Lucy in the Style with Alphas
Meet Sarah Watanabe, the designer for up- and- coming label, Monster Alphabets, and the winner of STYLEAID’s Betts Creative Award. Sarah’s pieces are all about “less is more”, using clean lines to great effect, with an architectural quality. All this is hardly surprising as she is a qualified architect.
After studying Fashion in Tokyo, Sarah returned to Perth and worked in the industry for a while, honing her craft. She launched her label, Monster Alphabets in 2011. I arrived as she was in the middle of creating a one- off piece for STYLEAID, as it celebrates its 15th anniversary.
Lucy: Why Monster Alphabets?
Sarah: I wanted to implement a storyline to the label. The name came from a series of artworks that my sister was working on. In short, it was a set of alphabets where each letter had its own distinctive and mysterious qualities.
Lucy: When did your love for designing and fashion begin?
Sarah: I have always wanted to be a fashion designer, but architecture just got in the way! I love to design, whether it’s clothes, buildings, or furniture. I guess it also is in the blood; my father used to draw a lot and used to leave us little animation notes.
My sister is also very creative, having studied illustration in London. I have always been around design and creation in many different elements so it feels quite natural and enjoyable to immerse myself in my work. However, that doesn’t mean it is all glamour, starting your own label is very hard work!
Lucy: Has your architectural background been your main design influence?
I’m not exactly sure where my inspiration comes from. But, studying architecture is like going through boot camp for five years, and the things I learned during the course have subconsciously stayed with me.
I value the ideas of “form follows function” and “less is more”. Fashion and architecture have similar basics, without getting too deep into theory, but they also vary in many instances as well.
Lucy: What designers have influenced your style?
I love the intense, crazy ideas of Kei Kagami. I also love Yohji Yamamoto. I love his designs, and the theory behind them. When I’m in the process of designing, I stop and think about Yohji’s idea of designing for the woman of the future and the way he designs in shadow forms. It reminds me I should take more risks with my designs.
Lucy: Like me, you are passionate about Perth and our talented creative community. What would you say to other creative people who don’t seem to appreciate the potential Perth has to offer?
Sarah: I think that Perth is one of the most unique places in the world and we should be more comfortable and proud about the fact that it is a small city. We will never be Melbourne or Sydney. It is an isolated city with lots of room to breathe. In my eyes this isn’t such a bad thing!
Lucy: What can we expect from your next collection?
Sarah: I have tried to keep it simple but maintain my own aesthetics, by playing with the shape and form. Using the clean lines of origami, it’s all about folding and unfolding planes. Looking at the effect that it has on the form and shadow, and the traces that they leave behind when unfolded.
Lucy: Where can we find your label?
Sarah: In Perth Monster Alphabets is available at Hatch (Carillon City, Perth) and Merge (Hay St, Subiaco). It is a big risk for stores to take on new labels, and I choose my stores very carefully. I have been lucky as they are both really supportive of emerging local labels.
Lucy: Congrats on winning STYLEAID’s Betts Creative Award. How did that come about?
Sarah: Initially I wasn’t going to enter, as I thought I wasn’t ready. However I was encouraged to reconsider and I started writing my application a week before the deadline! I was short-listed, then had to be interviewed about my collection. They drilled me with series of questions and patiently listened while I nervously mumbled my responses.
While I was waiting for my turn I had a chance to talk to the other applicants. I was even more nervous when I knew whom I was up against. So to be selected as the winner, when I knew how talented and hard working the other applicants were, made me feel extremely honoured. It is wonderful to get the label exposure that STYLEAID will bring for such a relatively new label.
Lucy: What are you planning to do with the $5000 prize money?
Sarah: My label is almost a year old, I have a blog, but I don’t have a website. So I’m going to use to go towards setting up a website.
Lucy: Are you excited about being selected for the WA Designer Collections at the Perth Fashion Festival?
Sarah: I actually wrote one -year two- year goals at the start of this year. I had thought this year, I would work on developing the label further. Next year was going to be the year I applied for the Fashion Festival. But winning the STYLEAID award gave me the confidence to think, maybe I shouldn’t wait until next year.
I am absolutely over the moon at having been selected for the WA Designer Collections. I studied in Tokyo, so I have no fashion network in Perth. I am looking forward to taking part in this show and fingers crossed I might make some new friends!
STYLEAID is an annual event to raise money for the WA AIDS Council, a non-profit organisation. This year they are celebrating the 15th birthday of their most successful fundraiser. In honour of this, 15 designers will be showcasing their collections. Tickets for STYLEAID have been selling like hotcakes, so you better be quick or you will miss out. For further information go to www.styleaid.com.au
You can also catch Monster Alphabets as part of the WA Designer Collections at this year’s Perth Fashion Festival in September. For more information go to www.perthfashionfestival.com.au
For further information on stockists and to follow the progress of Monster Alphabets go to www.monsteralphabets.blogspot.com.au