Her passion for photography runs in the family. Her father, a shutterbug, used to take her photo often, which is why, when young Estela started shooting photos with her own camera, she featured the people who were part of her life.
Light and good vibes
Eikō Ai delves into a fashion concept inspired by nature and based on the transformative power of light to convey good vibes and get the people who wear their pieces to feel good. All without forgetting the star piece from their beginnings, the kimono, and without disregarding sustainability, prioritizing the garments’ longevity.
If Eikō Ai worshiped a god, it would be Helios, Ra, or Inti. Their latest collection, Lucid Dreams, is an ode to solar energy and a resounding yes to wearing sparkle in broad daylight. Although the seed of the brand isn’t the king of the sky, rather a zeal for design and a coup de foudre with the kimono. Today, the traditional Japanese piece has turned into one of their icons, but the brand has transcended. Gloria Lladó (Barcelona, 1986), one of its founders, focuses on essential qualities from nature and transforms them into pieces that escape Earth. Feeling good through clothes is the leitmotif of a brand that also seeks to connect with the spirit and good vibes.
When did you feel the calling of fashion?
I’ve loved it since I was little. I remember that I was given a dress for a celebration, and the first thing I thought about was cutting it and removing the sleeves. In the end, it was a disaster, but from that early age I already wanted to customise things.
Before founding Eikō Ai you worked for other brands. How did you develop your talent there?
It’s an industry that requires hard work, there are many processes before making the final garment. I love challenges and multinationals, they often limit your creativity. I’ve been lucky enough to create designs, develop garments and look for fabrics under a lot of pressure, but always enjoying myself.
Why did you decide to create Eikō Ai?
The truth is that it was born out of a personal need. I needed a dress and couldn’t find one that fit the bill, so I decided to make it myself. I wanted to create my own universe, something that I couldn’t find anywhere else. It almost came about while playing, and that game turned into a company, but it was also tough because I’d leave the office and immediately start working again.
“Eikō Ai was born out of a personal need. I wanted to create my own universe, something that I couldn’t find anywhere else”
The kimono is connected to the brand’s beginnings; what makes this piece so special?
It’s an ancient piece that has withstood the test of time. The fact that it has a legacy and understanding it from the point of view of comfort are really interesting codes. An elegant, comfortable, and slightly casual piece to wear on different occasions, but preserving its sophistication. We also love Japanese culture: our own name is a Japanese phonetic translation of glory and love. And we’d love to continue delving into a more thoughtful Japan, doing things slowly, calmly, with care.
Is there anything left of the kimono that initially inspired your talent in the collections?
We had some models, we made versions, and now we always have a kimono dress, with its typical sleeves, but draped. They are new versions of the iconic garment that we hope will withstand the test of time. It’s what we were born with, and we still love it.
What language do your designs speak?
We always start a collection with colour. We love light tones, with a lot of white in their composition and that flatter all skin tones. Another important topic is prints, which we design ourselves, and sheer fabrics. We love airy fabrics dyed in colours that evoke delicacy.
And where does your inspiration come from?
The best artist throughout history has been nature and we’re inspired by it. We find incredible colours in flowers or the sky, or wonderful gradients in sunsets. The similarity with water and its glimmers when reflecting light lead us to use sequins and shiny fabrics, and we love laminates that simulate water. But we’re not only inspired by visual elements, we also have sensory references. Everything that makes us feel better, like certain sounds and scents. We also love to connect nature with the spiritual realm, energies, waves, and vibrations. The invisible sense of things because what moves within comes out.
Does this imitation of nature invite us to wear sequins and sparkle during the day?
I love that idea. If you try going in the sun wearing holographic and sequin fabrics, really interesting glimmers come alive. Just for this reason, we should definitely wear sparkle during the day.
In your latest collection, Lucid Dreams, how do you interpret this whole universe?
It’s a collection inspired by solar energy. The sun symbolises the light source that provides vital energy so that all organisms grow and manifest. For Earth, it’s the essence of life and it connects us with the universe. It’s aimed at the urban, cosmopolitan, inspiring, and sensual woman who seeks to connect with natural beauty and the magnificence of the present moment.
And how does it take shape?
Through sheer fabrics that let the light through, ultrasoft satin fabrics in luminous colours, warm-toned shiny fabrics, printed jacquards, airy fabrics that merge with holographic prints, florals, and shiny fabrics that life flows through... Our garments send a positive message and energy that makes you feel good.
“The best artist throughout history has been nature and we’re inspired by it. We find incredible colours or marvellous gradients in it”
You choose to make your pieces long-lasting, which is a way to promote sustainability, how do you get a piece to survive for years in a wardrobe?
Above all, due to its quality. Also, we try to make timeless collections, without using on-trend patterns. For example, a big collar would be a one-time trend, so we try to follow more classic proportions. We include new elements subtly by updating and adapting classics.
On occasion you’ve spoken about humanising digital media; what do you mean?
We were born highly connected to social media during the pandemic, so we had to adapt to digital media, something we love. Humanising technology means reaching consumers more deeply. We’re even trying out virtual reality. Technology is something that helps us and humanising it involves, for example, communicating like a person instead of like a robot.
Which are your next challenges?
Now we’re well received in North America, so our intention is to put ourselves even more on the map in countries like the United States and expand the brand but maintaining the same loving care for our design and garments. Thanks to digital media, we’ve reached more remote markets and we want to develop the brand in those environments we’ve reached through good vibes.