Mimi Iwasaki

As Mimi Iwasaki’s instructor, Michael Carbaugh, suggested to her during her junior year at the Academy of Art University, “inspirations are strongest when they are personally related to you.” It’s a good thing Iwasaki comes from a line of artistically inclined people. Her father, a talented illustrator, chose to focus on music, while her grandfather was a photographer and her grandmother a model. Indeed, most of Iwasaki’s inspiration comes from photography. She also cites Yohji Yamamoto as a designer who influenced her choice of career, as watching a documentary on Yamamoto steered Mimi away from fine arts and graphic design and towards fashion. Fittingly, that designer’s sense of draping and volume can be seen in Iwasaki’s debut womenswear collection.

According to Mimi, her debut collection is based on the culture clash between Japanese youths and adults. Youth in Japan, she says, “are always playful with whatever they wear, they have the freedom to express themselves through their clothing.” Adults, according to Iwasaki, “are so restricted, always in their monochromatic business suits.” The young designer did choose a monochromatic palette, imparting a sense of maturity, but her shapes skew on the playful and relaxed end of the spectrum.

In this way, Iwasaki’s clothing effectively captures the tension between the generations. One striking look consists of a calf-length, bubble-hemmed gray linen vest with cutaway detailing, reminiscent of a deconstructed morning suit, worn over a tone-on-tone white checkered damask lab coat and wide, gray wool gabardine pleated trousers. Another look consists of a gray and white woven cutaway coat worn over a white checked asymmetrical chemise reminiscent of a chef’s jacket, topping a gray felted wool pleated maxi skirt. The use of layering is pervasive in Mimi’s collection. She confirms, “I like working with separates more than dresses. It’s easier to play with styling, mixing and matching.”

Creating a Senior Collection was, for Mimi, “an incredible experience,” which she likens to a “design house run by one person,” explaining that each student did their own design, fabric sourcing, pattern making and sewing. It’s hard, but a good introduction to all aspects of the style business. And if her stellar first collection is any indication, Mimi Iwasaki is on her way to fashion stardom.

Text by Karena Akhavein
Photography by Randy Brooke