Fashion: Creative Director Anthony Moynihan
Way back in 2001, when I first had the pleasure of meeting international fashion icon, Anthony Moynihan, I recall watching him create a Balinese-themed interior step by step in the home of one particularly prestigious client in Tokyo's upscale Azabu Juban district. I remember being awestruck as I watched Anthony stride around the space and, in a matter of moments, re-arrange the lighting so that the whole space immediately looked larger, yet more welcoming and intimate at the same time. Introducing lamps, downlights and candles completely recreated the scenario to full effect. With no exaggeration, I realised I was clearly in the presence of a creative genius. (below: fashion photo shoots with styling and makeup by Anthony Moynihan are always guaranteed to be unique.)
Anthony - born and raised in England and based in Asia for more than twenty years - creates all kinds of artistic work, from fashion design, to accessories design, to interior decor consultancy, to makeup and styling for photo shoots and video, to complete image-overhaul, to brand-development and more.
This tsunami of skills shows broad aesthetic influences including the fashion areas of Omote-Sando (which are known as THE must-see fashion retail hot-spots of Tokyo) plus myriad other places Anthony has visited in his world travels. Anthony's clients include top advertising agencies, luxury fashion houses, actors, singers and the uber-rich elite who know a clued-in fashionista/creative director when they meet one. To wit, Anthony's client-list includes the "Japanese Madonna," Aymui Hamasaki, Japan's biggest pop star (shown below):
When I speak with Anthony about his work, he points out that it's not only the actual CONTENT of design that is key, it's also, as the designer advises, "all about lighting!" Anthony muses, "Lighting is essential to the success of an interior, a photo shoot, a movie or any scene, really, because lighting breathes life into darkness and transforms it into something beautiful; in a retail fashion store, for example, the right lighting creates mood, feeling and plays on our emotions.”
Clearly, Japanese architects are of course world-leaders in their field and their use of light echoes the traditional, historical use of effective lighting in public presentations. Butoh, Noh and other theatre illustrate this phenomenon widely and these simple yet powerful methods mark the way for current lighting trends in retail stores. “Lighting,” Anthony reflects, “creates illusions and catches us off balance. It makes forms through highlights and shadows.”
The depth and subtlety of Anthony's understanding and application of such secrets make him a sought-after creative and business-developer within the luxe-fashion world. Anthony is constantly aware of how various fabrics will fare in certain lighting settings and therefore sheer fabrics in layers are among his preferred choices when he's designing. In fact, when considering Anthony’s clothing designs, one is reminded of the traditional colours found in Japanese lantern construction. The andon lamp in particluar is one example reminiscent of Anthony’s palette. Traditionally a typical Japanese lamp fashioned from paper stretched over a frame made of metal, wood or bamboo, the andon was popular in the Edo period spanning the years from 1603-1868. The influence of the andon light is still seen today in Japan’s retail spaces and it's something of a perennial choice due to its subtlety and innovative design.
This innovative subtlety is partly why the UK born and raised Anthony chooses to live in Asia. As a child, one of Anthony's favourite paintings in his family’s home depicted a charming Japanese scene which he has kept as a keepsake of bygone days and now has at home in Asia amongst his treasured keepsakes.
“When I was small, I’d look up at this incredible image of Geisha-style beauty and delicately landscaped gardens and I was immediately transported to another time and place,” Anthony muses. “So I decided even at that young age that I would at some time live and breathe the design culture of the East.”
Firstly, however, Anthony’s design-apprenticeship was founded amidst the hustle of the uber hip fashion and makeup world of 80s London. Eschewing traditional pathways to design qualification, Anthony cites his ‘university’ as being the ‘school of life’ and, like so many of the most powerful world fashion experts, is therefore largely self-taught in his technique. So with Spandau Ballet, Yazz, Visage and Wham! pumping in the background, Anthony took his emboldened style to the heart of clubland and never looked back. He started as a makeup artist and gradually taught himself everything he wanted to learn about patten-making, tailoring and design. He was witness to, and a harbinger of, the massive style-changes occurring at the time.
“Basically what was happening at this time was a huge shift in how colour and lighting were used,” says Anthony, “and what was becoming possible with laser and neon was unprecedented; this of course being reflected in the fluorescent clothing and makeup which suddenly became available through technology.”
Think of the lighting in the Wham! and Duran Duran early video clips and you are on the right track. Fun Fact: Anthony is actually featured in the crowd of dancers in the Wham! video shown here:
The path followed by Anthony was the road less travelled, as he states on his IQONS page, “I realized at an early age there is no gap between life and fashion. With this fashion philosophy, I set out on my path to reach my destiny! I started out as a make-up artist, working on music videos, fashion shows and club events.”
“The next step was setting up a conceptual clothing brand Pans, deconstructing and customizing vintage and used clothing. Pans sold in Soho’s trendy select boutique Kunst alongside John Galliano and John Richmond. In 1987 I established the Nobody Design Studio, focusing on order-made, one-off clothes and stage costumes. I also opened the select boutique Clothes to Love, in Covent Garden, to house my own brand alongside other designers.”
“During the late 80’s and early 90’s I pursued my fashion career in styling for magazine editorial and pop music videos, followed by creative assistant work for accessory brands. In the mid 90’s I harnessed all my artistic experience in fashion and club culture and moved to Japan. Over the previous years I have been working as a creative director for fashion consulting, fashion/costume design and celebrity styling. I was working as a party host, MC and showtime performer in Tokyo’s club world however I decided to step out of my nocturnal spotlight so I could focus all my energy on my fashion design / creative consultancy career.”
With his client-base continually proving to be incredibly receptive to this energy, clearly, Panacea37 was the quintessential “overnight success…twenty years in the making!” What makes Anthony unique is that he identifies his education as coming from “the 1980s club scene.” Self-taught in his formidable skill as designer, tailor and lighting planner, Anthony’s flair stems from his bold use of colour and attention to detail. This detail is what drew him into the Omote-sando precinct of Tokyo and later, to China's top tier cities such as Shanghai, Guangzhou and the region of Hong Kong. Excellence in management skills and being able to accurately communicate his design-visions to his team make Anthony an asset to his clients. Not only is he able to create designs from end-to-end but is also culturally sensitive to the specific needs of his local collaborative teams in Asia, making for results-oriented productivity built on years of international experience. (below: Anthony spotted at work with some of his team in Guangzhou, China, creating luxury handbags. Portrait by Don Seno Photography).
“What I love about designing in Asia,” Anthony enthuses, “is that it you're constantly surrounded by inspiration." He adds that, "The Asian colour-palette, mixed with subtle lighting, enables us to see the finer details of everything. The effect of great in-store lighting is very powerful, yet has its own simplicity. When lighting dances with colour, it brings you into another world. Like witnessing an explosion, it’s captivating…it takes your breath away and leaves you speechless.”
Anthony's top tips if you're visiting Tokyo include fashion stores such as Bedrock in Omote-Sando Hills, http://www.japanesestreets.com/reports/467/the-coolest-store-no-one-knows-of, plus Loveless in Omote-Sando proper and Comme des Garcons on Omote-Sando Dori, which all feature interiors showcasing the cutting edge of lighting design in Japan. The store Bedrock is famed for its notoriously mysterious shop-frontage, which, interestingly, has no sign. As in the manner of typically cryptic Japanese street-addresses, puzzling Zen koans and layer upon layer of kimono as opposed to a micro-mini, to find the right stores one must indeed either be ‘in the know’ or simply be completely dedicated to finding out what lies within. (Makeup & Styling by Anthony Moynihan for Xintiandi, Shanghai, below):
Through this tradition of the clandestine treasure, Japan conveniently weeds-out the flippant or the apathetic, leaving only the truly sincere fashionista privy to witnessing the best fashion oases. Consider as a case in point that the best hairdressers in Harajuku accept new clients via invitation only from existing clients – unless you’re prepared to do some serious schmoozing which could – and does – take hours or even days. So is the quest for spotting the best in retail stores worth the wait?
“Absolutely!” says Anthony. “And once the Japanese know you’re serious, they are incredibly welcoming and accommodating. Mind you, some stores, such as “Bedrock,” don’t allow any instore photography and never advertise, nor allow their goods to appear in magazine editorial, so the experience becomes elite and within this realm, the sales assistants are meticulously trained to provide possibly the world’s best customer service in fashion retail purchasing experiences.” The mystery-experience at Bedrock begins via a rear doorway followed by a spiral stairway, leading to a cave-like interior bedecked with chandelier lighting and cage motifs. More light is accessed in the back section of the store which doubles as an atrium crammed with tropical plants and flowers. The shelving fitout consists of chains and wooden racks where labels such as the eponymous house-label “Bedrock,” plus John Galliano, If Six was Nine, Olivier Theyskens (Nina Ricci) and more. The high cost of the real estate in the area is justified by proximity to the ancient Meiji Shrine, close to fashion epicentre Harajuku. In fact, “Omote-sando” literally means ‘the front approach to the shrine’ so perhaps the modern penchant for replacing organized religion with a weekly mall visit renders the title increasingly relevant. Indeed, the breathtakingly ornate chandeliers in Bedrock lend an almost cathedral-like atmosphere to the experience of what is, clearly, for some, “fashion-worship.” The Commes des Garcons store is another which Anthony identifies as among the most inspiring in terms of lighting fitout.
“Put simply,” says Anthony, “these stores have to be seen to be believed in terms of what has been achieved with the lighting because they epitomize the three main elements essential to achieving successful in-store lighting.”
Anthony's Three Top Tips for designing Interior Lighting for Retail Spaces:
“Firstly,” says Anthony, “lighting that creates a mood is paramount to making the consumer feel good about being there.”
“Secondly, the positioning of lighting is also key to its effectiveness.”
“Finally, lighting that’s flattering is clearly, essential in any retail space.”
Unsurprisingly, Anthony has won awards for his contribution to the development of retail stores and brands in other Asian cities; namely "Alter" in Shanghai and more recently, the luxe-label, "Lifeier," in Guangzhou. What he brings to the table is a special mix of retail know-how, with an enviably complex insight into trends, and a sense of "what's next." To find someone who understands the whims of even the fussiest buyer would be close to impossible, which is part of Anthony's skill-set as a consultant for high-end fashion shoots (as shown below in this shot styled by Anthony):
Anthony showcasing some of his current bag designs (below); photos by Don Seno.
Recently, Anthony created a mindblowing selection of designs, namely for the handbag, jewellery and accessories label, Lifeier, based in Guangzhou, catering to an international buyership including local and international celebrities. Being able to tap into the complex mind of the Chinese luxury consumer is a gift Anthony has honed over years of living and working in Asia. He knows that quality is key and he's constantly ahead of the curve in terms of being able to predict what's actually going to SELL and what isn't, seasons - or even years - ahead of time. by Christina M. Morrison, Editor.