Auralee, the ’seductively unknowable’ Japanese label celebrating a decade of beautiful clothes

Ahead of Auralee’s S/S 2025 runway show at Paris Fashion Week Men’s this evening (18 June 2024), Dal Chodha meets Tokyo-based designer Ryota Iwai to speak about the brand’s considered, covetable collections

Backstage at Auralee’s A/W 2024 runway show
Backstage at Auralee’s A/W 2024 runway show
(Image credit: Courtesy of Auralee)

With their snuggly insouciant line and tender colour palette, the clothes Tokyo-based designer Ryota Iwai has been making for a decade under the name Auralee are confident, elegant and global. Yet they remain seductively unknowable. Set against the technicolour, transdisciplinary funk of the reigning fashion cycle, they demand interpretation.

It would be too easy to file Auralee away under the catch-all term ‘quiet luxury’. The world that Iwai has built is much more about living life to the max – a wardrobe that, even when worn roughly, can be worn elegantly. The label’s tenth anniversary has crept up on its founder almost unnoticed. ‘When you’re running a brand, you just become so consumed by it and to be honest I hadn’t even realised it had been that long. I don’t think I’ve had the chance to reflect because looking back, a lot of it is a blur,’ Iwai says the night before leaving Tokyo for Paris, where he will present his S/S 2025 collection.

Ryota Iwai on a decade of Auralee

Auralee designer Ryota Iwai on phone eating banana

Auralee designer Ryota Iwai in the run up to his S/S 2025 collection

(Image credit: Courtesy of Auralee)

The show will feature a nonpareil wardrobe of intensely considered separates made in exquisite textiles from Peruvian Alpaca to Mongolian cashmere, New Zealand wool and Indian cotton, untethered to a litany of anxious cultural touchpoints. It’s another chapter in a decade-long saga of beautiful things, made well and worn often. ‘The concept that people are calling “slow fashion” is something that I like, so I understand how maybe that term is applied to us,’ Iwai says. 

Yet it’s the complexity of the minimalist clothes he saw as a teenager in the 1990s that have left their mark on him more than any desire to fade into the background. ‘People tend to want to categorise things and so putting all minimal brands under the same umbrella seems a little strange. This is about taking a more methodical, delicate approach,’ he says. Together with his team, Iwai spends just as long perfecting an unlined soft leather blazer or foamy cashmere sweater as a pair of neat cotton rib socks.

Auralee A/W 2015 menswear lookbook

Auralee A/W 2015, one of the brand’s first collections

(Image credit: Courtesy of Auralee)

After working as a pattern maker and designer for several Japanese brands, Iwai established Auralee in 2015 yet only started to present on the runway in January of this year. The show today is not a celebration but a lesson in continuity. There is no radical proposal, no sermon, no diktats but a revision of colour, texture and gesture. ‘Some people put a lot of pressure onto their clothing, perhaps hoping to make a huge statement but I’m more interested in how smaller changes can highlight something about the wearer,’ Iwai says. ‘I think there are some things in life that we can't change, but I think we can soften them with our clothes. Wearing certain things can help you to feel more at ease.’

It is about consistency. Auralee has established itself as pure and honest, not fleetingly cool. Some of the pieces have a kind of vintage feel to them but some are a little more futuristic. ‘One of my goals is that people cannot tell when our things have been made or immediately know what season something is from. I think that idea of them being a bit more ambiguous is important. Each season I don’t want to talk about “fashion” but a certain feeling. I've never thought of this new collection as something that celebrates an anniversary, I’m just trying to make clothes that are a part of people’s lives and also transcendent. Something that will allow people to escape – if they feel the need to.’

Auralee A/W 2024 runway show

Auralee A/W 2024. Its follow-up will take place in Paris this evening

(Image credit: Courtesy of Auralee)

Auralee’s wrinkled Egyptian cotton-twill blazer in warm caramel and a pair of light wool gabardine slacks pooling onto a naked foot are a fine distraction from the brouhaha of product offered by conglomerate cabals. Minimalism isn’t emptiness. ‘Your clothes should further express who you are,’ Iwai says, ‘not be an outer layer forced upon you.’

Auralee is available at Mytheresa.

London based writer Dal Chodha is editor-in-chief of Archivist Addendum — a publishing project that explores the gap between fashion editorial and academe. He writes for various international titles and journals on fashion, art and culture and is a contributing editor at Wallpaper*. Chodha has been working in academic institutions for more than a decade and is Stage 1 Leader of the BA Fashion Communication and Promotion course at Central Saint Martins. In 2020 he published his first book SHOW NOTES, an original hybrid of journalism, poetry and provocation.