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It was at university that Hannah Rose Fry and Fozia Akalo first met each other. Fast forward four years and the pair would begin collaborating on a project that would spur the conception of their own label – SHIO – which sees all of their favourite things being manifested into collections inspired by hip-hop, ‘90s culture, and Japanese design. With the likes of Mac Miller and ScHoolboy Q being spotted in their gear, it’s safe to say the duo are making moves in the fashion world.

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How did SHIO start?

We met while studying RMIT’s Bachelor of Design course at the CBD campus. SHIO was basically the result of a collaborative photoshoot for our fourth year folios. The collaboration continued initially under the name Salt during an inaugural exhibition by c-lab – an art and design collective established by former RMIT design alumni. We didn’t work under the name SHIO until about late 2013.

What made you want to start a label together?

We found our design aesthetic was very similar in many ways and complemented one another’s creative vision. It was really just an organic collaboration. Having developed in such a creative environment at RMIT we found that the design process is greater in numbers. In our case, two is always better than one. We have each other to bounce ideas off and push one another. We share the same ideas for SHIO and the direction we want it to head in the next few years.

Do you have similar personal style?

Initially, no. Foz was always black and white while Hannah wore a fair bit of colour, but we did still lean toward urban vintage wear and athletic wear. We pretty much just wear black and white nowadays – traditional Melbourne monochrome. But I think that’s been a result of our maturity and aesthetic evolution. Being curvier girls we’re all about stretch, something we embrace in our own work. As well as the whole sports luxe movement, I think it’s encouraged a sense of comfort and functionality in fashion that’s been absent for a while.

Whats your favourite thing about Japanese fashion?

Japanese fashion is so multifaceted. There’s not necessarily one thing about it because there are so many subcultures constantly emerging.  When we think of Japanese fashion, the words that pop into our mind are appropriation, eccentricity, individuality, avant-garde, depth, confidence and infatuation.

Where else do you draw your inspiration?

We’ve always had a love of ‘90s hip hop and R&B, so they’ve always played a major roll in our work. We love scrolling through Tumblr for old magazine cut outs of Aaliyah, Tupac, or Outkast. Urban fashion was at its peak back then, it had real personality. It seemed to impact pop culture in a big way. That classic trash pop culture which seemed to be so heavily influenced by urban culture – think Britney Spears collaborating with The Neptunes, or Mel C and Left Eye dropping a track.

How does it feel to have the likes of Cj Fly, Mac Miller and ScHoolboy Q repping SHIO?

Getting our gear to Mac Miller was a complete fluke, we had a few hours before his show to organise everything and hand it over. Cj Fly was super cool, he hit us up after the swap, seemed like a real artist that loved collaborating. We appreciate hip hop music locally and internationally, for us it’s not so much about getting our clothes on any urban artist, but individuals whose work we appreciate and feel carry a positive energy and message. Having said that we’d love to throw Drake a SHIO tee…

Which tunes are on heavy rotation in the studio?

Drake always. That new mixtape killed it.

Tell us a little bit about your AW15 collection.

For this collection we’re collaborating with The Social Studio – a social enterprise based in Collingwood – who’ve been long time supporters of SHIO. Working with their printing studio we’ve produced both silk and Lycra prints and a small range, which will be exclusive to The Social Studio and SHIO online. The print we’ve developed is an ode to the ’90s, inspired by The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and geometric repeats to meet the brief and aesthetic of The Social Studio which does not stray too far from our own.

What challenges do you think the Australian fashion industry are facing right now?

Monotony. You walk from one store to the other and see the same thing – literally. Corporations are stifling the creative integrity of their designers and focusing more on revenue. The whole idea of brand identity is lost, it has just become this synchronised seasonal dance, where all sense of individuality or craftsmanship has been eradicated.  Australian fashion needs to take note of what the rest of the world is doing, we’re just completely out of the loop.

What are your favourite Australian labels?

Emma Mulholland, Pageant and PAM always deliver the goods. We don’t follow a lot, but we support local small businesses and designers who make an impact to our community or visibly on the streets of Melbourne. Many of our friends from uni have gone on to start their own labels, and though they might not fit within our aesthetic we always offer one another support and encouragement.

Whats been your greatest struggle as local designers?

Finding funding and stockists. It’s tricky when you’re starting out, straight out of university, and have very small runs, but particularly when you have a specific aesthetic.

And your greatest achievement?

Maintaining momentum. It’s hard to juggle work, life and business and maintain your growth in all three aspects. But if we had to choose one, probably being a part of the VAMFF15 cultural program. So far they have shown so much support and everything is coming together nicely on both ends.

Do you have any words of wisdom for budding designers?

Get the skills and always be willing to learn. I think people always assume they know it all but there’s always new techniques, new methods, new fibres and new technologies out there – experiment and learn first. Knowledge is the greatest gift you can bestow upon others and yourself.