When Ryan Upton and Airi Isoda met at the University of Southern California, they were both studying to be architects. But after practicing for a few years, Airi found herself dissatisfied—“Things that we would work on for years wouldn’t get built because of funding, and you just saw all your hard work go to waste.” So when she walked into an exhibition at MOCA titled Skin and Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture, she was primed for a revelation, and, soon enough, she enrolled in some technical fashion-design classes and launched her clothing label wrk-shop in 2012 upon graduation.
Meanwhile, Ryan was busy designing clean-and-modern residences and restaurants, but in 2014, the duo decided it was time to make their personal partnership a professional one, too. (As Ryan says, “We basically doubled our company headcount last year!”) Now, Airi designs their fashion line—a minimalist, functional, classic-with-a-twist collection—while Ryan focuses on developing the architecture and lighting-design side of things. Together, they collaborate on home goods and the occasional unisex masterpiece. “We do a lot together,” Ryan says. “And I think we make it work because we love what we’re doing—it’s our life.” —genevieve ang