The launch is finally live and coming into its last few days. It took a lot out of us to get to this point yet it was all worth it. And probably not in the way you’re thinking. The release was so limited that we were never going to become overnight millionaires!
Alex and I started back in October 2018 with the inkling of an idea that we wanted to collaborate on a product line in some way. Alex sourced and ordered the hand-beaded/embroidered bags from an artisan she’d discovered in India and it was then up to me to design and make jewellery prototypes that our customers would love.
And that’s where I got a bit stuck. You see, I’m a sucker for colour and pattern and every single kimono I had in stock just wasn’t right. And then I went to the Boroichi in January and found ‘the one’. There she was hanging on a rack looking a little unloved and in mostly great condition. I knew immediately what she would become when I breathed new life into her forgotten fabric.
So the collection was ready and could now picture the type of shoot we wanted. After many Pinterest boards focusing on the look and feel of the shoot, wardrobe and even poses, we were ready to approach our models. There was also a process behind this. We first wanted to make sure that the models were women we knew. Real people, with real bodies and real lives and all very different from each other.
We wanted to enjoy ourselves on the day and show our customers that our products work equally well in formal or casual situations, for any body type, hair colour, skin tone or age. No discrimination.
We didn’t let the fact that we had had no experience of running a photo shoot stop us. No, it wasn’t perfect (we forgot to pack a hairbrush for the location shoot and it was a bit windy and dry - hello static!). We weren’t sure of how much to direct the shoot as we were worried that we would step on our photographer’s toes. I now realise that having a camera directly linked to a laptop is essential for the creative director to see what the camera sees. It so hard standing at an angle (out of shot) to know what you’re getting. But it still turned out fine.
We went into the shoot to learn a new skill not to make sales. It worked out that this was cheaper and more effective than any course could ever have been. A course would have been helpful to set the steps in place, but it wouldn’t have helped us to remember to pack a hairbrush.
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A little close-up of the Kim collection which comprises of the Meera clutch, Musubime neckpiece and cuff. We'll be launching very soon and we're getting so excited to push that button on launch day. Are you with us?
Remember the Bikudesigns x Turquoise Port creative collaboration we keep talking about? Well today you can see some of the limited edition items in close-up that will be launched VERY soon.
The Meera clutch is made by hand in India from a combination of gold rattan, hand-embroidery and hand-beading. Inside there is a nifty little detachable antique bronze chain making this a perfect little bag for a brunch or evening cocktails. It's so easy to dress up or down depending on the event.
The Musubime cuff is so light and easy to wear that you won't even know it's there. Made from a turquoise vintage iro-muji kimono, the bracelet gives you a little hint of the matchy-matchy with the Meera clutch, without overdoing it.
A couple of days ago Alex from Turquoise Port and I launched our creative collaboration project and cheekily didn't show you the items we have been working on. So here they are on an actual person, on a street in Tokyo. All of the jewellery pieces are made from a single turquoise iro-muji vintage kimono, sourced at January's Boroichi.
Our collection comprises of:
Meera clutch-hand embroidered and beaded with a chain strap
Harisashi stud earrings
Saya dangle earring
Saya fabric pendant on a chain (long or short)
Launch day is fast approaching so make sure you are firmly in the loop to hear about when and how you can get your hands on these limited edition pieces.
Thank you to our amazing models:
Alex Morrow from Turquoise Port and I have been working furiously behind the scenes since 2018 to design a creative collaboration of bags and jewellery.
This was the first time either of us had worked with another business, planned and creatively directed a photo shoot with a professional photographer or launched a joint campaign. To say it was a steep learning curve is somewhat of an understatement.
Thanks so much to our fantastic models and photographer who worked all day to create the look and feel we wanted. They were all so patient with us newbies.
One of the the nicest things someone said to me lately was, "I just want to follow you around to see where you go and what you're buying when you go on your sourcing days." Sourcing kimono is a key part of my job. I need to see and feel the kimono in person and nothing I buy is sourced online. I look for damaged kimono that have almost no life left in them as garments and that feel right to me in a tactile as well as in an emotional sense. I'm especially driven towards pieces that are hanging on the rack looking forgotten and forlorn, in that instant I can easily picture the kimono as something else.
This beautiful piece was a recent find at the January Boroichi (rag market) where this exact kimono sourcing process took place. It's such a thrill heading out to the market, empty suitcase trundling behind me with no idea of what's waiting to be discovered. I usually have an idea of the colours I'm looking for as the gaps in my collection are becoming quite clear these days, and over the years I've begun to understand what my customers like and the kind of fabric I enjoy working with.
There are some big changes ahead this year for my business. Starting with the complete studio move and overhaul. It's time to put some effort into the space that brings me joy. I'll be blogging about my new space over the coming weeks. Stay in touch with updates by subscribing to become a Biku Insider where you'll hear all about releases, offers, giveaways and events before anyone else.
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If you've been around here a while, you'll know that the geometric fabrics are a firm fave. This one is calm and collected with a delicate honeycomb background and aubergine and teal slashes. Look closely and you'll see that the slashes are also patterned with the classic 'seigaiha' motif. Modernist with a nod to the traditional. Bravo!
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I love to talk to people in person at fairs and events, it's the way I can get the message about 'mottainai' out there. It's important to say what you do out loud, and really hear yourself saying it. Everything makes much more sense when you tell your story.
Over the years, there are many questions that I've been asked over and over again which have helped me to create my FAQ page. Thanks for asking the questions, you've really helped me gain more clarity with my brand.
Do you ever feel guilty breaking up a kimono?
Before I buy a kimono there are several things I consider.
I respect the skill, commitment and tradition that has gone into the creation of a kimono before I buy it. There are the silk makers, the weavers and the kimono artisans who print, paint and dye the fabric into beautiful designs.
How long does it take to break down a kimono?
This all depends on the age and type of kimono. If it has been hand-sewn, then the breakdown is much quicker than machine-sewn ones.
On average it takes around 45 minutes to an hour to take a kimono apart. Then hand washing, drying, discarding the unusable parts and finally hanging on skirt hangers before storing on a rack in my studio.
Often the kimono lining is so damaged that it has to be discarded completely.
Do you sell kimono scraps?
At the moment I don't sell off-cuts or fabric but I'm thinking about selling some in the future as my collection is growing daily and I don't have space to store them all!
How long does it take to make a neckpiece/ bracelet/ earrings?
How long is a piece of string?!
I make my pieces in batches of 10-20 and make them as a small production line. It may take 4-5 days to make 20 neckpieces but sometimes longer. And the kimono sourcing is all done in person, so that time needs to be added on to the final price too.
Can I work for you for free?
Wow! Thanks for your kind offer but I don't offer internships at this time.
If you are interested in working for me and have relevant sewing skills including using a sewing machine, please do get in contact with me to see if we might be a good fit.
Can I recreate one of your designs for myself?
I can't stop you from making my designs at home, but your morals might!
Every time you make a piece using my design, that is a potential loss of earning for me. And each design I make is part of a long process of testing prototypes and materials. So if you're OK with that....
Please don't copy my designs for financial gain. That's actually illegal.
Do you ever teach workshops?
I used to teach a lot of creative workshops but have since stopped as I wanted to focus on my jewellery business.
In the Spring I'm partnering up with Alex at Turquoise Port to teach in-person Instagram for small businesses coming up in the next few months once our BETA course is complete. Watch this space.
If I place a custom order with you, how long does it take?
There are usually lots of back and forth emails before a customer places an actual order. But once the style and the silk is decided and the order is placed, it takes around 2-3 weeks until it is shipped, depending on the waiting list.
Do you do wholesale orders?
Yes, I do.
Orders start at 10 pieces of the same style but you can choose the colours. Please contact me directly if you are interested in wholesale or distribution rates.
More questions? Comment below or sign up for news to hear more.
Every Friday, starting this week, I'll be featuring a kimono fabric from my ever growing collection (it's a sickness I tell ya!).
This fabric is a heavy roketsu-zome silk with a satin sheen. So soft and supple and definitely makes a huge statement with its bold tangerine-green-indigo colour-way.
P.S. I'll be popping more shots of this kimono in my newsletter to give you a clearer picture of the texture and close-up details.
Are you on the list yet?
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Victoria Close from Bikudesigns talks kimono, business, Japanese design, life in Tokyo and all the things she loves.