Interview: Kiriko

Based out of Portland, Oregon, Kiriko is bringing some amazing and unique ideas to the men’s fashion industry. They use beautiful vintage Japanese fabric and textiles to hand make scarfs, neck ties, pocket squares, back packs and some pretty awesome blankets. Without entirely giving it away, they’re working on expanding to bring you more amazing products very soon.

I came across Kiriko about a year ago and have been following their incredible journey since. It’s been very inspiring to watch this brand grow and create, and I wanted to share a little bit of their story with you by interviewing Dawn Yanagihara, Co-Founder.

I have not doubt you’ll enjoy their work as much as I do and appreciate their truly unique products. Check out the Q&A below along with some pictures.

Please meet Dawn:

_MG_6869Kirk: For those who may not have heard your name before, tell us a little about Kiriko and how it got started.

Dawn: The idea for Kiriko started with fabric. Japan has such a rich history of textiles and textile art, the craft and processes behind many of these fabrics is unfortunately fading out and is being replaced by modern manufacturing. My business partner, Katsu Tanaka, had received some vintage woven kasuri fabrics from a kimono manufacturer based in southern Japan. We shared a vision of wanting to take the material and think about it in a different way; the patterns and designs were so beautiful, the colors so vibrant, accessories seemed like a great way to showcase these qualities.

Kirk: What does Kiriko translate to or mean?

Dawn: It’s a combination of two names of people who mean a lot to my business partner and myself.

Kirk: Tell me about yourself, your team, and where you’re from.

Dawn: I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. I went to college in LA and originally was going to go into law. Instead, I took a year after graduation and lived in rural Japan teaching english. When I left, I realized two things, one, I wanted to do something else with my life, and two I wished I had a better understanding of my culture and my family’s history. Kiriko has truly fulfilled both aspirations.

My business partner (Katsu Tanaka) is from Japan, right outside Tokyo. Our partnership is such a great balance; bringing aspects of American and Japanese culture. He’s been in the retail business for close to 15 years. Having that expertise behind the brand has helped us tremendously as we experience the typical growing pains of building a small business.

The Kiriko team is comprised of all designers. They are Jordan Hoagbin, Yui Takahashi, and Rebekah Lee. Each is a student or former student from the same design program at PSU. So much of what we do requires a discerning eye and aesthetic sensibility. From the photos, to the fabrics, to the scarf design, even the packaging, all of these elements of the brand are done in our little studio. Having a team that just gets it is invaluable.

Kirk: I’ve heard some great things about Portland. How did you end up there and how would you describe the city?

Dawn: I ended up here because I needed a change. I was living in Los Angeles, and was working in a completely different industry–sales. It just wasn’t for me. I came to Portland to fulfill a dream to have a creative career.

Portland has really become home, or more aptly my second home. The city is just the perfect place to pursue a creative endeavor and also eat! I am an unabashed food lover and Portland has such fantastic restaurants.

I would describe this city as a community. I think it’s one of the the last small-big cities left on either coast…for now. So much change is happening in Portland, a lot of development and growth. Even in my 4 years living here, I’ve seen neighborhoods completely transform. It’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next 5-10 years.

Kirk: Seems like there are a lot a small business, entrepreneurs and craftsman there. What’s that community like?

Dawn: The community here is amazing, everyone is always helping each other and collaborating. It would have been impossible to have started the brand without the support and encouragement of the creative community here. Part of the reason is that the community here is so small and close-knit. We’re all kind of on this same crazy adventure, and it’s nice to share that with one another.

Kirk: Tell us a little about the products you have currently and what makes them unique.

Dawn: Many of our fabrics are truly one-of-a-kind. Pieces from our vintage lines use authentic antique fabrics, some close to 100 years old. The processes that created these materials would be impossible to reproduce at the same price point. It’s a dying craft, whose history we hope to share through this brand.

One of the features of our products that is a subtle detail most people overlook is the scent stick that comes with most scarves. Since we work with a lot of vintage/antique fabrics that use natural dyes, we’ve found certain fragrances can affect the color. To help prevent this, we decided to incorporate a “scent stick.” It’s a small piece that gets inserted into the tags of our scarf. You can apply your favorite fragrance to the stick and when placed into the tag, scents you and your scarf.

Kirk: Do you have plans to expand your portfolio?

Dawn: We do! We have a lot going on this year for the brand. We’ll be expanding soon to include apparel. It’s been our goal since the beginning to find as many ways as possible to re-contextualize and reuse these materials. We’re planning on having those pieces debut, hopefully by end of year, so stay tuned!

Kirk: What do you love about men’s fashion right now?

Dawn: I love how many lines are taking cues from classic men’s style in terms of fit and cut. But where it gets really exciting and fun is seeing those classic silhouettes paired with unexpected fabrics, patterns, colors and textures. Men’s fashion is definitely more constant, so any variance is really subtle and detail oriented–not too much, but just enough to make a difference.

Kirk: What are some of your favorite outdoor activities?

Dawn: Hiking. Swimming. Running.

My friends and I started a hiking club in high school that got disbanded due to our inability to stay on trail or ensure the safety of other members. But thanks to that club I still love hiking. I hike here in Portland, and the same group still goes on hikes when we all fly home for the holidays.

I’ve been swimming for as long as I can remember. I absolutely love the water, and it’s one thing I don’t get quite enough of here in Portland. Probably because I’m spoiled by 70 degree water, and don’t do well in the cold.

For me nothing beats running. It clears my head and really lets me decompress after a long day. It’s also when I get some of my best ideas. If I’m mulling over a problem or design dilemma, a good long run usual solves it!

Kirk: What is one piece of advice or style tip you would give to guys trying to improve their look?

Dawn: It’s an old adage, but find a tailor. It really makes such a big difference, more so than brand names or price tags. How clothes fit is the real key to looking your best. Just having someone who knows a thing or two about a needle and thread, who can help you take in that shirt, shorten that sleeve, taper that pant and hem the cuff. Second to that? Accessories.

_MG_6794_MG_7166kiriko_japanese_fabric_pocket_square_natural_floral_MG_9993_MG_7090kiriko_blue_chambray_bow_tie_1_MG_6980_MG_0014kiriko_japanese_fabric_tie_green1_MG_6764107 NW 5th Avenue, Portland, OR 97209 www.kirikomade.com

Photo Credit: Kiriko

 

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Comments

  1. Jennifer Essad says

    it’s really neat to see the work of all of you, I really appreciate the craftsmanship, the fabrics and designs in your lines. My mom grew up sewing due to how poor they were. She made almost all of our clothes when we were growing up. She taught my brothers and I to sew. Made a living of sewing beautiful draperies, bed spreads/covers and window treatments. She taught my daughter to sew too! The one thing I’m still critical of today when I’m clothes shopping is the quality of fabrics and the matching of the patterns of the piece I’m looking to purchase. I keep thinking I’m going to start sewing again but when I find such little choices for fabric worth investing my time and money into, I don’t bother. (I’m also critical of how the manufacturer places the fabric on the design of the clothes). Thanks for sharing your process.

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