“I get really driven by the idea of muses – often when reading a book or watching a movie, when a character really strikes me, all these images and places flit through my mind.”
When newly-emerged designers take the leap from the cocooned environment of university into the real-life fashion industry (where they have to rise above the noise of thousands of other label neophytes) it can often take many months, even years, to get their work recognised and showcased through any format. Not so for talented and determined newcomer Lisa Wynne, whose Japonisme collection snapped up a stockist within weeks of its public debut at last year’s National College of Art & Design fashion show. And not just any stockist – Powercourt Townhouse’s Design Centre, whose base has helped launched the careers of globally-successful John Rocha and Philip Treacy, to name a couple. When one actually views Lisa’s creations, however, they can quickly understand how her debut already fits in perfectly with the polished vibe of the Design Centre’s experienced counterparts, showing immense attention to detail – particularly for a graduate collection (her stream-lined labels even feature a compelling quote, by innovative 20th century Japanese writer Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, who was a great source of inspiration for Wynne). Before Lisa’s starting year was out her collection had additionally clocked up further fashion showcases and editorial shootings; during all of which her collection steadily reached sold-out status alongside other well-renowned A/W garments.
For La Femme Éclectique’s inaugural issue of promoting up-and-coming (Irish) designers, I’ve interviewed Lisa and unravelled her profound love & knowledge of Japanese culture, her art-like approach to dressing and why Tokyo is in her future base headlights:
What first inspired you to become a fashion designer?
It’s one of those questions one is expected to have a snappy answer for but I really can’t trace it back! It all just disappears into hazy childhood memories of enjoying clothes, dressing up, learning to sew and drawing out pages and pages of clothes I dreamed up. I guess I started to take it more and more seriously as I picked up on people like Vivienne Westwood and ideas of subculture and sartorial expression when I was a teenager.
What is the main inspiration behind the Japonisme collection?
The collection is subtitled “elegance, opulence and submission”, and that really sums up the themes at play. I have a huge passion for traditional Japanese aesthetics as well as contemporary culture and I simply allowed different elements of that to contribute to the collection. Fabric choice – silk, silk, silk, some leather, fine cotton, more silk – is an obvious one, as well as the emphasis on the nape of the neck which is borrowed from a very geisha sense of elegance. More academic and obscure inspirations include Jun’nichiro Tanazaki’s aesthetic essay “In Praise of Shadows” as well as the practice of kinbaku rope-bondage.
With your own personal style, do you prefer wearing bright colours or sticking to a monochromatic palette (such as that of your collection)?
In all honesty, I’m not inherently interested in colour, as a designer. As evident in this collection, I prefer to push strong cutting and thematic elements in my collection. Keeping within a muted or monochrome palette gives tonal, textural, structural and narrative elements so much more attention! Admittedly I wear mostly black myself, for these reasons and more, but I also love bold, block colours, some of the best pieces in my wardrobe are bright! Best teamed with an otherwise black outfit of course.
Aside from your label, you also run Ojou-sama (an Etsy boutique filled with Harajuku-inspired garments and accessories):
(I) How do you balance the running of your label and Etsy shop (does one take priority over the other or is it a balanced effort)?
Ojou-sama is something I’ve tried out as a dip into the sort of costume-heavy subcultures like Lolita, which is a lot of fun. Its something I’d like to diffuse into a more commercial and creative brand, and streamline it into my personal brand (whatever shape that takes!). I’m working full-time with a high-street fashion supplier in Dublin at the moment, so I don’t have a lot of time to put into developing Ojou-sama. Its ticking over, Etsy is a great little platform for small ideas, but I’m trying to keep building my ideas and to continue developing the brand.
(II) You seemingly take great inspiration from Japanese fashion and street style when you’re designing – what first attracted you/brought your attention to Japanese style?
I discovered the Japanese street fashion magazine/book “FRUiTS” when I was a teenager and something just clicked into place in my heart! The obsessive styling, obscure themes and absolute intensity of the kids in the photographs blew me away. I realised that that was how I wanted to feel about clothes – not necessarily identifying as goth or cyber or lolita, but to have the intense, obsessive, enjoyment of clothes and dressing. From a more academic angle, I got interested in Japanese culture and aesthetic concepts leading me to a better understanding of Japanese designers such as Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo. Retail in Tokyo is also a completely different world, fuelled by the insatiable appetite for fashion. Brands take the store experience so seriously, so holistically. Stepping into the brand’s “world”, even within small concessions in department stores, it’s very immersive.
Are there any fashion designers/style icons that currently inspire your creations?
I get really driven by the ideas of muses. To me clothes are always “costume”; in the sense that with so much sartorial and cultural history behind us every colour, every cut, shape, length, fit, every pattern is so loaded with character or mood that the art of dressing is really an artful collage. For this Japonisme collection, my strongest muses were Björk, Dita von Teese or Gwen Stefani. I love the expressive power they carry though clothing and costume. People like Vivienne Westwood, Rei Kawakubo, Philip Treacy or Simone Rocha inspire me – not specifically aesthetically, but to be a designer and create and build a brand. Often when reading a book or watching a movie, when a character really strikes me, all these images and places and objects flit through my mind. That’s where design can start, the exciting thing about branding is the holistic sense of the character you want to create through clothes, the world you want them to inhabit.
Have you already started work/gathered inspiration for your next collection, or is the focus mainly on promoting your latest collection, possibly attaining more stockists, etc?
I have…in the sense that my mind is always ticking over with new ideas and aspirations. However, I’m currently working full-time with a fashion production company in Dublin, and I simply don’t have the time or capital to invest in my next collection at the moment. The Design Centre were wonderful and it was a pleasure to sell my collection there last season. I received great feedback from Aisling and the team as well as customers, and Social & Personal who featured four pieces from Japonisme 2012 in a gorgeous editorial in their December issue.
From your current outlook, do you think your label will stick with a particular theme throughout its future collections, or will your design ideas change (dramatically) each season?
I think my goal is to establish a signature, recognisable aesthetic, with room to adapt it to changing tastes, inspirations and seasons. Personally, I find the aesthetics of traditional Japanese dress is hugely fertile ground for this and I look forward to it giving me new ideas every time I look for one.
After having your Japonisme Collection showcased in the highly-acclaimed Design Centre (Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, Dublin) – alongside internationally successful Irish designers such as John Rocha and Philip Treacy, among others – would you now prioritise more expanding and securing stockists throughout Ireland or internationally (if it is the former, would stocking your label abroad be something you’d plan in the future?)
As I mentioned before, things are on the slow burner for the next while, but my medium term plan would be to develop the brand and produce another collection. I definitely see things moving overseas, eventually I want to have a base in Japan – such an incredible fashion marketplace on every level. I strongly feel that the kind of market I want to design for is most likely in Tokyo, and also London to a certain extent. Of course it is the sheer size of these cities that create the chance for such diversity. The notions of space and presentation are very important to me, so the idea of having my own shop (or shops!) is something I’m also quite hooked on. I’d hope to open a shop in Dublin and/or London with a strong brand to home.
For further information, updates & Japonisme images, you can check out Lisa Wynne’s website “here”. In the meantime, I shall leave you all with a full clip from Lisa’s Japonisme fashion show last year:
With her experimental-yet-wearable designs that marry contrasting textures and ideas (my favourite piece of hers, I must say, is the amazing boned, crinoline, chiffon slip she designed) with flattering monochromatic shades that would immediately appeal to a wide audience, I know that this designer is fully set to make waves in the fashion industry, whatever side of the globe she ultimately bases herself in. ♥
I hope you all enjoyed the interview, stay tuned for future segments!