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Wear Beautiful Artisanal Sustainable
Lakinoh Accessories & Relier81-the two creatives using the heritage of Japan for a collision of the past and the future

A beautiful city, elegantly poised as a hub of remarkable artisans, the birthplace of kimono making and home to a wealth of traditions that remain unchanged after over a thousand years, Kyoto has always been a place of highly respected craftsmanship within Japan. Recent years have seen a collision of the past and the future and an attempt to strike a balance of modern minimalist design and traditional tastes, culminating in the appearance of a number of young creative brands that are uniquely ''Kyoto'' and effortlessly cool. KVG introduces two such wonderful creators this month.

Lakinoh Accessories

Lakinoh, a vintage style accessories brand dedicated to breathing new life into kimono and obi by redesigning them into one-of-a-kind bags, from Shiga-based, Scotland-native Joanne Laporte. Having spent many years in Tokyo and Kyoto, Joanne now resides in the Shiga countryside with her Japanese husband and dog, where she can spend her time sewing, lovingly hand-crafting each and every one of her vibrant designs. Here we discuss her inspiration behind a brand that is anything but ordinary...

KVG: Tell us a bit about yourself... what motivated you to move to Japan?

I studied fashion at Edinburgh Art School and at the time Kawakubo Rei's brand Comme des Garcons, Yamamoto Yohji, Watanabe Junya, Miyake Issey and lots of Japanese designers were appearing in British magazines like The Face and I.D. They really inspired me so after I graduated I decided to come to Tokyo for a year just to see for myself the street fashion that was influencing these Japanese designers and I never left! Fast forward 15 years and I'm still here.

KVG: What was the creative inspiration behind Lakinoh?

Lakinoh started very organically after I moved to Kyoto because the flea markets here have the best obi and kimono. I would visit them and buy everything I liked, which was a lot! I ended up with tons of obi and kimono and wanted to refashion them so that they could be worn with modern dress instead of just being kept as vintage objects, so I decided to start making bags for myself. From there, friends would ask me to make bags for them and for their friends, so my passion just grew into my brand.

KVG: What draws you to a specific obi and kimono? And does that help to make your designs stand out?

The obi I usually choose are from the latter years of the Showa era, which is specifically the 1970s and 80s. At the time, as in mainstream fashion, the trend was for bright colors and abstract graphic patterns. I think that's why the bags stand out because there are a lot of obi remake products that focus on softer colors and more traditional Japanese symbols like cranes or cherry blossoms. My collections are entirely unique. I base the design around the fabric and patterns that I find and work with these to make sure I create the most beautiful bags possible. I'm very precise too and always like to make sure everything is just so before they go on sale.

KVG: Is there anyone else involved in Lakinoh? What’s the hardest part of being a one-woman brand?

It's just me, I do everything from choosing obi and kimono to hand-stitching every item, marketing and selling. It's tough but it gives me entire control over my creative process which I think is really necessary. It's important to me that no part of Lakinoh bags are made in a factory so there's just me sewing everything by hand, even stamping the labels by myself on leather offcuts. That means that it's pretty time consuming and hard work but I'm happy knowing that the bags have no plastic or metal and are 100% ethically made.

KVG: Where can we find your designs?

I love to pour myself into each of my bags. I do everything myself and by hand and as you can imagine it takes time and effort! I want to keep it this way, focus on creating something beautiful and precise, so I like to keep things boutique. I'm now selling from my instagram account (www.instagram.com/Lakinoh) and from a shop in Kyoto close to the Philosopher's Path, Ginkakudo.

Looking at what Joanne has created with Lakinoh, the artistry, the preservation and regeneration of traditional materials for the modern world, you're reminded what a joy the creative risks that these young brands bring to the contemporary market. No matter where you reside in the world, inspiration can be found at almost every turn and the chance to create something beautiful, from a deeprooted passion, is worth celebrating.

Find Lakinoh's superb bags at ''Ginkakudo.''
Open: 10:00-17:30; Facebook: www.facebook.com/ginkakudo.kyoto/


Relier81 is a small private fashion brand launched by a young Kyoto creative just in 2018. They revive used old kimono and obi, including vintage ones, that no longer have a chance to be worn in their original form in today's Japanese lifestyle, but they are too beautiful to be discarded or forgotten. By the way, it's read ''Relier Eight-One'' and though this is a newborn brand, there is a broad meaning and passion behind it. What is the story behind the creative processes and inspiration for the beautiful design? Here we get to the bottom of these questions with Relier81.

KVG: Why did you name your brand “Relier81”?

Relier81 produces shoes and other fashion accessories using old kimono and obi fabrics. When I decided to launch my own brand producing such kinds of items and thought of a good name for it, there was always a wish that my brand would ''unite'' Japan and the world. ''Relier'' is a French word which means ''to tie'' or ''to unite.'' And, as you might notice, ''81'' is the country code of Japan when you make an international phone call. What is more, our products often use obi as materials, and obi is an essential part when wearing kimono to ''tie'' around the waist. Once I got ''Relier81,'' I couldn't think of any better name for my brand! Relier81 is a brand which will unite the life of old kimono and obi, the superb tradition of Japan, to the present-day life across time.

KVG: How did the idea of producing shoes with used kimono and obi pop up?

As I was born and brought up in Kyoto, I have seen foreigners purchasing kimono in Kyoto many times. As I realized that a number of foreign tourists have an image that ''Kyoto is a city of traditional kimono,'' I started to pay more attention to kimono and obi, our traditional clothes. While I learned about the fascinating world of kimono, at the same time, I had to face a sad fact that the kimono industry has been declining sharply.

I tried to think about why this decline is occurring and I found that we have so little opportunities to wear kimono and obi today. In addition, for young generations, kimono seems to be old-fashioned. Why not reform kimono and obi into a new form that young people would find cool and like to wear! And by doing so, let's revitalize the declining industry and show the world the fascinating tradition of Japanese kimono in a new way. This is the origin of Relier81.

KVG: Is there any particular difficulty in producing shoes?

Well, a lot!! Although I was so motivated by the idea, I had no clue at all about how to carry it out in reality. So, I researched on the Internet and looked up all the shoe manufacturers and companies around Japan, calling them one by one to explain about my idea: ''Manufactured entirely in Japan'' and ''Kimono and obi fabric as materials.'' These points made the situation even more difficult, or nearly impossible, but I couldn't compromise. My heart was almost broken after being declined so many number of times, however, I finally was able to find a shoe manufacturer who liked my idea! I was so excited but it was just a starting point for the next difficulty.

I thought of producing shoes with kimono and obi fabric because I hadn’t seen anything similar being produced. I soon learned why. Very soon after beginning prototype production, I was inundated with problems for which I had to find solutions. Needless to say, kimono and obi fabrics are not crafted into anything else. There are so many problems, from cutting appropriate patterns from such fragile materials to ensuring durability in design.

I knew my requests were very difficult for the shoe makers but I refused give up and I managed to express to them my enthusiasm. The design process takes nearly one year to complete a new pair of shoes and get them to market. It takes so much time and effort, but I'm very proud of every pair that is born from our great team work.

KVG: What do you expect your shoes can tell the wearers?

I hope that our shoes provide an opportunity for people to feel kimono and obi by modernizing these conventional items into a new form which is more accepted in the present day. It is also very important for me that Relier81 can contribute to cherishing and succeeding the traditional crafts of Japan to the future generation. Relier81 is a very small project that just started recently, but I believe one thought or action can change the world. I hope that Relier81 can confirm this through our shoes as well as growing worldwide in the future as a producer of modern fashion items that are 100% made in Japan.

Find Relier81's fabulous shoes at ''iro shop and gallery.''
Open: 12:00-19:00; Closed irregularly; www.instagram.com/iro_shop_gallery