Tuesday, 14 February 2012


I thought I was safe. I'd read things by Peter Robb before - while he can sometimes be a bit wordy, he did produce an interesting article about Marcia Langton and I very much enjoyed Midnight in Sicily (especially the bits about food). Although not hugely interested in things to do with fashion, I've got a daughter who is. Therefore, all things considered, Robb's article in the current issue of the Monthly about the designer called Akira Isogawa seemed like a reasonable choice to pass fifteen minutes with, while I waited for my mother at the doctor's. Probably not entirely gripping, I thought, but I'd be able to talk to Anna about it - maybe.

What I did not expect, sitting in a scruffy waiting room in Yass, New South Wales, listening to the receptionists discussing the baby shower they'd just attended and the extraordinary increase in the weight of the showeree, was a trip to the deepest darkest crevices (and I use the word advisedly) of Pseuds' Corner:

"Akira's dresses express a female eroticism unknown in the West since the end of the French dix-huitième. The ineluctable metaphor is the flower. The overlapping petals, the seductive colours, the opening outward around the central fleshly fact of sex.

The meticulour renderings of beautifully cut and exquisite fabrics remind me of shunga. Akira's eyes widen again: 'You mean the very detailed...?' Yes, I do. The erotic prints that show male and female genitalia vastly enlarged and maniacally detailed. Every fine black pubic hair, every little raised vein on a huge engorged phallus. The myriad folds of a moistly receptive vagina. Impeccable coiffures, the intertwined folds of rich silks. Sex as an expression of the social arts.

A deep eroticism is at the heart of Akira's dresses and their appeal for adult women. In one beautiful image from a follower of Hokusai, the woman is on all fours, seen largely from behind and her hindquarters are at the centre of the image. A mostly concealed man delicately probes the pleats of her vagina with his fingers. A commentary explains redundantly that 'the focal point of the scene is the female genital organ, re-echoed in the sexual symbology of the oysters next to the basket.'

This delicate and voluptuous image leaps to blazing life in its single piece of fabric, a shred of it still wound around the woman's waist, the rest cascading to the floor between the two bodies. It's a beautiful plain deep red, and its outline seems almost jagged because the fine material has been treated to create an expanse of tiny peaks in its surface, like a distant mountain range. I've just seen this colour and this material on one of Akira's racks.

Leaving Christiane in Akira's Woolahra shop one day, I find I want to wear a dress."

I, on the other hand, doubt if I will ever want to wear one again.


  1. I once was told it is a bad idea to go food shopping when one is hungry. It's probabnly also a bad idea to go a-critiquing fashion when one is feeling ... the way he was obviously feeling. Yuck.

    1. The article should have come with some kind of warning. It was almost surreally unexpected.

  2. oh you do make me smile