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[LONDON FASHION] Wakako Kishimoto and Husband Mark Eley

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  • madchinaman
    A husband and wife team of fashion: Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto http://promotions.telegraph.co.uk/fashion/main.jhtml?
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 25, 2004
      A husband and wife team of fashion: Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto

      London Fashion Week, which begins next Sunday, is now marked by a
      twice-yearly debate on whether it is losing its magic. With some big
      names moving abroad and others going out of business, the designers
      who are flourishing in a city that is renowned for its unbridled
      creativity are often overlooked. Mark Eley, one half of duo Eley
      Kishimoto, is tiring of the negativity and rightly so.

      Along with his wife and design partner, Wakako Kishimoto, he has
      built one of the success stories of British fashion. Next week,
      theirs will be the only label to have two on-schedule shows: one for
      their eponymous label and another for a new collaboration with
      Ellesse that will combine their quirkiness with the heritage of the
      Japanese-owned sports brand.

      "It's a new direction and new territory for us," explains Eley.
      Despite their reputation as print specialists, the designers have
      built a formidable ready-to-wear business. Their collections are
      consistently among the best sellers at their 210 stockists
      worldwide, and their quirky silhouettes and prints have a loyal
      following in Britain and Japan.

      Eley Kishimoto began life just over a decade ago with a textile
      business on the ground floor of what is now their three-storey
      studio near Brixton prison in south London ("We have a huge
      workforce on our doorstep but I am still trying to figure out how to
      use them," jokes Eley).

      Next season: spiral dress from Eley Kishimoto's spring collection
      Early clients included London-based designers such as Alexander
      McQueen, Hussein Chalayan and Nicole Farhi, and, later,
      international names such as Jil Sander, Givenchy, Versace and Yves
      Saint Laurent. By 2000, they were designing for Marc Jacobs and
      Louis Vuitton. Alongside their flourishing print business, they
      built their own label, which began life with a rainwear collection
      of beautifully made umbrellas, macs, mittens and scarves.

      In many ways, Eley Kishimoto is an inspiration to younger designers,
      combining creativity with commercial stability. As Eley explains,
      they had a good grounding in how the industry worked, having
      supplied prints to designers before venturing into their own
      clothes. "Our experience of the print side has supported everything
      else. We had the benefit of four or five years on the other side and
      we saw lots of people get burnt. We knew the pitfalls." The couple
      have, unlike many contemporaries, thought about sales first and
      glory later. "We have always had a really close relationship with
      our customers and always prioritised sales above press."

      The duo pitched their prices below their rivals from the start,
      making them accessible to customers whom Eley describes as ranging
      from young fashion followers in Japan to more mature women in Europe
      who might buy the occasional piece to liven up more conservative

      "I think we are in a niche area," says Eley. "We don't really answer
      to trends and we are slightly left of centre. The market needs
      something like that - we're not about making the perfect black
      cashmere sweater."

      Basics are definitely not part of the label's vocabulary. Every
      collection has featured graphic prints and kooky, girly silhouettes.
      The style is bold and instantly recognisable. And that, perhaps, is
      one of the secrets of its success.

      Graphic prints: autumn/winter 2004
      Eley and Kishimoto are keen to keep pushing back the boundaries.
      They have applied their prints to everything from tables and chairs,
      luggage (their carry-ons are now sold in the new Globetrotter store
      in Burlington Arcade, Mayfair), china, wallpaper and even buildings.
      For London Fashion Week, they have covered a double-decker bus,
      which will cruise down Oxford Street and Edgware Road, in one of
      their spring/summer 2005 prints.

      Further evidence of the label's unorthodox approach can be found at
      its shop, which opened last year and is tucked away in an anonymous
      back street in Borough, south-east London. "We decorated it with
      wallpapers and furniture, and sold lots of archive stock which I had
      kept," says Eley. "I even worked there for three months to escape
      the chaos in the studio. Some of the Japanese customers got a bit
      freaked out that I was serving them."
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