Abby Collins in Issey Miyake. 1970s.
Abby Collins in Issey Miyake. 1970s.

Issey Miyake and Me

Talking with Abby Collins about moments of time in her life — after much cajoling as she is very reticent to discuss her past — she mentions the Algonquin Hotel in New York city and her stay in a suite courtesy of legendary Japanese fashion designer Issy Miyake.

The Cooking Pot. A portrait painted by Abby Collins of an old women in a remote Laotian village.

That titbit seemed a good place to start the conversation.


This was 1974 and the Algonquin would have been quite posh and glamorous as it still is. It is the seat of the late great Dorothy Parker and her martinis.


So how does the influential and celebrated Japanese designer Issy Miyake fit into Abby’s life?


In her late teens and after modelling in New Zealand she went to Tokyo in the early ’70s to visit her parents who were living there. Her father was a pilot and the family had lived in a number of Asian countries.


She again began working as a model, one of the few European models in Japan at the time, and soon became a favourite of Miyake.


As one of the world pioneers of avant-garde fashion, Miyake was breaking down barriers and was instrumental in introducing Japanese designers to Paris and around the world.


Back to the Algonquin.  Abby was in New York after being in Paris for the fall collections.


Her travelling companion at the time, boyfriend Joe Yamanaka, was a well-known Japanese actor and singer. Joe’s mother was Japanese and his father was a US serviceman of Caribbean descent whom he never met. 


For a few years after Bob Marley died, Joe became the frontman for The Wailers.

This very stylish interesting young couple were embraced by New York, spending time with David Bowie and Ronnie Wood to name a few.


Abby continued to have a successful international career as a model in the States, Japan and Europe and lived a very independent life.


In the ’80s she returned to New Zealand when her father was ill and stayed. She continued to model here and was surprised that she was expected to do her own makeup and hair and bring her own shoes and extra garments.


A bit of a shock after the runways of Paris.


However, she makes a point of emphasising that has all totally changed and now the New Zealand fashion and film industries have talent at every level that can match the best in the world.


She remained in New Zealand, and as all good girls did at the time, she married and had a much loved son.  She went on to create a stellar career as a makeup artist for film, television and fashion.


She also started to paint, particularly portraits but now paints only for her own pleasure.


In the last few years she has again demonstrated her independent spirt and moved from Auckland to a busy country town creating a new life in a beautiful classic villa on a large property with much of her creativity now focused on her garden. Lots of memories, plenty to come, no regrets.