Rumi Iwasaki only just graduated from San Francisco’s Academy of Art University and showed her very first runway collection at The Cannery this past May, but her unique take on menswear speaks of an aesthetic that is finely honed and developed beyond her years. Iwasaki, who counts disparate talents Hedi Slimane, Ellen von Unwerth, and Led Zeppelin among her artistic inspirations, riffed on 19th century costume and military wear as she sketched her first menswear collection, designed for the “modern dandy.”
The highly focused and restrained vision demonstrated in Iwasaki’s collection might suggest single-mindedness, but this is not supported by the designer’s history. Raised in an extremely international context, in Japan and the Philippines, Rumi’s love of “creating [things] without describing them in words” pushed her to enroll in a fine arts and architecture program in London. But then, upon deciding that fashion is the ultimate form of self-expression, Iwasaki decided to change her focus and move to San Francisco. After starting out designing womenswear, she switched to menswear in her second year on the recommendation of an instructor impressed by the young designer’s talent with tailoring.
Executed entirely in gray and white, Rumi’s monochromatic menswear designs let the pure lines of the garments and the unique choice of material do the talking. High-waisted trousers with jodhpur-style leg buttons are a risqué style that might not be embraced by the mainstream, but many of Iwasaki’s looks are perfectly wearable, in particular a heather gray boiled wool jersey vest with subtle darts and a jacket collar, or well-executed slim trousers in the same material that elevate casual dressing to a whole new level. For cool cats, Rumi designed a butter-soft leather coat, its slightly seventies, Shaft-like vibe offset by a hyper-modern dove gray color and sheen.
Iwasaki is currently living in SF’s Mission district, where she is busy organizing her portfolio in preparation for an imminent move to NYC. An internship in the fashion capital is the next logical step towards Rumi’s ultimate goal of becoming a creative director for a major label, and though she looks forward to experiencing the infinite possibilities of such a multicultural and dynamic city as New York, she will miss the amazing burritos and thrift shops in her current neighborhood.
Text by Karena Akhavein
Photography by Randy Brooke