With so much of our lives dictated by fast-moving trends and constant competition, Kiriko Made is a welcome respite. Since opening in 2013, the Portland boutique has gained a strong following by promoting collaboration and a no-waste policy of never throwing any fabrics away.
“A lot of [our] vintage fabrics have flaws,” says founder Katsu Tanaka. “We value that. We patch on top of that and make it a one-of-a-kind product.” A veteran of the fashion industry, Tanaka has grown increasingly frustrated with the trend of “fast fashion” because it overemphasizes cheap, mass-produced products that often rely on celebrity endorsements for perceived value, at the expense of quality products made with truly valuable material. Kiriko counters this trend by taking decades-old Japanese fabrics and textiles and combining them with modern Western styles to create everything from jackets and pocket squares to pillows and kimonos. Kiriko Made holds boro (“patched” in Japanese) workshops where customers can bring in their worn clothes, stitch them together with Kiriko’s fabrics, and create something fresh and more importantly, sustainable.
One of the recurring themes of Kiriko’s success is collaboration. Whether it’s sharing notes and partnering with other small businesses or working with local business organizations, Tanaka says support is the key to prosperity. In fact, he pays that support forward as the founder of Uplift PDX, an organization that serves the needs of local Japanese entrepreneurs. “Nationally, there’s a misconception that in order to succeed, you have to compete and win,” he says. “They’re always competing and they’re getting tired. It’s not healthy.” Instead, Tanaka wants everyone to get the help they need to share in the success of Portland’s craft-maker business community, saying, “Support from the city is the reason we can exist.”
Storyteller: Bruce Poinsette | Photos: Kim Nguyen | Published: May 2018