Mottainai: The regret you feel when wasting something that still has life left in it.
The concept of Mottainai can be applied to forgotten things, unused spaces, used objects that are no longer needed and even people. All of which apply to me, my family and especially to my brand. Bikudesigns was founded on this very concept many years ago, not as a 'good idea for a business' but as a deeply ingrained philosophy of life that has been within me since birth. Actually, before I was born.
I'm descended from a long line of make-do-and-menders. Tripe dealers, silk weavers, shop owners, seamstresses and a milliner and the one thing they had in common was their working class roots and the necessity to get by any way they could. That would mean altering, adapting, making or crafting anything they needed with what they already had. I grew up with stories of long-dead family members who kept chickens in their inner city yards, who sewed their own wedding outfits, of cardboard wedding cakes and a world resembling an L.S.Lowry painting.
The generations lived (and fought) their way through world wars, bombings, rationing, austerity, fear of having nothing or losing it all. Even though my experience of growing up was vastly different to those long-gone days (no-one ever asked me to sweep the street, scrub the front step or do the laundry with a dolly and a mangle) the lived experiences of the family I had never met were built into me. Fix what is broken. Alter what doesn't fit. Make what you don't have.
And this, in a very round about way, takes us from the streets of Manchester and Salford to inner city Tokyo. The spirit of Mottainai travelled thousands of miles with me when I moved here, I suppose there's no escaping your values!
When my kids were little, I would make toys from bottle caps, reuse PET bottles to make investigation activities and even make them clothes from time to time. And when it came time to let things go, I sold, donated or gave away their old clothes, toys and baby ephemera. We had charity flea markets outside our house and around that time the 'Mottainai Box' was born.
It sounds much more glamourous than it really is...it's a box or crate with a handmade carboard sign (naturally!). And it works like magic. We gather bits and pieces from around the house that we no longer need but still have life in them and add them to the box in the genkan. When there are few things in there we pop it outside and invite our neighbours to shop the items for free. Lately it's taken an unexpected turn with family members shopping the box for different projects. See? Magic!
In the last month we've waved goodbye to:
👋 Wooden hangers
👋 Easter decorations
👋 A small jigsaw
👋 Gacha toys
👋 ¥100 shop toys
👋 Kids cap
Flowers from a neighbour's garden with a thank you note for the hangers they took
If you love reusing things, like me and the rest of my family, I recommend this amazing temple to used goods! This is the Book Off Super Bazaar and there are not very many in central Tokyo. Most are outside of Tokyo in Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama but they are definitely worth the travel! We headed to our closest one (an hour by train and free Book Off minibus) to kit the kids out with ski wear. We also picked up some other bits and bobs such as kimono fabric and hair ornaments.
The beauty of Book Off is that you can also sell your used items for store credit or cash. (Store credit is a much better deal.) This is such a great way to pass on your unwanted things with peace of mind make a few ¥¥¥ and teach your kids about saving the planet.
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Coming up this week, so many new colours and patterns of vintage kimono pendants in the large 4cm size.
Each kimono pendant is one-of-a-kind and made from personally-sourced kimono fabric (just imagine, each fabric treasure is discovered by me at antique fairs and vintage kimono shops). These pendants have been my best-sellers for YEARS and they just keep getting restocked. Why? They're comfortable, light-weight and so easy to wear that you might forget you're wearing one! Truly statement pieces without the neck pain and with a LOT of history.
There are few Neon Stitches pieces in stock this time around, with some brand new fabric gems included too. Feel free to message me for a matching pair of studs, French levers or dangles. Happy to take your custom order.
Here's what's launching....
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Hosting monthly trunk shows online was a necessary decision for the survival of my business during Covid-19 times. All in-person events have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, and shipping overseas has been patchy or still closed to some countries. Simply put, my job is to buy materials, make all the things and then sell them to make a profit for my time, energy and experience. This is my full-time job, my income, not my hobby or charity work.
We've all been there... searching the internet blindly to find that special gift for an important birthday, a special thank you, a pick-me-up for a friend, a graduation, Mothers' Day, Fathers' day...the list really goes on. We spend hours and hours scrolling for that 'special something'.
But why do we feel the need to gift that special something in the first place?
1. It shows the receiver that we know them.
2. It shows them we care enough to go the extra mile to find something they'll love.
3. It demonstrates our good taste.
4. We want the receiver to feel unique and valued.
5. We want to support small businesses and all they stand for.
6. We want to shop sustainably, buying items from brands that are not mass-produced.
7. We want a story. Of the hands who made it, the history, where the idea came from.
As a maker, I see the work that artisans put into their work and support them as much as I can. I appreciate that they do the same in return for my business.
I'm often asked where the Biku concept came from. Back in the day my response was a rather long-winded affair with twists and turns and tales of unrequited design love. But after several years of making, sourcing, talking to kimono vendors, thinking deeply, learning how to pitch, studying, focusing on brand messaging and thinking a LOT more, it boils down to this simple phrase. 'Re-purposing forgotten things.' Forgotten things, places and people make me sad. I wondered, 'How can I make the useless useful? How can I make the once-loved re-loved? How can I make the damaged beautiful? How can I make forgotten things remembered?' And in that process I remembered myself again.
On a more detailed level, Biku has a bunch of values that set it apart from other businesses, values that make it unique. The concept is based around 4 elements that came from my own life as a mum and business owner.
The Biku brand is still developing and more ideas are swimming around my head every day. It's pretty exciting stuff to be on this ride, Want to join me?
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I'm Victoria, the founder, designer and creator at Bikudesigns, a vintage kimono accessories brand in Tokyo, Japan.