We chat to Juliet Mayo, the founder of Kimono Kraft, a fantasic company that makes homeware out of upcycled Kimonos. Read Juliet's story of how she started the company and made it to what it is today.
What inspired you to start your business?
I have always sewn and having made a patchwork kimono cushion for a friend’s birthday, I looked at the final item and thought, I’m on to something here. I’m a little bit addicted to fabrics, Japanese designs in particular so this also felt like a way to justify that passion… and hoarding. With the current revival of home crafts too, it also felt perfect timing to venture into making pieces to sell.
Where do you source the vintage kimonos?
I mainly buy from auction sites such as ebay. I used to be cagey about this when talking to customers, but I realised the internet makes things so accessible, many could find where you can buy the material easily enough. It’s having the patience to turn it in to something else that counts! I have bought from markets, Selvedge have a truly inspiring one, there are many makers there but also people selling material too, but these tend to cost more. I mainly buy through ebay but after following certain rules, I only bid in the last 15 seconds, if it’s gone higher that I want to pay before then I ‘walk away’. I also only buy direct from sellers in Japan, keeping an element of authenticity.
How long have you been running Kimono Kraft?
I officially starting in Autumn 2013. It all came together after a batch of fabric arrived and there was a surprise piece in there I didn’t expect. It was a small section around 20cm square and had a charming, rather rotund character depicted on it. I had found my mascot and logo all at once.
What advice would you give to someone trying to start their own creative business?
Simply go for it… but do your research. Get an idea of what else is out there similar to what you intend to produce, it’s good to know your competition but more importantly how you should price things. Also be patient, you can’t expect immediate results. Markets are where you can test the water and are great to help you tailor your range, but also to speak with potential customers. Not only do they feel engaged but you will learn invaluable information about your product. This also means you do actually talk to people when you are running a stall. You can make the most beautiful pieces but if you stand there looking awkward and unable to chat, it can really put customers off. Buying from makers is all about the experience, you need to sell yourself as well as your wares!
Which other company that upcycles products do you admire and why?
There are many people who upcycle furniture but Sarah is by far the best. She has a joyous sense of colour but at times a playful approach. She creates one-off pieces of furniture that are conversation makers. I remember a chest of drawers that has an outrageous flamingo design on the front which covered the drawers. Needless to say it sold straight away. Think more wildlife programme rather that kitsch though, her pieces are beautifully put together. She’s good fun too, we are often at the same markets.
What do you love most about running Kimono Kraft?
Many things, I get to make my pieces at home which is very convenient. The thrill when a parcel arrives with new material, all postage stamped from Japan. I try not to rush and wait for a quiet moment to plan what I’ll sew. On the selling side, meeting people and especially repeat customers, I have a few people who regularly buy and I feel honoured they come back for more. Also the stories people tell you, I had an elderly gentleman who bought one of my patchwork cushions, he said he lived alone but wanted something to make it more homely, I was so touched that he choose something of mine to do this for him.
Please tell us how can someone find your company online:
You can find Kimono Kraft at SoLo Craft fair's Christmas Market at Balham Bowls Club, 11th December