Please tell us about the manufacturing and distribution of Akizakura’s parasols made from used kimonos.
With a view to establish a recycling culture and sustainable society, Akizakura sells and rents parasols made by parasol craftspeople using used kimonos. Sold parasols are sometimes made from kimonos from our customers’ closets, and other times made from kimonos contributed to Akizakura.
We work with Japan’s top-class craftspeople who are capable of making patterns. Since the fabric stretch and patterns are different from kimono to kimono, making them into parasols requires not only great skills as a craftsperson, but also an aesthetic sense to create beautiful combinations of patterns. The reputation of Akizakura’s wonderful designs all owes to the craftspeople we work with. Various craftspeople are involved in the production of our parasols, such as those specialized in parasol frames, those specialized in handles, and those specialized in putting parasol cloths and frames together.
As for the renting of parasols, we adopt what we call an “ownership system,” which is something like a combination of crowdfunding and sharing. In this system, owners order parasols at ownership prices, using kimonos of their choice. Akizakura manages these parasols to rent them for a fee or for free of charge. If the parasol is rent for a fee, 30% of the fee is paid to the owner. This service not only brings owners a financial profit, but it also provides them other values (extraordinary experiences), such as the joy of seeing their parasols used in fashion shows and photo shootings.
Tell us what made you start your own business.
I would like to create a harmonious society. That was my starting point.
I started my own business in 2013 as a marketing consultant and lecturer. As I went on with my business, I became aware of a problem concerning Japanese people’s mind: they sometimes could be very ungenerous, despite their physical wealth. I saw many disharmonious relationships derived from a self-centered attitude and a misguided belief that people are allowed to do anything in order to make money.
But at the same time, I also knew that nothing could be changed with mere criticism. Instead, I started to think about creating a new business that would allow people to solve social issues while having fun and that would enrich Japanese people’s lives in a true sense.
I did research on Japanese culture, traditions, and history, and I was intrigued by Japan’s recycling culture as a way to maintain a harmonious society. To use things with care is to respect the lives of the owners of these things. I thought this culture is the one that could help grow a generous heart.
That is why I started a parasol brand using used kimonos, “Akizakura,” which embodies the recycling culture tailored to the modern world.
Tell us about the future developments.
Our parasols were featured on an NHK WORLD’s program on upcycling the other day. I hope to promote Akizakura’s products not only domestically, but also to overseas markets, along with the recycling culture that we take pride in.
In particular, we would like to focus on providing contents using Akizakura’s parasols in the future.
We will of course continue our service to remake customers’ kimonos into parasols and the retailing of ready-made parasols made from used kimonos, so that we can place constant orders to support parasol craftsperson.
However, the 21st century is an era in which the contents are more important than the objects. We will create opportunities for customers to enjoy the beauty of our parasols without owning them and reconfirm the importance of our recycling culture at the same time, through town walking tours using our parasols and other programs.