Akio Hirata was born in Nagano, Japan in 1925. He has become Japan’s most influential milliner. He has been teaching his craft for 38 years from 1962 till 2000 to students. His best student has been his daughter Ohko Ishida who released her own collections from 2000. Hirata has collaborated with many of Japan’s finest fashion designers including Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo and Hanae Mori. In 1962, he toured France where he met French milliner Jean Barthet. From 1962 to 1965, he trained at Barthet’s salon and perfected his craft. In 1965, he returned to Japan and founded his own house, which he called Haute Mode Hirata. He also has a boutique Salon Coco in Hiroo, where all the hats are handmade. He works on commission for the house of Pierre Balmain as well as Nina Ricci. He has designed for the wives of heads of state in Japan, which has brought his work to the attention of an international clientele.