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Mikan- giving new life to used kimono through upcycling

Hello CICLO readers! This is Melisa bringing you a new post today. I would like to introduce the brand Mikan. I was introduced to her by the wonderful Ran from Zero Waste Japan (read more about Ran here). Clémentine got in touch with me and we video chatted from her workspace in Kyoto. Mikan is an accessory and clothing brand established by Clémentine Sandner. A French-women currently living in Japan but travels all around the world to share her love for fashion using recycled kimono fabric. Keep reading to learn more about Clémentine and how she got interested in using recycled material in her work.

Clémentine’s inspiration to create something new and unique with recycled material

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Clémentine Sandner, founder of Mikan, in her Kyoto workshop

Clémentine is originally from Alsace, France. She studied fashion design and creation at the Esmod International Fashion School in Lyon. During her studies in France she realized that everyone would source their fabric material in the same style, texture or design. There seemed to be a loss of creativity and uniqueness when using this style of fabric for fashion. Moreover, in the 2000’s she was inspired by the French streetwear brand Andrea Crews, which was the first time she saw the term “upcycling” being used. This designer focused on using only recycled materials with a unique artistic touch. Clémentine liked the challenge of creating pieces out of something used and old. This was the start of her deciding to use salvaged recycled fabric in her products.

Japanese culture-inspired Mikan by Clémentine

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After a while of studying fashion in France and working in London too, she decided to go on an exchange program to Japan in 2014. During her year of studies here, she was already used to using old recycled fabric but she saw something special in old kimono. She would see a lot of them being sold in flea markets and did not understand why such beautiful fabric was being wasted away. This inspired the birth of her brand Mikan.

mikan-clementine-sandner-Making process

So what does Mikan mean? Clémentine’s name in English is the name of a citrus fruit which translated to Japanese is known as “mikan”. She decided to use this in her brand name to give it more personal touch. She has lived in Tokyo, Osaka and now Kyoto. She is currently the guest of an artist in a residency program and has a workshop space in Horenji Temple. Mikan creates accessories and clothing items using kimono salvaged from flea markets and dealers from Kansai. Clémentine also takes custom-orders when possible and welcomes bringing your own kimono fabric to create something new! She also recently offers workshops meant to teach and show you the delicate process of upcycling something that is thought of as waste.

Upcycling: a new idea for Japan

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Upcycling is the idea of taking something old and used that would be considered as waste and making it into something new. Clémentine has traveled to several countries around Europe and will be heading to Australia this September to continue offering workshops there. Also later this year she will be changing her residence in Kyoto to live in Miyazaki. Most of her clients now are foreigners looking to get a little piece of Japan and she feels they have a good understanding of the term “upcyling”. On the other hard, her Japanese customers ask for order-made products using their family kimonos but aren’t as familiar with the term “upcycling”. Clémentine told me that she feels this term is still relatively new to the Japanese. They do have a culture for reusing or fixing things but rather it’s for the intention of keeping their culture of craft-making alive.

A message from Clémentine

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Clémentine teaching at her workshop in Horenji Temple, Kyoto.

I asked Clémentine if she had a message she would like to say to our CICLO viewers and she responded with the following:

I was told that I shouldn’t go into upcycling in the fashion industry because I would never go “big” down this path. But I learned that if you choose the scale of your idea and what impact you want to have, changing the current fashion norms will become the next big thing. My main goal is to make people realize that something unique and beautiful can be made from waste using the idea of upcycling. Most of my clients that attend my workshops are so surprised that it’s not so hard to do this on their own. I hope to continue traveling to other countries and explore other textiles and design new products. I really envision my brand being a nomadic one. I love going to different places and interacting with new people as well as balancing both teaching and designing. I hope you can see the beauty in old kimono fabric waste through Mikan’s designs.

Clémentine

 

mikan-clementine-sandner-workshop-kyoto

Clémentine and Mikan customers at her workshop in Horenji Temple, Kyoto.

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading all about Mikan by Clémentine. Her work is really beautiful and inspirational and I loved the fact that she was determined to use the idea of upcyling to build her brand. I learned that although her main goal is not necessarily purely for environmental causes, it makes it easy for anyone to understand and see that this is something that anyone can do easily. I hope more fashion designers and brands can follow Clémentine’s footsteps in the future. Thanks again to Clémentine for taking the time to speak with me! If you wanna learn more about her products or are interested in her workshops please visit her website and Instagram down below! See you next time!

 

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