei International, before launching her own label in 2001. With 29 sumptuous looks for her Autumn/Winter 2006 presentation, the models floated down the runway to a soundtrack of soft, ethereal music enveloped in beaded frocks, sumptuous coats, as well as a few lovely pieces for day.
Ms. Ogawa has cultivated a loyal following overseas and is known for her unparalleled tailoring. The designer says she's always been fascinated by androgynous dressing. She was inspired by acclaimed French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue's vintage stills of 1920's Parisian high society. 'I've updated the hazy, sultry, opulent looks of the newly liberated women from that period with sharper contemporary silhouettes. I've worked to retain the sense of gorgeousness they reveled in through sumptuous couture fabrics from the finest suppliers in France,' said Ms. Ogawa of her theme for the new collection. In fact it was Mr. Lartigue's black and white study Diary of a Century that set the tone for Ms. Ogawa's palette. She was particularly taken with and influenced by a photograph of wilting flowers; the iconic image laid the foundation for her color scheme of graduated grays, shifting from the soft dove to a more intense charcoal with hints of crimson and Prussian blue.
The Shiseido hair and make-up team developed a look that complimented the collection with ease. Hairstylist Hirofumi Kera blew the hair out for a straight, smooth, shiny effect with long layers and created an off-center part for a soft sophisticated look. Make-up artist Miyako Okamoto put on a pretty face that was clean with a hint of iridescent shine. There was an emphasis on the eye with a strong brow and smoky tones along the lid for a sultry look, while the mouth was done in a sheer gloss.
The classic collection sourced the finest fabrics, intricately treated and decorated velvets, cashmeres, and silks from Jacob, the noted French cloth company that supplies illustrious couture houses. Ogawa also used Yuzen artisans. Their traditional dyeing and painting techniques, which have been passed down from generation to generation, were originally used for kimonos and involve a painstaking process that can take up to two weeks for a single piece of cloth.
One of my favorite runway looks included the ivory hand-painted 'Yuzen' flowing dress which enveloped its model as the train glided along the runway smocked with bursts of rich golds, reds, and greens. I was especially taken with the white flower-motif velvet dress, embroidered with Swarovski crystals and gold thread worn over silver leggings (a huge trend this season). A voluminous ombre strapless silk crepe cocktail dress embodied another design trend for this season' the shift to fuller and more forgiving skirts, while emphasizing a smaller waist with a criss-crossing detail across the bodice. One of the standout pieces was the beaded lace tutu dress, intertwining two of the season's most coveted hues' chocolate brown and rust, with hints of bronze to set off a smattering of sparkling Swarovski crystals! Ms. Ogawa has made an impressive debut with her collection of tiered dresses, hand-painted silk gowns, flared coats and trenches. After this presentation, she will no doubt have many new admiring [stateside] fans to join her legion of devoted clientele in Japan.
Photos provided courtesy of Getty Images, photographer Mark Mainz.