From Teacher to Business Owner: A Designer’s Journey
FEW Japan was thrilled to welcome the energetic entrepreneur Victoria Close to share her inspiring journey from international school teacher to jewelry designer / creator and owner of Bikudesigns, a brand of beautiful accessories made with repurposed vintage kimono, at our quarterly Lunch Gathering on Wednesday, November 20.
Set in a rustic room at the gorgeous Flamingo Cafe in Glassarea in Minamiaoyama, FEW guests enjoyed delicious Italian dishes, and an all-you-can-eat salad and drink bar, while engaging in a lively course of storytelling. Our guests came with warm camaraderie and curiosity, and for many, an interest in starting their own sustainable project and learning from the experience of an accomplished artist and entrepreneur.
Victoria spent most of the time talking about community and the importance of operating from a place of kindness. In fact, the jewellery itself took a back seat. While sharing a beautiful meal together, Victoria began telling us her story.
Victoria came from a family of female entrepreneurs (both her grandmothers and her mum were shop-owners in Great Britain). One of her grandmothers was a milliner and one was a talented seamstress. Victoria shared their creativity, resourcefulness and passion for making beautiful things, and at 15 years old she started her own business selling vintage bead jewellery.
Victoria then went on to take a more academic path, earning her degrees in Philosophy and English, and teaching at an international school for many years, but her passion for designing jewelry was just waiting to be rediscovered. Becoming a mom helped her return to her childhood dream of jewelry designing, she said, but with a new meaningful, resourceful and sustainable dimension — repurposing forgotten things.
Though she started in metalwork, her style has since evolved into a brand of unique accessories made with repurposed vintage kimono and other materials, such as wood.
“I found a stack of kimono and thought, ‘Wow! I could do something with this!” she recalled.
Victoria personally sources vintage kimono and recreates them into one-of-a-kind jewellery pieces in the hip, historic neighborhood of Shimokitazawa in Tokyo, a place that’s provided inspiration behind her brand.
“After WWII this area was well-known for the black market in American goods,” she said. “To this day, a hangover from its past, it is known for its vintage and antique shops.”
As not only a jewelry maker, but also the social media manager, website designer, accountant and chief kimono-sourcer, Victoria delved into the many hats she wears with humor, humility and grace. She also shared her gratitude for the community around her and how genuine and fun engagement with customers helps keep her going.
“There would be no Biku without the lovely customers who buy my products,” she said.
Victoria then welcomed guests to engage in a dynamic discussion around many concepts, including the meaning of “mottainai” (a feeling of shame about wasting) in our lives, the ups and downs of growing a sustainable and ethical business, as well as cultivating a cozy community and engaging with customers on social media.
FEW would like to sincerely thank Victoria Close for her inspiring and uplifting presentation as well as our members for their lively participation.