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Akiko : Owner + Illustrator of akrDesignStudio

KESTAN Community is a series where our creative director, Stephanie, sits down with inspirational women to talk about careers, motivation, and how they're making it.

Popular for her feminine, stylish, and minimalistic illustrations, Akiko's work is a charming take on modern illustration. Although a graduate of Joshibi University of Art and Design in Japan, she currently works and resides in sunny Southern California where she owns and illustrates akrDesignStudio creating her own line of stationary. Her work has been loved and featured in magazines such as Collective Hub, Mollie Makes, and Domino Magazine. She has also collaborated with major brands such as Anthropologie, and now Kestan. We sat down with Akiko and delved into what motivates her work. 

Name: Akiko

Occupation: Owner of akrDesignStudio & Illustrator

How did you first discover your love for art? I've always loved to draw! As a young child, my mother told me that I loved to draw and color, and even at that age I enjoyed illustrating women. 

So I did notice that a lot of your illustrations are these stylish women. Is there a reason why you're drawn to this subject matter? I love celebrating women and being able to express their uniqueness in a drawing. In general, I just enjoy noticing how people have their own individual style, and of course I enjoy fashion as well. It's fun for me to marry my passion for illustration and fashion through these stylish figures. 

How would you describe your own personal style of art? Definitely minimalistic and simple. Less is more! 

What motivated you to start your own design studio? I used to work as a freelancer, and I still love freelancing. At the same time though, it's very limited. Starting akrDesignStudio has given me to freedom to express myself through drawing and creating my own collections. 

How long have you been working for yourself? A little over three years! 

From our collaboration, did you have a personal favorite illustration or city? I love Greece! When I think about the country, I imagine sunshine and a fun atmosphere. It has a true vacation vibe to it. 

The girl was really cute! Yes! I was imagining what she would wear while relaxing on holiday. 

And speaking of our collaboration, how did you feel like Kestan was a good fit for your style? I love how modern Kestan's aesthetic is, and it fits my personal and design taste. The quality of your garments is also fantastic, and completely supports my "less is more" vibe. When I first saw your clothes, I could totally imagine all of my illustrated girls wearing your pieces! 

As an independent business owner, what would you say is the hardest part of running your company? The hardest part would be managing all of the different aspects of a business by myself. The creative part is the easiest for me, but at the same time I have to think about marketing, finances, productions, etc. The hardest part is definitely doing everything at the same time.

Wearing so many hats can be stressful. What do you like to do for fun then? I like to go outside in the sun to relax. I'm always in the studio, so it's nice to take a walk outside. I also love traveling, but I can't do that all the time. So I'll watch movies to transport myself to another time and place. 

So where do you see the future of your business? I'd love to expand my existing line. I'm also in the process of working on a character unique to akrDesignStudio and developing a line around it.  

Do you have any advice for others who would love to start drawing? Just start drawing, until you find your style! In the beginning, you can even find an artist you like, and practice working in their style. After time, you'll find what works and develop your own voice. 

Outside of drawing, do you do anything else to stay creative? I love baking! I used to bake a lot, and I love icing cookies. It's almost like drawing, but on cookies. My friends and family can always expect some gorgeous treats during the holidays and special occasions. 

Visit Akiko online here, or on Instagram @akrdesignstudio.

Shop the collection here.


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