Nana Sakaguchi of Hena Hena has a passion for giving vintage kimonos new lives and letting them shine again. Compared to designing and making clothes from new fabrics, upcycling these beautiful items needs a lot of extra work. However Nana believes this is a worthwhile task: to pass on the beauty of Japanese kimonos to future generations as wearable and useful items.
What do you make?
Hena Hena brings back once-forgotten kimonos to the modern world. I create sustainable, universal and unique items with the exquisite fabrics taken from vintage Japanese kimonos, while retaining the grace and delicacy of the garment that it once was part of.
How did you get into your craft?
About twelve years ago I moved to Christchurch from Japan and I started to make clothing for myself, using Japanese patterns as I missed Japanese style fashion so much. Just after the big earthquake in Christchurch we moved to Ashburton with only a cellphone and a wallet. I was nine months pregnant then, and began a new life from scratch. We lost everything in the earthquake, literally everything – our house, job and belongings. However, I never lost my passion for sewing.
I started sewing again, using a second hand sewing machine in a small corner of my kitchen and held a tiny stall at a local farmers market every Saturday morning. I never forget how I felt when I sold the very first kimono cardy there. It was so very special. Now I have my own sewing room with two industrial sewing machines and my garments are sold at three lovely shops in Ashburton, Christchurch and Oamaru. I also sell online through Felt and my Hena Hena FB page.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I learned basic sewing skills at junior high school, but mainly I am self taught using books, internet and Youtube. Thanks to technology we have lots of teachers all around the world!
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I use preloved Japanese vintage kimonos for my creations. I carefully choose and import them by myself then unpick, wash and iron them to use as materials for my creations. Compared to cutting a roll of new fabric, upcycling needs a lot of extra work. However I believe it is worthwhile work to pass on the beauty of Japanese kimonos to future generations and share them with people all over the world as wearable and useful items.
My passion is to give vintage kimonos new lives and let them shine again through my creations. I try my very best to make full use of these materials and ensure there is no waste in our precious environment.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Sustainable luxury. Kimonos were once everyday clothing for Japanese women and they were so much treasured as well. Mothers’ kimonos were re-sized for daughters and often mended or even re-dyed for longer wear. People unpicked no longer wearable kimonos to return them to original fabrics and made cushions or duvet covers. Kimonos were cherished like that for generations.
Surprisingly, kimonos are made out of only rectangle pieces of fabrics and nothing needs to be cut out and wasted from original fabrics. Yes, from the beginning, kimonos are made to be ready for upcycling or repurposing later. How clever they are!
I aim to make something people can enjoy for a long time and something that can even can be passed to future generations just like sustainable kimonos.
Describe your creative process
I put a vintage kimono on a mannequin first and just observe it. My thoughts often go to someone who owned the kimono and how she enjoyed it in her life. It also makes me wonder about the craft people who originally made the kimono. I admire it and wait till I get the best design for the kimono. Sometimes it takes only a minute, at other times over a month to decide its design.
Next, I unpick the kimono to take it back to the original pieces of fabric and carefully hand wash it, if it is washable. I dry and iron them and mend the damaged parts. Finally I cut and sew the fabric with a pattern I created.
Five words that describe your mind Creative, caring, patient, sometimes impulsive, often distracted.
Your favourite feedback from a customer
“I just opened your beautiful package. Thank you so much I absolutely love the top! It is so special and has been made with such care, I will treasure it forever. Thanks again.”
A favourite quote
“Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you must, but take the step.”
Tell us about your pets
We have a toy poodle called Mimi. He is my sweet baby. He follows me anytime, anywhere, even to the toilet! Mimi looks just like a stuffed toy but actually he is a very good watch dog. We don’t need a door bell at all! (I often feel sorry for delivery people though!) Thanks to Mimi I can force myself to go out and have a walk with him, otherwise I would end up staying in my happy place (my sewing room) all day!
Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
I think it is important to think about where our money goes when we buy something. When we spend money on handmade or locally made goods, we can clearly know who gets the money, which means you know exactly who you support. I believe buying things is not just to exchange money with what we want but to show our gratitude, respect and love to who made them for us, I believe.
What does it mean to you when someone buys your creations?
It keeps me doing what I love and helps me so much with my self-esteem.
What’s in store for the rest of 2020?
Currently I am working on new designs for kimono coatigans (coat/cardigan) as well as popular items such as kimono ponchos and kimono dresses. I also take custom orders. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I was not able to import kimonos from Japan for a while but fortunately Japanese kimonos can now be shipped again! Please stay tuned to my Felt shop, where I will add new items regularly.
Prize draw for Felt readers!
Nana has very kindly offered an elegant prize for the home of one lucky Felt reader: this lovely silk cushion cover (see below). Upcycled from a vintage Japanese silk kimono, in excellent condition, this 45x45cm envelope-style cushion cover has no zippers or buttons – so it’s safe around babies and toddlers. (Inner not included.)
To be in to win this gorgeous vintage textile cushion cover, leave us a comment telling us what you love about Nana’s story and her creations. The draw closes at 5pm Monday 3 August and is open to New Zealand residents only.