The Story Behind Saisei

I’ve had many people ask me how I ended up starting Saisei Apparel.  

I happened to buy a vintage kimono while I was in Japan and refashioned it into a blouse and a dress.  I was constantly stopped by people asking where I purchased my outfit, or I was complimented on it.   After a little research I found out in Japan people refashioned kimonos and obis into other garments.  In English what they did was “kimono remake”. 

I love everything about Japanese textiles and decided to ditch the tech world and jump into the kimono and obi remake business!

So now I have an independent clothing line that specializes in breathing new life into vintage & antique kimonos and obis by creating one-of-a-kind fashionable clothing, clutches, and belt/sling bags.

Did I mention, I traveled (pre-covid) to Japan to purchase kimonos from families, estate sales, and kimono shops?
My friend Azusa (who you’ll meet below) now curates all of my obis and kimonos and ships them from Japan in small packages as I can’t travel there yet.

Check out this article about us published in The Seattle Times! Pike Place Market mentors advise crafters on staying afloat during coronavirus shutdown

The Saisei Product Lifecycle

Each item of clothing has a history and I want to honor that heritage by careful construction of the new items. To do this, I take each kimono or obi apart by hand before deciding what the second-life of the garment will become.  Kimono fabric is only 14” wide, so I designed and purchased special patterns that work with the intricacy of the kimono and obi fabric.  

More importantly, the kimonos are part of the circular design economy and the lifespan of the fabric is extended and doesn’t end-up in a landfill. 

I’m proud of the quality, craftsmanship, and story of our products.  Each kimono I take apart has a story, has memories, has had a journey that’s worth saving.  That story doesn’t end, its reborn and continues with the new owner.  The Japanese word saisei meaning “Rebirth” is composed of the kanji 再 (read sai) meaning “again; twice; second time” and 生 (read sei) meaning “life; birth”.

I love the process of learning and educating anyone who is interested Japanese/Asian textiles, textile patterns, fabric and design from different regions. In a fast-fashion world, we are losing the appreciation of materials and the history of objects. 

I believe that Saisei blends the history of a product with the contemporary shopper of today.  Each kimono and obi was hand painted or woven by a person not a machine; the garment in itself is one-of-a-kind. Additionally, the garments have a multi-generational appeal: there is something for every age and everybody.

Saisei garments are about remembering the past in order to craft the future. 

Azusa Ogawa

Born in Germany, raised in America, but 100% Japanese. Currently lives in this crowded city called Tokyo which is mainly known for its extreme obsession over keeping trains on time.

Illustrator, translator, English instructor by day, wine and cheese devourer by night.  Also a full time nerd and a cat lover. Loves to wear kimonos and is armed with a cat hair lint remover 24-7.

NOT a fan of that terrible place called the gym yet a frequent visitor due to the amount of chocolate consumed.  Is extremely blessed and has been given the chance to work along with Bungeisha, a well-known publishing company in Japan.

Published works include: Riceball Cat, The Black and Red Santa, Rental Fur Store, Kuchan’s Adventures, What Dogs and Cats Dream Of, Illusion Museum, The Old Lady and the Mantis, to name a few.