With his immaculately tailored suits, the Japanese illustrator Akira Sorimachi is something of a style icon in his own right. He has been fascinated by sartorial styling since he was a young man, and his illustrations reflect this with their playful, nostalgic images that hark back to a ‘golden age’ of fashion, film and music.
When we asked Sorimachi to produce an exclusive print for Sunspel, he looked for inspiration in archive photos of a classic British holiday destination, Brighton beach. His resulting print depicts an idyllic British seaside scene, a delightful image that appears on two t-shirts in our summer collection. We have also developed it into repeat prints for boxer shorts.
Our head designer David Telfer sat down with Akira to find out more about where his ideas come from – and just how far back his interest in clothes goes.
Can you tell us a bit about your story and how you became an illustrator?
It’s one of the funny things that no one can really believe. When I was young I didn’t even think about being an illustrator. I was always drawing things, but that was a hobby. What I dreamt about was working in the clothing industry.
When I was 21, I used to go to a clothing boutique that specialised in 60s clothes and Mod style fashions. I went there all the time. One day I saw this small advertisement that said there’s an empty wall here and anybody who has the confidence to illustrate something can enter a competition to win the space. So I tried it, and by chance I won and got my illustration in the shop. That was really my first piece, and after that somebody scouted me to do work for a gallery in Omotesando. That’s how I started getting into the art business.
You mentioned Mod culture, and a lot of your work is influenced by British nostalgia. Can you tell us a bit more about your interest in this, and where you get your references from?
The start was vintage clothes – I was always looking for vintage clothes. To start with American culture, and then slowly I got more into jackets and British styles. Eventually I became deeply interested in British fashion.
Can you tell us a bit more about the collaboration with Sunspel, and how you came to know about Sunspel?
I’ve been buying Sunspel from some of the speciality stores in Tokyo for years, so when someone mentioned collaborating with Sunspel, I immediately said, “That’s a very good idea”.
The brief was all about British summer – where did you start getting your ideas for that?
After I was asked to show the British summer, I started wondering what I could focus on. I had seen images of European summer holidays, resorts, a Riviera type of thing. But I began thinking of different kinds of images, related to some of the photos I had seen in the past of Brighton beach.
British fashion and nostalgia is loved in Japan. Why do you think this is the case?
A hundred years ago in Japan no one was wearing European clothes – people were wearing kimonos. British clothes were the first examples we followed, so when we look at men’s clothes and ask where are their roots, it’s always back to the British clothes. All Japanese, somewhere in the mind, feel like that. So that’s why people feel respect for your styles.
And we respect your style as well! What do you have planned for the future? Do you see yourself ever becoming a clothing designer, as you originally wanted?
Well of course, I have a lot of ideas for things that I want to wear, and I can’t find them on the market. So I always feel I should make them myself.
Yes, that’s where design starts. That’s very interesting. Thank you very much.
The full Sunspel and Akira Sorimachi capsule collection is now available at our Chiltern Street and Mercer Street stores and at sunspel.com.