wrk-shp‘s Airi Isoda and Ryan Upton essentially created the multifaceted jobs that they wanted to have. They founded the firm a few year ago by starting a fashion line — and have since branched out to both innovative, design-y home goods and architecture projects, all of which make perfect sense as a whole.
Both were working at architecture firms and feeling the need for a bit of creative satisfaction that wasn’t coming from the 9-to-5. Isoda found designing clothing, rather than buildings, was just the ticket then. “Using my background in architecture, the process of designing clothing felt similar, such as the way you think about form, function and detail,” she says.
wrk-shp’s womenswear is architect-designed from first glance — just add some oversized specs to fall’s smock dress or paper bag midi skirt and you have the perfect designer/gallery girl uniform. Unsurprisingly, it’s a collection that was inspired by Le Corbusier — both his buildings themselves and his architectural theories — and there’s even a graphic sweatshirt that reads “Corbu.” But wrk-shp isn’t just about art-y duds. Their home accessories are the kinds that make you go “gimme” — a multipurpose natural-wood wall hook, clean-line three-sided tables that seamlessly bring the light source table-side. Their lighting projects complete the package, marrying warm, inviting looks with the modern mainstay of exposed bulbs and wires. They’ve got a hand in everything, really, and it all makes sense as a total package.
“We are not just architects, product or furniture designers, or a clothing brand,” says Isoda. “We are designers and we can apply our vision on any medium — we want to keep creating high-quality things that are both artful and useful.”
As if team wrk-shp wasn’t busy enough, they expanded their offerings in a not-exactly-surprising way: a unisex clothing line called wrk-shp too. “We always liked the idea of unisex clothing and developing basics or daily uniform that doesn’t necessarily change each season like our womens collection,” says Isoda. “Plus, it was time for Ryan to have a piece of wrk-shp that he can wear!” To design the pieces, they studied the details of both masculine and feminine clothing to better understand each concept — and avoid leaning too far one way or the other. “Finding the right balance between mens and womens clothing informed the silhouettes and also looking for common ground in details and function helped us a lot,” says Isoda. It’s a simple collection of five tops, ranging from button-up work shirts with a tape measure hem to quilted cardigans with cool pocket detailing.
Isoda likes being based in LA while also recognizing the limitations. “I think the LA fashion scene is still quite young. There’s a lot of potential which is pretty exciting to watch,” she says. “NY is still a central place for a lot of designers and the fashion scene, so more often than not we end up seeing fellow LA-based designers in NYC!” That said, there are plenty of non-tangibles that make the West Coast location make total sense: “We feel a lot of freedom to be creative here in LA. There is also so much support from the creative community and I feel that we can maintain a healthy work/play balance.” Then again, California cool isn’t always everything: “The downside is probably the slower pace of things especially in manufacturing,” says Isoda.