Thursday, 15 May 2014

Fashion Heaven Rants Exclusive ~ Chako Tokyo ... Opulent, Artisanal and Alluring

Just like shoes, one bag is never enough for a woman, especially if you live on the rapid paced social circuit that requires you to look good all the time.

Otherwise, you are doomed to be dissed by Joan Rivers and her fashion commentators on E! Fashion Police. 

That said, having more than one bag would certainly be helpful in tackling the style problem. But, as everyone knows it that fashion is always about being outstanding and exclusive, rest assured one could never run away from being a part of that humongous stylish crowd where everyone seems to be homogenous by wearing the same clothes (after all, the term ready-to-wear was not coined for nothing), walking in the same shoes and carry the same bags – especially it bags - with the exception of materials and colours. 

But if you are still eager to clutch something that will set you apart from the crowd, then get ready to be acquainted with Chako, an artisanal handbag maker from Tokyo. A born-and-bred Japanese fashion label, Chako purveys handbags that are not only unique and richly profused with traditional Japanese craftsmanship but also the unparalleled finesse of Japanese fashion heritage as they are crafted with love and meticulousness from vintage Japanese kimonos and obis.  

What’s more, despite the intricacy of the historic patterns that are symbolic to the Japanese culture, you will be surprised to know that Chako bags are made to complement every look, eb it formal or casual. Recently, Fashion Heaven Rants managed to get Ms Kazumi Lomri, the Director of Chako to divulge more on this fabulous artisanal accessory label from Japan.

What does Chako mean?

Chako is my mother's nickname from her childhood. As the brand highlights her talent, we felt that it was the perfect name for our venture together.

What inspired you to start Chako?

My mother, my girlfriends in Hong Kong and my admiration for Japanese craftsmanship. My mother has always been very creative and I wanted the whole world to see her talent and my girlfriends encouraged us to start our own line after seeing some pieces we casually made for ourselves.

What was the respond that you received from fashion lovers and fashion editors when Chako  debuted its first collection?

The response we got was extremely positive. Our customers were excited about the one-of-a-kind design and its uniqueness. Within the first year, Lane Crawford (a leading department store in Hong Kong) stocked our dumpling bags and we got several media coverages.


Are Chako bags fully handmade by the Japanese artisans?

Yes! Chako bags are fully handmade in Tokyo.

How long does it take for one artisan to complete a Chako bag?

It depends on the style but most of the styles take at least half a day.

How many bags are produced by Chako on monthly basis and using one kimono and an obi?

Depending on the style, we can make approximately 5-6 bags from one obi (if the obi is in a perfect condition without stains etc). We try to maximise the fabric usage so our bags are designed accordingly to minimise waste.

Kimonos and obis are usually passed down from one generation to another, as heirlooms. Is it difficult for you to source vintage pieces, especially those in rare prints?

Yes, but there is actually quite a vibrant vintage obi and kimono market in Japan. What is extremely hard is to find the ones in good condition without stains and pulls at the right price point in the prints/colors we want. We are always on the look out.

You had lived in many cities of the world such as Mexico City, Paris, Manila and Boston, just to list a few. Thus, does your living experience in these cities influence the design of Chako products?

Definitely! We design our bags with an urban/jet setting women in our mind. I would have never had the courage to start my own business without the experiences I have had living and working all over the world. The people I have met along the way have definitely given me the courage and the connection I needed to grow this business.

Japan has a fair share of renowned fine artists. So far, has Chako received any invitation for collaboration collections from artists such as Yayoi Kusama and Takashi Murakami?

Not yet.

Does Chako receive commissions for one-off pieces from time to time?

We do receive bespoke orders from time to time. We have worked with several brides in the past to complete the look for their special day.

The dumpling bag caught my attention due to its cute name and shape. What is the story behind it?

Dumpling bag was our first design and we still adore this style. We thought it would be unique to have a bag in the shape of a dumpling and the design enabled us to showcase the fabric in the most effective way. It has remained to be a very popular design in our collection.

Fashion is a big industry in Japan and competition is certainly inevitable. How does Chako tackle its competitors?

We try to stay original, timeless and one of a kind.

These days, celebrities are the major driving force for fashion, in terms of publicity and sales. Who are Chako celebrity fans to date, both domestic and international?

At the moment, none that we know of but our fans are from all over the world. They are quite a jet setter. For example, one of my customer happened to stop by a boutique in Corsica last summer and the store owner fell in love with our brand. He is now carrying our new collection this summer. 

We also have several designers and bloggers who have shown their love for our designs such as the renowned Colombian designer, Silvia Tcherassi and Turkish bloggers Lian Kebudi and Ezgi Kiramer from luxuryshoppers.net. Our brand has been featured in Financial Times, Travel & Leisure, Elle South Africa, O Magazine by Oprah, Cnn.com etc.

If I own a Chako bag, what is the best way for me to style it?

The best thing about our bags is that you can wear it in both casual and formal settings. Chako clutch bag will look fabulous with a little back dress, or with your favorite pair of jeans for a night out, or you can always dress it up for a wedding or cocktail parties. It is truly versatile and it gives a pop of color to any outfit you may be wearing. Some of our customers even pair it with their Indian saris. I never imagined that Japanese fabric and Indian fabric would look so great together.

A vintage kimono and obi are as precious as gems, since they are made of silk. Of course, one needs to be careful when it comes to caring and cleaning. Thus, what is the best way to keep the bags in their best condition?

Definitely try to avoid cleaning it on your own! Take your bag to a silk cleaning specialist. Otherwise, always air out the bag after usage and try to avoid oil-based stains.

16. Now that Chako bags are coveted by global fashionistas, do you see the bags as the cultural  ambassador for Japan, just like how the French view their fashion in similar way?

Yes. The obi fabric often speaks for itself. The customers can really see and feel the Japanese craftsmanship that goes into creating these gorgeous fabrics. 

We are really happy that we can modernise our traditional fabric in a more wearable and affordable design for people around the world to enjoy. I feel very fortunate to stay connected to my roots through my business.

Bags aside, does Chako plan to expand into other lines such as ready-to-wear or perhaps, jewellery?

Not at the moment. But we have done some limited edition home wear like cushion covers in the past.

Besides being sold at multi-brand boutiques, online and departmental stores, do you plan to open a freestanding store in Tokyo and the rest of the world in the future?

Not at the moment. We are still small, so our main focus is to increase the [number of] stockists as much as possible.

Chako handbags are available at selected leading departmental stores, online stores and multi-brand boutiques worldwide. To locate your nearest Chako stockist, visit http://www.chakotokyo.com/ or purchase them from the web via http://www.shoplatitude.com/shop-designer/chako.

*Photos courtesy of Chako

Chako at Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum - Shop (Lower Basement Floor), 8-36 Ueno Koen, Taito, Tokyo 110-0007, Japan

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