Karen Abigail Ono, the one-woman force behind label Miyama Uno, is not to be reckoned with. The Japanese designer graduated from the Vantan Fashion Institute in Tokyo and has worked with American brand Ralph Lauren—and now, the newest notch in her belt is the interesting, textured, ultra-graphic collection she sent down the Panasonic Manila Fashion Festival 2018 runway. Think floor-sweeping, vinyl trench coats paneled and sheer, and cascading ruffles peppered with blown-up text sourced from vintage magazines!
Here, we pause for a chat with Abie (as she's fondly called) about the painstaking process behind each piece, and why being a homebody at heart feeds her personal creativity like nothing else can.
How would you describe your design aesthetic and philosophy? Do you have a signature design or key element evident through your collections?
"My collection is not about artwork or creativity. I like designing clothes that I would want to wear. I especially stick to freshness or something new because I always love new stuff. I believe that fashion always resonates with [the words] 'young', 'fresh', 'trend', 'something new', so I like incorporating trends into my creations. I don’t know if this is what real fashion designers do, but I follow trends! Otherwise, I think it's gonna be boring, because trends are fun and people are always looking for freshness."
Where do you usually draw inspiration from?
"I love walking around in the middle of the city, especially Tokyo. That's why I can’t stop visiting at least once a month. I’ve noticed that there are so many fashionable Japanese people and most of them are wearing comfortable, moving clothes. That's what Tokyo fashion is.
"I don’t go out much, though. I like staying in the house. I don’t watch TV, but I like movies a lot. I like going to classical music concerts, or watching plays and operas. When I stay at home, I only focus on designing all day long, and I like it that way."
What inspired this specific collection? Can you walk us through your creative process as you designed your PMFF collection?
"The charm of vintage magazines. I walked around looking for a vintage book store in Tokyo, wanting to collect as many old magazines as possible. I think it took me more than three days 'til I was satisfied! And then, I found out that there is a really nice fabric printing company in London. I got in touch with them, and then it came: An attractive fabric arrived. I was more than satisfied.
"Then, I took it to my production team in the Philippines. I feel so blessed having highly-skilled technicians and seamstresses in my team. They are all Filipinos! At first, they used to freak out when they saw my designs, but they got used to it. [I think it's] because my design ideas are almost avant garde...now sometimes I even get crazy advice or ideas from them and I love it. I think I really have a great team."
Where can we buy your pieces?
"Actually, I wasn’t thinking about selling my pieces…I never thought what the price will be. If there is somebody who wants to buy my pieces, I would love to [sell it to them], but it's going to be quite hard for me—these pieces are part of the history of my creations. It's gonna be hard to let go, but I want to dedicate [these clothes] to the right person! [If they come along,] I would be happy to."