Fashion: Design for life

The best thing about the honest, straightforward clothes of husband and wife design team Eley Kishimoto is that you can buy them whether you are a trendy young thing or a senior citizen. Words by Rebecca Lowthorpe

When Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto sold their first collection of printed cotton clothes to Liberty in London, they attracted a somewhat unfamiliar clientele. "Little old ladies from Basingstoke were buying our designs in bulk," says Mark. "It's true," adds Wakako. "They looked fantastic head-to-toe in our prints."

Home Counties pensioners were uncharted territory for the couple who had grown accustomed to seeing their designs striding down catwalks (Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen) or sauntering down the street on the capital's style-setters. Still, it's not difficult to see why Liberty's older customers converted to Eley Kishimoto.

Their own-label clothes are cut into simple shapes: classic V-neck tops, short-sleeved dresses, T-shirts, wrap skirts, pea- jackets and belted macs. And the prints - polka dots, wiggly checks, deck- chair stripes and childlike blossoms - are quaint and charming and, indeed, just the sort of thing your grandmother might wear. The irony being that Eley Kishimoto kit is considered the essence of cool by the in-crowd for the very same reasons. Oh, and the fact that their clothes look like grown-up versions of cut-out clothes for paper dolls. "They're just honest, straightforward patterns, not weird for the sake of it," says Wakako.

Eley Kishimoto's laboratory-cum-cottage industry is a white stone building near south London's Brixton prison. The studio appears to be in utter chaos. Ink-stained cupboards burst with fabric; paint-spattered magazines, newspapers and books are stacked in piles; their new collection hangs from a washing line; the walls are plastered with lists of things to do and fabric swatches. A 20ft-long printing table is scattered with tools. At the far end, barely visible behind the printing machines, are two assistants preparing complex-looking silk screens, their hands and arms stained with rainbow colours.

Mark and Wak, as they call each other, are the perfect team. While Wakako is the creative force, Mark steers the business, which, he says, is thriving. Their clothes are stocked in London, Hong Kong, New York and all over Japan; the pair are currently working in collaboration with some of the grandest Paris fashion houses, although, contractually, they are forbidden to name names.

Back in the studio, their children -Naoki, five, and Tomomi, two - tumble through the door. Naoki wears an Eley Kishimoto school T-shirt. "From the fashion houses in Paris to Clapham Manor School. We work for everyone now," says Mark.

Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto were married in 1992. Their wedding was anything but traditional. Wakako wore a red dress sprouting plastic flowers, Mark wore a suit printed with an English landscape and the ushers wore Wakako's cloud-print catsuits.

Wakako, 34, was brought up just outside Kobe in Japan. She came to London, aged 20, unable to speak a word of English. "I had no Japanese friends when I arrived, so I had to learn fast." She graduated in 1992 from Central Saint Martins where she was the print-room's star.

Mark, 31, grew up in Wales. "The valleys are scary," he says. "I used to get beaten up all the time for looking weird." Mark studied woven textiles at Brighton. "I wanted to be near the sea so that I could surf. I didn't realise Brighton had the flattest sea on the south coast."

V-neck top, pounds 120; floral A-line skirt, pounds 110

Scribble top, pounds 60; rib leggings, pounds 110

Dress, pounds 220; leggings, pounds 10, from Portobello Market, London W11; Sellotape shoes, by Emma Cook, to order from Kokon Tozai, 57 Greek Street, London W1, enquiries 0171-434 1316

All clothes (unless otherwise credited) are from the autumn/winter 1999 collection by Eley Kishimoto, available from Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London SW1, enquiries 0171-584 0011, Liberty, Regent Street, London W1, enquiries 0171-734 1234

Hair and make-up Liz Daxeur at Marina Jones

Model Joanne Watkins at Premier

Photographer's assistant Andrew Walsh

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

    Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

    £90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

    £100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee