Internationally renowned footwear and accessories designer Aki Choklat just launched a new line of accessories, expanding the offerings in his online shop, Akichoklat.com. He chatted with us via Skype about the new line, how your style evolves as you age, and the two types of shoe every guy needs in his closet.
What motivated you to create these new accessories?
I love accessories; you don’t have to worry about size too much, and they can really add to your look. The intricate little details are important to me, so updating things just made sense. For me, it’s a very organic process, usually based on research. I was inspired by 19th century designer Mariano Fortuny. I went to his villa in Venice, and it was the best exhibition in the space I’d ever seen. Really, the inspiration wasn’t as much from Fortuny as it was the person using the space for their exhibition. Mariano Fortuny looked amazing as a young guy, and as an old guy, so he was one of the touchpoints for this collection.
The quality of the items in your line is obviously important to you. How difficult was the process of sourcing and finding the right people to create them?
We went to various trade shows and found that other designers don’t share their secrets. We found a good company that produces for Armani, and Gucci. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. There were so many negotiations, it was kind of draining. I learned, as that creativity is not always happiness, it’s also hard work!
Not everything was so draining. We found a father and daughter that make ties by hand, and [they brought us] generations of expertise. The umbrellas and raincoats are made in England (since 1868). It’s a real honor that they’re willing to work with me. I have to be careful now, because I want to make everything!
How does one cultivate their style as they get older? Creating a unique look as a man of size at any age is difficult, so how do you adapt your style as time goes by?
I don’t think about how I put things together. My style evolved from being a young punk in the 70’s, to rockabilly, new romantic – a lot of different groups when I was younger. Then I was a fashion person, and wore black t-shirts and jackets – it got boring. I finally sort of became someone with no direction.
Wear what you’re comfortable with. It’s not about being in your own bubble; it’s about communicating with people. We have a need to be individuals and express individuality yet, we have an urge to belong and be accepted. Transitioning in age, you go through phases, but ultimately you find confidence. I think it would be great if people expressed themselves a little bit more.
Can we expect more products to be added to the shop in the future?
I’m not designing to make money, though I’m glad people are buying things. The great thing with the shop is that I’m cutting the middle man out completely, which saves on price. It’s interesting to see if people buy more. It’s so much fun.
What are the two types of shoes that every man should have in his closet?
It’s not natural to wear shoes; we ought to be barefoot. Don’t just wear running shoes all the time, you won’t be able to comfortably wear any other kind. Leather is best, as it is most natural and breathable. Every man should have a sport shoe, and a well-fitted leather shoe.
You’re in Detroit right now, serving as Chair of the Fashion Accessories Design department at the College for Creative Studies. Is there anyone in the city’s fashion scene that inspires you?
I’ve been in Detroit for 3 months. [The city is] kind of hot in Europe right now. The fashion scene is young, but growing. There are lots of interesting shops and communities popping up. I like what Shinola is doing, as well as Veronika Scott with her socially responsible design company Empowerment Plan.
See all of the bowties, belts, braces, raincoats and other accessories available in the newly updated shop at Akichoklat.com.