When I first spotted Tanya Stewart-Carter’s Koi Girl brand while surfing the web I was at first attracted to the beautiful photography accompanying her store and then to her hand-crafted purses, bags and clutches made from vintage Kimono and Obi fabrics, their bright and intricate designs telling stories of times past.
With a background of time spent in Japan and a love of fashion, Tanya decided to meld the two with her business she started in 2008, in Perth, Australia.
What’s your background and how have you ended up where you are today?
My name is Tanya and I have a handbag and accessory label called Koi Girl. I ended up here because of my love of fashion, design and art. I’ve always loved fashion, especially vintage fashion, and always wanted to do something creative in that field. I am also in love with Japan and, in particular, Japanese textiles from the kimono and obi. I studied fashion and textiles, and silk painting for the kimono. I started Koi Girl because I really wanted to recycle vintage kimono and obi into something that can be used in everyday life, and what better way than to transform them into a gorgeous handbags, clutch purses or head scarves?
Tell us about your time in Japan – where you lived, what you did and what you loved most about living there.
I went to Japan in December 1999 for a three-month holiday and ended up staying five years. I lived in Osaka, which is in the west side of Japan, very close to Kyoto. I taught English as a second language and studied kimono silk painting. I loved living there! It was exciting to live in such a big modern city full of rich culture. I loved socialising and going out and being amongst a big city, but I also loved taking off on the train to see the beautiful countryside, temples and amazing sights. One of my favourite places is Kyoto, where you can see Geisha walking down the streets of Gion.
Tell us about your creative process – how you work, where you work, where you get your ideas from.
I work from home when my kids are at school or asleep. All my handbags are made from vintage kimono and obi. They are one-of-a-kind; they aren’t mass produced I will only repeat a design if it is a custom order. I can envision what I will create when I am looking at the fabric. I guess my design style is quite simple sometimes but only because the fabrics I use are quite bright and flamboyant and need to stand out.
Clearly both vintage fabric and Japanese Kimono and Obi fabrics are a love of yours. Explain their appeal and where you source them from.
I love kimono and obi fabric. To me these fabrics are so precious and beautiful and they should be seen and appreciated by everyone. I visit Japan every year to personally source my vintage kimono and obi.
What do you do or where do you go for inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere for me – in fashion, movies, art and other people’s style.
How easy/difficult was it going out on your own?
It was a challenge but having a big family support helps a lot.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give others wanting to do the same?
Follow your heart and have a business plan.
My guilty pleasure is ..? Vintage clothes shopping.
I’m currently working on … Koi Girl wallets and, just maybe, a men’s range
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment? Who’d have thought I would own so many handbags!
Thanks so much for your time, Tanya!
You can also say hi to Koi Girl on Facebook!