Jewelry brand Biku Designs uses damaged kimonos to make stunning pieces of wearable art

By Sonia Jackson Henrich

Originally, the word kimono was the Japanese word for “clothing” and kimono, as we know them today, came into being during the Heian period (794–1192). Known as the straight-line-cut method, dressmakers who had previously had to cut trousers and tops to the shape of the wearer, no longer had such a challenge. Now, the kimono was easy to fold and suitable for any weather, and quickly became a part of everyday life in Japan.


But with the import of western fashion during the Meiji era, and later the Japanese economy prospering during World War II, things changed. Once the garment of choice for samurai, aristocrats and workers alike, the kimono became an item worn mainly for ceremonies like weddings and coming-of-age where duty and obligation were the deciders. Today, they are rarely worn by young Japanese (unless for special occasions), and those that are worn are likely to be machine-made versions, much cheaper than the traditional handmade kimono that can easily cost over 1 million yen.

Whilst kimonos are often passed down from generation to generation, they are seldom worn, and for such high-quality garments to be left inside dark closets without ever seeing the light, there is a real sense of mottainai.

It was this very sense of mottainai – the sense of regret at the apparent "waste" — that led one Tokyo-based jewelry designer to look for ways to "repurpose forgotten things."


Twenty years ago Victoria Close (pictured above) joined the JET program and moved from her home in the UK to Japan on what was supposed to be a one year stint. On returning to the UK and qualifying as a teacher, she found the pull to return to Japan overrode all decisions. After 12 years of teaching at the British School in Tokyo, her real passion – jewelry design – took center stage.

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© Savvy Tokyo

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