Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting history
My business name is simply my first name. I like using my name because it reflects the fact that this is a one-person operation. While the store concept has shifted, my involvement is a constant. The first iteration of this business was called “Kione’s Thirdhand Shop.” I was making sewn goods using fabrics from thrift stores so I thought of it as a kind of math: secondhand materials + my hand = thirdhand products. I still use scraps and thrifted fabrics but it’s no longer the main concept behind the business. I found the inconsistency limiting – now I source my materials from a Japanese cotton wholesaler. They have a small shop in the textile district and it’s where I used to purchase from when I first started making clothes. This year, I’m hoping to offer mending and remake services as well as take on custom requests, which is why it’s called “Kione’s Fabric Goods & Services.”
When/Why did you start working in this particular craft/field?
My grandmother bought me a sewing machine when I was in elementary school. Both of my grandmothers were excellent seamstresses but I didn’t get a chance to learn from them. My mother doesn’t sew very much so I remember teaching myself how to make tote bags using the machine. I tried all sorts of crafts growing up: knitting, embroidery, patchwork, crochet, beading… I would buy how-to books and kits from the craft store. I’d always loved making color combinations and I began making large color quilts after coming across these beautiful shot cotton fabrics by Kaffe Fassett. In college I studied garment construction and patterning and that’s when I started designing and building functional garments for myself and for others.
What do you think sets your designs apart from others?/What are some inspirations for your work?
Even though I don’t spend a whole lot of time designing an aesthetic for the brand, I know that the various things I make have some shared quality. I strive to make products that I would want to buy – so it may just be my personal taste that is creating a ‘look.’ As for my quilts, they are never patterned beforehand. I lay out a rough idea and start sewing. It’s not exactly improvised but there’s always room for adjustments and edits and I think that process gives my quilts a distinct design. In terms of my garments, I’m inspired by functional workwear and uniforms. When I make clothes I think about comfort, durability, and utility as well as compatibility with my daily activities. I also consider ways of simplifying the pattern for efficiency. I’m inspired by the designs and ideas of austerity clothing and Russian constructivism.
Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?
I wouldn’t call it a failure, but my first craft fair was quite challenging. Everything was a first attempt – from designing my own promotional materials to setting up a display at my booth. There were a lot of tasks to complete by myself but the two days at the fair were extremely rewarding. Showing my work and seeing other vendors gave me ideas on how to improve. I think one of the most important insights I’ve gained from the experience is that even though there’s always more to be done, I need to start somewhere.
What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?
My favorite moments have to do with comments from my customers. I especially love hearing how they are going to use the items I made. It can be something like “I was looking for a new make-up bag and this is perfect” or “this is the perfect art teacher dress!” I don’t consider anything I make to be ‘perfect’ but it’s one of my proudest moments when I know that something I made fills a need. I’ve also been told: “this would make a good gift for my friend. She’s into weird stuff like this.” I loved that.
We can’t wait to be back in Chicago for our Holiday Fair, and now that Kione Koche is on the roster, our wallets might be in serious danger. Mark your calendars for December 5+6 and check out Kione Koche online here: