We recently hung out with Dawn Yanagihara Creative Director and Co-founder of Kiriko a line that specializes in using vintage boro fabric that is made in Portland. Taking such an extensive process of weaving and dyeing textile and adding a modern perspective. The hope for Dawn and Katsu Tanaka is to keep these traditions alive by adding relevant touches to these ancient techniques and to support the Japanese textile makers that still practice the craft. Kiriko has also begun to incorporate vintage Kimono textiles, each bolt of fabric has a unique pattern, originally intended to make a one of a kind Kimono. The brand is also expanding from just accessories and adding clothing - some stunning Japanese inspired basics, that we are very excited about! Enjoy a look into Kiriko’s downtown Portland studio and interview with Dawn Yanagihara. Also don’t forget to shop some of our favorite Kiriko accessories in the shop!
1. Why Portland? What was it that drew you to Portland or has kept you here?
K: think Portland has the perfect density as a city, not too small or not too big. It's the perfect environment for small business, each business is not competing but helping each other. We have been working with various local businesses and they have been extremely supportive.
D: I grew up in Hawaii and lived in LA for about seven years then spent a year abroad in Japan. Portland has amazing food, a great creative community, people are just plain nice and pleasant. Honestly though, I thought NY was going to be the next stop, but after a trip home, I longed for a smaller city and a different path. I met with Kate Bingaman-Burt for one hour, chatted about getting a second degree in graphic design at PSU and decided to stay....that was 3.5 years ago.
2. What are your favorite things happening in Portland (design or otherwise)?
K: think Portland food culture is beyond good. The variety of existing restaurants, bars and foodcarts are already getting international attention and every month, there are more restaurants opening up with great quality of food.
D: The small business community here is wonderful. There are so many ideas being explored and dreams being realized--it's such an amazing feeling to be surrounded by such humble people doing so many awe inspiring things. I'm always blown away by what my friends are achieving, basically kicking ass and taking names.
3. How did your brand start?
K: I own the street fashion boutique Compound where we sell exclusive Nike sneakers and high end street fashion brands.
We were always talking about mass-consumption in youth culture that value was created by the media and people are not caring about the materials, durability or how they are made...the craftsmanship. We wanted to create awareness to these values that really matters.
D: I started doing design for Compound. Katsu shared his ideology with me and it was obvious we say eye-to-eye on many things. Kiriko started as a response to mass produced products. We use materials woven with history and of amazing quality that also hold personal significance and are a reflection of our style, our history, and our sensibilities.
4. What has been your biggest obstacle?
K: Most of our audience do not know about our materials that we use. Most of our vintage japanese fabrics are woven by hand, dyed by natural pigments--it is our most challenging subject to tell the story behind our fabrics to our customers without us being there.
D: Definitely telling the story of our fabrics and really conveying the history behind them. It takes the right person and audience to see the value in an old piece of cloth that is full of holes, patched and re-patched; to me nothing is more beautiful, because there's a story there, to some that story is lost.
5. What or who inspires your design?
K: We are definately inspired by various things in daily life but we get a lot of inspiration from our own material.
Some of the fabrics we get from japan is absolutely amazing. We do not think it can be made anymore.
D: The material we work with constantly inspires us. Many of our vintage fabrics are kimono bolts and are designed solely to produce kimono (one kimono per bolt). It's so much fun to experiment, to try and re-imagine the fabric as difference pieces that could change its intended use.
6. What are your favorite things about Portland?
K: Portland has such diverse culture and opportunities to do things you like to do. If you want to take a class of say.... aerial yoga, you will find multiple studios providing that type of yoga. Same goes with food, if you want to authentic lebanese food, there are always one or two in town.
For a city that only has a population of 600.000 people, it is pretty amazing to see this diversity in such a small place.
D: So many things in Portland remind me of home. It's just so easy to feel comfortable in this city and feel like you belong. Everything is just so much more accessible than in other cities and everyone is so helpful. I can't imagine doing what we're doing any place else.
7. What is your favorite part of your studio?
K: We use lots of wood furniture especially oak and straw weaved products.
I think it goes well with our products that present craftsmanship of hand dyed and weaved materials.
D: Our fabrics are in constant view. I think it's so important to consider materials when creating a piece that is going to be worn by someone. I'm still finding fabrics I had forgotten about and thinking of new ways to use them.
8. Your favorite thing about your workspace?
K: Small and cozy.
D: Simple and intimate.
9. Tell us two truths and a lie!
1: We still hand patch each boro scarf in our studio.
2: We are working on "Made in Japan" apparel line using our fabrics.
3: The name Kiriko means " Top-notch product" in Japanese.
1. You can't find our studio from the street.
2. If I wasn't doing this, I'd be building furniture.
3. I don't like sushi.
10. 5 things you can’t live without.
1: I phone
3: N.P.R. radio station
4: Japanese Hair supply
5: Cat jack
1. 90s R&B.
2. A good notebook.
3. Green tea.
4. Home. (Hawaii)
5. My girl.