The Architecture of Fashion Design:
An Interview with Millinery Maven Ayuko Hishikawa of Ms. Merry
They say that shoes can make or break an outfit, but in the world of Ms. Merry, it’s a hat that makes the statement. Ayuko Hishikawa, a millinery designer based in New York City and Tokyo, crafts hats and headpieces derived from whimsical fairy tales and fantastical elements of nature. But, it took her some time to get there. After graduating from university with a degree in architecture, Ayuko moved back home to Tokyo to practice interior design and realized that she wasn’t pursuing her dreams. She quit the job she said made her feel like a robot drawing up formulaic plans to eventually discover a more creative avenue for design. We had the opportunity to speak with the emerging designer about what led her to start her fashion brand Ms. Merry, what inspires her everyday, and how the technical aspect of her architecture background has influenced her creativity in couture.
Krystle: Do you remember the moment when you knew a career in fashion design was what you were meant to pursue?
Ayuko: I think the defining moment was when I found Anya Caliendo’s work online. Her work seemed to have a story itself, and reminded me of what I really loved, which is dreamlike and fantastical creations. But I didn’t find it easily. I wanted to create something with my hands that I imagined in my head, but I did not know what and how exactly to do that. I tried everything I was interested in, such as painting, graphic design, cray-pas art, photography, flower arrangement, making small accessories, etc.
I couldn’t find ‘the one’, but I liked flowers and accessories the most, so I just keep creating that. While doing that, I gradually tried to create accessories with preserved flowers. That was my first headpiece.
Since I couldn’t think of exactly what I wanted at first, I was looked for some hints online, and eventually found Anya’s work. I was eager to learn millinery from her, so I attended her class in NY for a month. After learning from her, I kept studying hat and headpiece-making myself, and gradually came to create what I really want to create through Ms. Merry. And I’m still on my way.
Krystle: How has the study of architecture influenced your skills as a milliner?
Ayuko: I think Architecture is the study of space surrounding people. I approach millinery the same way. Hats are more like wearable architecture for me. I’ve learned from architecture to create something in my mind, how to make it real from just a concept and how to imagine the image in three dimensions. I still use the same process I learned from architecture projects for creating my hats. When I was studying architecture, I didn’t just imagine a static image, but more of a motion picture. I would imagine a setting and everything within the space, and how my hats or headpieces would fit into the scene. It gives me a better idea of the functionality of the hat rather than just the aesthetics.
Krystle: What opportunities have you had as a designer in NYC that you haven’t experienced in other parts of the globe where you’ve lived?
Ayuko: I think the most interesting thing in NY is that I can find many talented people with different backgrounds easily. There are so many creators from all over the world, and each of them has a different culture, different way of thought and feeling, including me. I think that’s why we can create more interesting and newer things by mixing them together. And that is my expectation.
Krystle: Which classic fairy tales inspire you most?
Ayuko: Alice in Wonderland. When I was a child, my mother gave me a large lift-the-flap book of Alice in Wonderland, and I was totally fascinated by it. All elements of that book – the story, characters, colors, stereoscopic pop-ups – moved me a lot. I still have the book and always read it whenever I want to reflect my original intention.
Krystle: Any new collections we should keep an eye out for in 2015/2016?
Ayuko: Yes, I have an upcoming collection for this summer. The theme is botanical animals. I’ll let you know when it comes out! I also have some projects going on right now for some clients in NY and Tokyo. I’m going to join the upcoming RAW showcase in Manhattan on May21st. If you are interested in, you can purchase my ticket from here: http://www.rawartists.org/msmerryheadpiece
To view more of Ayuko’s amazing work, visit:
Words by Krystle Kotara