Akemi Okamoto

Dec 3rd, 2012

Akemi Okamoto did the patternmaking for Uniforma’s latest collection. Akemi is a San Francisco based designer of women’s fashion. She holds a degree in fashion design from Academy of Art University in San Francisco. We talked about her work, and what a fashion designer chooses for her own uniform.

U: Were you trained as a patternmaker?  I understand it's becoming a rare skill.

AO: I went to fashion school (Academy of Art University) and have a BFA in fashion design.  I really didn't know anything about patternmaking until attending fashion school- I actually hated patternmaking as a student but over the years, have grown to enjoy it!

I'm not sure if it's becoming a rare skill, however, I notice a lot of new designers not feeling comfortable creating their own patterns or hiring a patternmaker to develop their styles for whatever reason.   I prefer to have full control from start to finish; this way there is no miscommunication over fit or revisions.  A lot of larger companies digitize their patterns or develop them through computer, but I find that a lot of small to med-size companies still resort to hand pattern development.  I think the initial pattern is always developed by hand, then digitized later.

U: What's the manufacturing process like for your own line?

AO: So for me, in the manufacturing process, depending on the size of the orders, I have a cutter who cuts the most popular styles and I also do the cutting.  He delivers it to the sewer and I hand over a finished sample as a guide for sewing (sample sewer and production sewer is the same person).  I also have a grader who helps me with creating the different sizes. Her process is all digital. 

U: It's designed and made here in San Francisco, right?  

AO: Yes!  Everything is designed and made here in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

U: What's the uniform you wear when you're working?  When you're not? 

AO: Well, I can pretty much wear whatever I want, whenever I want.  That's the beauty of being self-employed!  I really don't have a uniform when I work in the studio, but in general my uniform has been American Apparel black high-waisted jeans with my Laredo boots and some sort of blouse or t-shirt.  I wear a lot of black- black is my uniform.  Last year I really tried to expand my wardrobe by adding in color, it sort of worked, but I always go back to black. 

U: What do you have coming up next?  And what's your dream project? 

AO: Right now I am in the middle of developing Fall 2013.  In fashion we are one year ahead with development, so you really have to stay on top of it.  The deadlines are brutal and you're on to the next season in a short amount of time. I think this is the complete opposite timeline for artists who paint or work with mixed media -- I talk to my studio mates, who are all fine artists, and their heads always spin when I tell them how fast things move! 

My dream project would be to just take a short break from my line and do styling for music videos and wardrobe for bands... I'm not sure when I will have time for that!