Meet Stylist, Artist, Model and Entrepreneur Akiko Sakai

Introducing Akiko Sakai, also known to close friends as Cookie – she is a woman of many hats. The Stylist, Model, Artist, Art Teacher and entrepreneur is based locally in Hong Kong and plays a key role in running three businesses – an art studio in Stanley Market, a garment printing company in Wong Chuk Hang and a new bar in Kennedy Town. 

Find out more about Cookie's background, what drove her passion toward sustainability and how she sees her many roles evolving to contribute positively toward sustainable fashion.

Cookie wears Bermondsey Pants

You wear multiple hats, two of which are an Artist and an Art Teacher. What kind of art do you create and what kind of art inspires you to push boundaries? Do you see fashion and clothing as art?

I’m a big believer of constantly pushing my boundaries in my artwork. Recently, the work I have been experimenting with is influenced by the human form. I have been working with using different parts of the body to create prints, as well as starting to practice a hand poke style of tattooing which does not use any machines or electricity to create patterns under the skin.

As a stylist, of course, I see fashion and clothing as art. I view this as a very accessible form of art because every day you need to make a decision as to what to wear, and how to pair different pieces together to create a new look.

How did your upbringing influence the way you view the current state of the planet, from climate change to plastic pollution?

My upbringing has had a huge influence on my views on the current state of our planet. Growing up, I lived on a boat for 11 years. We had limited power as we relied on wind generators and solar panels – we were not plugged into a dock and did not have constant power. We were very conscientious about water too, all of the water that our family consumed had to be ferried to our boats, most of the large gallon tanks were carried by myself and my siblings!

After growing up like this and being constantly surrounded by the ocean, it really pains me to see all the plastic pollution that surrounds us on a day to day basis. I am very aware of my own personal plastic consumption and try to cut down on single-use plastics in every way that I can.

How did you become interested in the sustainable fashion movement?

My interest in the sustainable fashion movement has been largely influenced by my good friend and vintage fashion blogger, Norbyah. She eased me into it by starting to pass me outfits a couple of years ago, once I started going to pre-loved clothing sales it really opened my eyes to the sustainable fashion movement and I haven’t looked back since.

Cookie wears Donovan Tank and Bermondsey Pants

What is your advice for someone who is just embarking on their sustainable fashion and/or lifestyle journey?

My advice is relatively simple: be mindful and carefully consider the deciding factors in your purchase. I like to think through at least three justifiable reasons why I am buying an item of clothing before making a purchase. It’s very easy to make impulsive decisions when going shopping and this mindset slows down that impulsiveness making you think twice (or three times) before buying something.

What lifestyle changes have you made on a personal level to become more sustainable? 

There are a few examples of lifestyle changes that I have made in an attempt to make my household more sustainable. Cutting out single-use plastics whenever possible is a big priority and whenever not possible we make sure that we are recycling everything that we can. Planning meals is another big priority, by planning meals throughout the week we make a conscious effort to cut down on our waste, as well as packing lunches so that we aren’t buying takeaway during the day when we are out and about or at the office. The most important change (which echoes through the above points) is a shift in mindset; the reasons behind making a purchase, how necessary it is, what’s the longevity on the product and how we can use it in different ways.

Outside of my household, we have also played a key part in organizing a handful of beach clean-ups which led to starting a community called “Stanley Beach Clean Up”. The biggest clean up that we did was back in 2016 and we had a huge turnout of around 300-400 people turn up to help us!

How will do you style the Bermondsey Pants? 

I love my Bermondsey Pants and had an absolute blast styling and shooting them with my good friend DiegoVista around the streets and beaches of Stanley Market. I tried to let my personality show through and kept all of my looks relatively simple – the simple choices of top contrasting against the strong, confident vibe of the Bermondsey Pants.

The first look (pictured above), pairing the pants with my Calvin Klein sports top is very me – I love this style of top as it really compliments my tattoos. This particular top is from Calvin Klein. I chose this as my first look because personally, I love pairing high waisted pants and skirts with cropped tops.

The second look, I wore my simple white tee by Grana which I felt really fit in with the backdrops given by my home, Stanley Market – and fit in with the bohemian and beachy vibes that we are surrounded by on a daily basis. I chose this as my second look because although it has a very simple aesthetic, it can be swapped from a day to night look by simply changing up your shoes and accessories in a few simple minutes.

The third look, of course I wanted to choose one of your tops from The R Collective! This particular top is the Donovan Tank. Styling two of your pieces into a look was a natural fit with both pieces really complementing each other. It was a very comfortable outfit.

What kind of impact do you see yourself making in the sustainable fashion movement? Are you working towards a goal or do you simply enjoy sustainable clothing and the culture around it?

There are several ways that I have tried to make an impact on the sustainable fashion movement. One of our businesses, Print House, is a garment printing company and inevitably there are occasional mistakes in the printing. During our first year, a lot of these “mistake pieces” were reused as rags and eventually ended up being disposed of. Over the last 3 years, I have worked with our team to figure out how these pieces could be reused in a better way and so far, we have tried a couple of different avenues. We start off by collecting the pieces, keeping them properly so that they did not get damaged or ruined, and then figuring out where they will be sent to. The first big drive we did, resulted in boxes and boxes being sent to the Philippines and distributed to villages nearby to our friend’s home town. We then started a much smaller drive, but done on a more consistent basis, where we would put small boxes in the lift lobby to our industrial building for the workers to wear – it’s quite surreal when we get in the lift and all these workers are wearing tees that we printed! More recently, and still ongoing, we have teamed up with the girls from Redress and give the clothing to them to donate, re-purpose and re-use.

Six months ago, a new venture was born when Norbyah and I started the Hand Me Down Collective. We clear out our office and use the space to host multiple vendors in a pre-loved sale. The idea is to encourage our friends, families, and customers to explore the sustainable fashion movement and buy second hand. We are also open to new vendors joining us, so the goal is not only encouraging people to buy, but also sell their pre-loved clothing. Through these events, as well as attending and networking at clothing swaps around Hong Kong, we hope to see the sustainable fashion movement thrive in the city we call home.

The news of our next sale will be announced soon, please come along and join us as we would love to see you there.

Shop now