Victoria Close's Journey into the Heart of Vintage Kimono Jewelry in Shimokitazawa

This time, we interviewed Victoria, who is active in Shimokitazawa producing vintage kimono accessories.


Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Victoria Close and I’m the founder of the vintage kimono accessories and jewellery brand, Bikudesigns which has been running full time since 2016. I am also the founder of Studio Biku, a small studio space in central Shimokitazawa where I run my business, teach creative workshops, curate a tiny shop and rent out the space to other creatives for their own teaching.

Can you tell us about your business?
My main mission for Bikudesigns is the concept of ‘mottainai’ which is the feeling of regret when discarding something that still has life left in it. For me mottainai doesn’t just apply to material objects but can also be applied to places and even humans. I use vintage kimono and other found objects in my jewellery collections.

What inspired you to start your business in Japan? Also why did you decide to do it in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo?
After WW2, Shimokitazawa was a black market area, selling hard to find goods and used items. As a hangover from those days, Shimokita is famous throughout the world as a vintage clothing area. It seemed right to create jewellery with this idea behind it.
It matters to me that the once-empty 50 year old apartment I work in everyday now has a new life, bringing with it a new energy. My neighbour in the building next door summed it up perfectly, “I used to look over at your studio and it was dark, and lonely and quiet. But now it has life. I can hear the chatter and the laughter coming from the open windows. And sometimes I see your light on at night and I imagine you working there. I live in the city because I want to hear life happening.”

What sets your vintage kimono jewelry apart from other jewelry available in the market?
As I’ve been living in Japan for over 25 years, vintage kimono, obi and obijime feature mainly in my pieces but I also work with other vintage and antique found objects when I discover something interesting. I love to combine surprising materials with the kimono and obi such as vivid coloured acrylic chain to bring it into the modern day.

How do you incorporate elements of Japanese culture and tradition into your jewelry designs and workshops?
As well as fabric, I also create pieces in silver. Even though I’m trained in precious metal fabrication, stone setting and classical techniques, when I discovered the properties of silver clay I was entranced! The clay was invented in Japan and is made from reclaimed silver from the electronics, film and the medical industries. My precious metal jewellery features natural elements such as sakura or leaves, imprints of kimono or found objects that I source at antique markets.

How do you source your materials, particularly vintage kimonos, and what challenges do you face in this process?
I source kimono from antique markets and a number of my favourite vintage kimono shops in Tokyo. I am often gifted collections of kimono and other vintage fabrics from people who are decluttering or who have inherited kimono collections and don’t want to take care of them. They understand my concept of giving the fabrics new life and would rather give them to me than sell them for a tiny amount.

Could you walk us through the process of creating one of your pieces, from selecting the kimono fabric to the final product?
In the past, when I made only silver jewellery, I planned all of my pieces out in a sketchbook before I started making. At that time, the materials were very predictable as silver behaves in a similar way each time you use it.
When I moved to fabric jewellery I realised that there are many kinds of kimono fabrics with different properties and that what I could make with one kimono, was impossible to make with the next. The age of the kimono also plays a very big part in how you can manipulate it. And so, the way I created had to change. Now I select textiles for how they feel, then I play with them until I come up with something I like and that I enjoy making. From that first piece, a collection or style emerges.

You post and communicate a lot on social media about your work and workshops, what has been the response from people around the world?
As I’m not Japanese, I’m very careful not to appropriate the things I teach. I take a Japanese material or craft and add my own spin and techniques to it, blending my western culture with the culture in Japan to bring a fresh perspective. My workshop clients are either foreigners living in Japan or internationally minded returnee Japanese people who are looking for a quiet space to get creative. I’m interested in a very wide range of arts and crafts so teaching is a wonderful way to bring my personal interests into my work.

How do you envision the future of vintage kimono jewelry and cultural workshops in Tokyo, and what role do you hope to play in shaping that future?
When I moved into my studio a year ago, I designed it as a multi-use space. As well as being home to my own jewellery business, the studio is rentable for creatives who need somewhere to teach their own arts and crafts workshops. Inside the studio there is a tiny shop area with items from a number of international designers and artists living in Japan. I felt that this kind of space was really lacking for the foreign creative community here in Japan. In the future, my dream is to find a street-level shop big enough to continue supporting others in their creative businesses.

At the end, is there anything you’d like to share with our readers?
My studio is open most weekdays from 10am-2pm so please pop in for a chat and a browse of the wonderful products the makers have produced, and of course come and try on some kimono jewellery or take a workshop.


For those enchanted by the allure of vintage and the stories woven into each piece, Victoria’s work is a testament to the beauty that arises when cultures intertwine and the past meets the present in innovative ways. Whether you are in Tokyo or across the world, Victoria invites you to engage with her craft, visit her studio, and perhaps leave with a piece of wearable art that carries a story worth telling.

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Interviewed by Yukako Harada