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Izumi Ogino Recounts 30 years of Anteprima by way of Wirebags

Izumi Ogino Recounts 30 years of Anteprima by way of Wirebags

Creative director Izumi Ogino recounts the three triumphant decades of Anteprima through the countless variations of Wirebags and artistic collaborations.

At the tail end of the ’90s, the fashion world was undergoing dramatic change. Young and hungry designers were taking creative control at legacy houses left and right, conglomerates began buying independent brands to satisfy their hunger for dominating the luxury sector, and barriers previously thought indestructible began to crumble. One such hurdle was brought down in 1998 when a woman became the first female Japanese designer to show at the Milan Fashion Week – and, by extension, an inspiration and role model for many. Her name? Izumi Ogino.

Izumi Ogino

Unlike the McQueens, Fords and Gallianos, Ogino’s fashion debut could be considered “late”. She started in the industry in her thirties, with no experience in either design or running a business. Her career began with handling distribution matters for Italian brands. And, on launching the luxury label Anteprima with the Fenix knitwear group in 1993, she exploited her existing network in Italy to claim a spot for Anteprima in Milan Fashion Week’s official calendar. In Italian, anteprima means “ahead of debut”, which echoes Ogino’s own creative philosophy.

“I was nearly 40 years old when I decided to start the brand, so it’s a way to remind myself (and the younger generation) that it’s possible to start new things no matter what age you are,” she remarks humbly. Yet, under the pleasantly unassuming smile lies colossal strength, gumption and artistic bravura. For this creative force, Milan was just the beginning.

In 1998, along with Ogino’s Milanese debut, came the Wirebag, an extraordinary feat of ingenuity, hand-woven from shiny PVC wires. “Nobody in the office liked it when we created the prototype of the bag,” Ogino says, laughing, as she walks me through the Anteprima showroom in Harbour City, which features a hall of fame of sorts that’s dedicated to the many iterations of the accessory. “But when we launched [the Wirebag] in Isetan, one of the biggest department stores in Japan, it sold out in minutes.”

Details from Anteprima’s spring/summer 2024 collection

Since then, the Wirebag has been a staple uniting fashionistas across Asia, while the brand’s enduring timeline appears before us in its many iterations. There’s Hello Kitty-chan – Ogino points to the tote on the top shelf – which stands next to the Snoopy Standard bag, created in collaboration with another cartoon superstar, and underneath we see the Animale Poodle (which mirrors Ogino’s fondness for the breed) and the newest Standard Miniatura, which is the designer’s personal favourite from the entire oeuvre, though it can hardly hold much more than a single credit card. Once it won over the streets of Japan’s biggest cities and Milan’s runways, the Wirebag made its way into the loins of pop culture. In 2011, when the Japanese variety show SMAP x SMAP invited Lady Gaga to perform songs from her album Born this Way, the hosts surprised her with a massive blush-pink Hello Kitty-shaped Wirebag. Around the same time, a Wirebag appeared on Paris Hilton’s arm in tabloid magazines.

But the Wirebag has always been more than just an It-bag; it’s a powerful symbol that’s enabled Anteprima to retain relevance in the face of constant cultural shifts. “Back then, we needed an identity,” Ogino says. “Since Anteprima has always been strong in knitwear, we wanted to introduce this element into our bags and make them futuristic. You see, in the ’90s people in Japan just started wearing jeans and the outfits you’d see on the streets looked a bit too casual, so we wanted to give them this fresh, shiny accessory.”

The Wirebag has also served as a medium for Anteprima’s exploration of new concepts and art forms. The latter especially is a crucial part of Anteprima’s DNA. Over the years, Ogino has been paying her success forward by collaborating with a plethora of young artists, such as Ellie Omiya, Kissi Ussuki and, most recently, Kei Takemura.

The brand’s spring/summer 2024 collection, called Game On!, included Takemura’s whimsical spade patchwork on mini-skirts, dresses and, of course, Wirebags.

Finale of Anteprima’s spring/summer 2024 show

“I gave the bag to Kei and asked him to use it as a blank canvas,” Ogino explains, “which resulted in this wearable art piece, in which the shiny wires interact with embroidery.” The collection unites both verve and sophistication: splashes of retina-busting yellow knits, so delicate they feel like organza, mingle with sheath dresses in mint and baby blue, and the tasteful embroidery upon selected pieces makes the range feel light and playful. Although, naturally, we hope that Game On! is an attempt to dress the millions of fans of the cult Japanese TV show Alice in Borderland (whose central motif is playing cards), Ogino light-heartedly states that it’s simply an invitation to “enjoy the games”. This collection, we hear, is for “a woman who enjoys a life full of contrasts – she goes out with her friends, parties, goes on dates and has an active lifestyle. Because – let’s face it – you don’t need fashion if you’re not active.”

Anteprima’s spring/summer 2024 campaign

Given Anteprima’s close relationship with art, it come as no surprise that Ogino herself is an avid collector. Her fascination with art started growing in 2003 when she visited the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam for the first time. She then visited the fair every two years. “Ispent the first decade just looking at art,” she says, “and then I started collecting, little by little.” Now that Ogino is a patron of Hong Kong’s M+ Museum, theCentre Pompidou in Paris and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, she also fosters close relationships with artists.

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“Just last week I had a dinner with [Japanese sculptor and installation artist] Aiko Miyanaga when she was visiting Hong Kong,” she says. “I quite enjoy spendingtime with artists and gallerists, and I try my best to introduce art to my design team too.”

Izumi Ogino’s handwriting

During our conversation in her office, I get a flavour of her taste in art. In the corridor leading to the showroom, there’s a Nami Yokoyama painting that features a hyper-realistic image of a neon sign spelling “Love” in Ogino’s own handwriting. She tells me the piece has doubled in value since she bought it. The painting, says Ogino, was created for Anteprima’s 30th-anniversary autumn/winter 2023 Wirebag collection, which featured a range of familiar accessories emblazoned with the word Love that glows in the dark.

But Ogino’s support for the next generation of artists lies beyond personal acquaintanceships and dinners. Earlier
this year, she partnered with the Centre for Heritage Arts and Textile (CHAT) on the launch of the Anteprima x CHAT Contemporary Textile Art Prize, for which the judging – by a panel including Tate Modern’s Ann Coxon, Prestige Woman of Power and CHAT executive director Takahashi Mizuki, and Daniel Xu of The Metropolitan Museum of Art – is still ongoing.

Ogino is a living and breathing example that even industries as incestuous and exclusionary as fashion can be conquered by the outsiders, provided they have the guts to try. Yes, the term outsider no longer applies to Ogino, but the freshness of her ideas, the ingenuity of her approach and her enduring dedication to supporting the next generation of creative minds could convince even the most cynical fashion veteran.

Source: Prestige Online

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