BOWIE (bowie.com.au): If Bowie Wong's elaborate creations in satin and fine wool strike you as theatrical, that's no coincidence. He was born in Hong Kong to an opera singer mother, and studied costume design in Canada. Wong also picked up a design degree in Japan and, displaying a prodigious appetite for academia, returned to his birthplace to earn another degree, this time in drama. Wong emigrated to Australia in 1997, enrolling in a fashion design course at an East Sydney college. But this time, further studies were superfluoushis teacher thought him so talented (and over-qualified) that she advised him to drop out and head straight into the rag trade. He took her advice, and started his own label. By 2000, he was representing Australia at Hong Kong Fashion Week, his audience instantly recognizing the rich, oriental-style fabrics and Chinese opera motifs that inspire some of his work.
AKIRA (www.akira.com.au): The rousing reception accorded to Kyoto-born designer Akira Isogawa at his first show during Mercedes Australian Fashion Week in 1996 was among the initial indications that the market was ready for designs with an Asian flavor. Since then, exhibitions at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art, and commissions to design costumes for the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Sydney Dance Company, have shown that Isogawa's elaborately-constructed, kimono-like ensembles are as much high art as they are high style. His clothes now retail in 14 countries, including his native Japan.