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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Are you a traditional kimono fan?
I just couldn't leave this one on the rack at the recent Boroichi (rag market) as the deep indigo colour just spoke to me. I'm a sucker for complimentary colour-ways and this deep blue and orange pushed me to make the deal with the vendor. Did I need it for my collection. Errrr nope! But do I love it? Errrr yep! So that's all I needed to know to add it to the other forgotten treasures in my studio.
I'm imagining this fabric in a multi-pendant neckpiece. How should I use it?
I love to hear your ideas, so please leave a comment below.
Mottainai (loosely translated as ‘it’s a shame to waste’) is not just woven through my business but has been entwined in my life for as long as I can remember. ⠀
🔶5 years old, making models from recycled containers at the kitchen counter while my mum baked. ⠀
🔶8 years old, dressing up in vintage 1950s underskirts (for play) and twinsets (in life). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
🔶At 14, desperate to have skinny jeans (the first time around), and my grandmother taking in the legs so I could be more ‘on-trend’. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
🔶At 15, trawling charity shops for vintage beads, disassembling them, washing them and creating something new. ⠀⠀
I can’t imagine a life without regret and sadness when I see unused objects. And here I am loving my ¥50 cup, my ¥100 plate and my ¥200 lacquer tray. They couldn’t be more valuable to me even if they were dipped in gold. ⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
#mottainai #mottainailife #zerowaste #persimmon #driedfruit #handmade #handmadeceramics #ceramiclover #leafplate #takeamoment #appreciatebeauty #lostthings #makerslovemakers #lovewhatyouhave #williammorrisphilosophy
We all love connecting through social media don't we? I'm sure, like me, that you've made fabulous friends, or sold things or made connections for collaborations. I communicate all my events through social media channels, have a VIP Club for all the Bikufans, show BTS (behind the scenes) peeks at Tokyo life through Instagram/ Facebook stories. But I don't OWN any of it. Every follower, every comment, like, share they all belong to someone else and if Mr. Zuckerberg decides to pull the plug, everything is gone. The most important thing of all will be gone; my connection to you and the Biku Community.
So, the only sure-fire way to stay connected is through email. It sounds old-fashioned (a bit '90s) doesn't it? But please don't lose touch with me...it's easy to say, 'Oh I follow you on Insta' or 'Yes, I follow your Facebook'...but I value your support and don't want you to be lost in the ether.
If you love what Bikudesigns stands for, and are interested in seeing new and exclusive content straight into your inbox, then please subscribe! There are things in my newsletter that I don't mention anywhere else.
Sign up here. Please?
January Fukubukuro have all been mailed out and should have arrived in their forever homes by now. A number of fabulous customers have revealed the contents of their 'lucky bag' via social media. It's so exciting to get feedback, so keep it coming and keep tagging!
One super-kind customer in Canada went a HUGE step further this month and blogged about her Biku Fukubukuro experience on her wonderful kimono blog. If you are a kimono lover and haven't come across Diane's blog yet, head on over to Kimono Tsuki. Diane is also on Instagram @kimonotsuki
"I’ve been admiring the jewellery from Bikudesigns for quite a while now. Owned and created in Tokyo by a lovely woman named Victoria Close, all the beautiful items are made using recycled kimono fabric and representing the values of mottainai. Between gift shopping during the holidays and making more practical purchases like tatoushi and arms for the mannequin I didn’t have much of a budget for pretty fun things. However, to celebrate the new year they released a fukubukuro (福袋), or lucky bag. This a tradition where vendors will offer a bag or bundle with a surprise selection of products available for a really steep discount.
I snatched one up right away, knowing it would give me a lovely variety of items to wear and feature, and I’m so glad I did..."
Victoria Close from Bikudesigns talks kimono, business, Japanese design, life in Tokyo and all the things she loves.