16 Questions with Japanese designer Tamae Hirokawa

After graduating in 1998 from Bunka Fashion College in Japan, designer Tamae Hirokawa joined Issey Miyake, gaining experience in both women’s wear and menswear as well as knitwear. In 2006 she set out on her own and launched her fashion label SOMARTA, receiving immediate critical praise for her daring first collection ‘Second Skin,’ which included a stitched lace bodysuit embroidered with Swarovski crystals. Last season, the 36-year-old Tokyo-based designer found inspiration in birds, and used layered chiffon to suggest plumage and angled geometry to recall wings while for her Spring/Summer 2013 collection, her inspiration came from flowers and their blooms. Recently attending the Haute Couture Week in Singapore, she talked to ARTINFO.COM about her designs and her aspiration to create a couture line.

What has been Miyake’s greatest influence on your work as a designer?
Issey Miyakey is not only focused on fashion but also works in other fields as well, like art and architecture. He taught me there are no boundaries for creativity. My main focus is fashion, but I’ve also worked on product designs.

Why did you decide to leave Miyake?
I wanted to step up and do my own thing. It was time to properly “graduate.”

How much has your label evolved in the last six years?
When I first started I wasn’t rich enough to do everything I wanted and my production was quite limited. But as business got better, I’ve found a better factory and I think the quality of the design, and the craftsmanship and fabrics of my garment has improved.

Where do you see your label heading?
Right now I think what I produce is a prĂȘt-a-couture label. I’d like to create a couture label along a more ready to wear line. But I’m not sure there is a market for couture in Japan right now. And also, I need to find some financial backers for this, it’s not easy.

From the start, you’ve used new textile techniques, like shiny prints with 3D textures.
I’ve always been interested in high-technologies, and what I like is combining those with a more artisanal approach using embroideries and macramĂ©. My label is very much the combination of high technology and low technology, the latest fabrics with old craftsmanship

What’s your favorite technique?

Favorite color?

What was the most important development in your career so far?
Last year I was invited to participate in Art Fair Tokyo with a special booth, and I also had a special installation in a group show of designers at Tokyo Opera City. My dresses were pinned on the walls like butterflies. For me this was a very important development, because I see fashion as art. Good art lasts and this is what I want to do with my garments. I’m not interested in fashion trends per se because they come and go, what I want is for my clothes to be timeless.

Where do you find your inspiration in general?
A botanical encyclopedia. I think people are very moved by flowers and plants, and that’s something I want to evoke with my clothes.

One word to describe your Spring-Summer 2013 collection?

Do you have a signature design?
Seamless knitwear.

Lady Gaga wore one of those in 2010.
When I was first approached in 2007, I actually didn’t really know who she was and I even refused. But then when everybody told me I must accept because she was so famous, then I looked at what she wore, and I was very flattered.

Who is the woman you are designing for?
Natalie Portman, Audrey Hepburn, quite classical. Someone feminine and strong.

Your favorite designer?
Alexander McQueen.

Do you collect anything?
Rocks and Japanese traditional paintings.

How do you define luxury?
The richness of people’s mind.