Thursday, 6 February 2014

Kitan - Cardiff's Hidden Gem (18/10/13)

So as Cardiff Fashion week approaches I thought it would be a good idea to delve into some of the city’s relatively un-known independent businesses. Although arcades seem to be filled to the brim with stunning boutiques and gorgeous vintage shops, there is one gem that has yet to be discovered by the fashion lovers of the city.

Kitan is a small (and when I say small I really mean it) business ran by Mai Yamazaki. Originally from Japan, Mai has lived in this country for over 10 years and is using her true passion and love for textiles to create beautiful one off pieces of clothing, jewellery and shoes. Based in a small studio on Mill Lane in Cardiff, the Kitan showroom/studio really is a diamond in the rough. Not only is Mai’s work room filled with beautiful textiles that she has gathered from her travels to Morocco, it is also adorned with some of her handcrafted designs. It is easy to think that there are many places that offer hand made designs in cities but after speaking to Mai it is clear to see that the reason behind her work is purely based on her love for creating beautiful garments.

Mai’s small work area surrounded by beads, buttons and inspiration for her designs.

Speaking of her designs, Mai says that the embroidery work on her garments is created from using cactus silk, something she discovered in Morocco and a thread that is used frequently with embroidery there. Latifa is Mai’s hand embroiderer and is responsible for creating some of the most breathtaking and also time consuming designs on the Kitan pieces. From taking the time to source the perfect fabrics and the perfect people to work with these fabrics, Mai and her small team use the highest standard of silk and linen all complimented with the use of delicate and precise embroidery.  The image below shows one piece in the collection, highlighting just how amazing the garments are. Mai also told of how she tries to make all of the items she designs different, whether that be with different trims or different colours. It is clear to see in her collection how much thought and time goes into her work.

Each part of these necklaces is woven from Cactus silk in variations of colours.

Although it was clear as soon as I met Mai that she was a genuine woman with a genuine passion for what she does, it was amazing to hear that she also works with a charity for disabled women. Al Kawter is an organisation in Marrakech that teaches women how to embroider and sew, they are paid an hourly wage and in Mai’s words “Enjoy what every woman enjoys, sewing and sitting and being able to laugh.” This admirable love for making other people happy was clear to see when Mai showed me a board that showed generations of families in Morocco and Marrakech sewing together, learning how to embroider and passing what they know down through generations of family members.

As our conversation came to a close it was easy to see that being surrounded by her beautiful creations means the world to Mai, as she is ready to fly back to Morocco tomorrow (she misses the hustle and bustle) she offered some advice “I think keeping positive is the most important thing, if you are positive people will be able to see that, you can do anything with being positive, I never thought I would do this and I just followed my instinct and it has worked out well…well enough for now.”

Take some time and contact Mai, she offers open studios to look around and you can easily email her via the Kitan website. Kitan is a down to earth and refreshing look into creative and one off fashion like no other I have seen before.

Mai also said that she herself wants the idea of women through the generations teaching each other how to create and how to love what they do to somehow find it’s way into British design. With an industry that is focused highly on making money, Mai’s aim is to have loyalty and love within the creation of the items she and her team make. It is the story and the meaning behind her brand that Mai is determined to uphold.

Lucy Ashley

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