Kiku Boutique is a small handmade clothing and corsetry shop in Manchester City Centre. The boutique, now in its 14th year, has recently made changes to the way they source materials in a bid to be a more sustainable company.
We spoke to the owner, Lynn Mackay, to discuss what prompted the shift and the future of the fast fashion industry.
As a small handmade clothing boutique, I’m assuming the majority of your garments must already be considered ‘slow fashion’ – how important is that to the Kiku brand
We’re very much a slow fashion brand. Most of what we make is to order. This cuts down on waste and selling off any remaining garments cheap, which I feel devalues what we do. I want customers to keep pieces we have made as wardrobe staples, revisiting them year after year.
I notice you’ve recently made a move toward recycling and adapting existing garments – what prompted this move towards a more circular way of creating clothes?
We have been selling vintage kimonos for a few years, and my friend makes corsets out of vintage obi fabrics, it just seemed a natural progression to experiment with using these fabrics myself. The silks are so beautiful, unique and of the highest quality, why not appreciate them in a different form.
Are you finding the conversation around sustainability is becoming more important to your customers?
Very slowly, to be honest. It’s still very much a minority of people that like the idea that a garment is made specifically for them, not everyone wants to wait for an outfit to be made. I’d say a lot more people are buying second-hand and vintage clothing but again this is pretty instant and still feeds the habit that you need something different to wear.
What problems have you encountered in making the move towards working more sustainably?
The cost! Trying to find wholesalers of eco fabrics that will supply a micro-business like mine has been difficult. If I was to buy fabrics at retail prices, I’d have to pass the cost on to my customers, hence pricing myself out of the market.
Do you have plans to make further environmentally conscious changes in your processes?
I’m going to keep using kimono and obi’s maybe other vintage fabrics. Look into sourcing end of season fabrics from larger companies. Keep looking for suppliers of fabrics such as tencel, bamboo silk, peace silk and recycled fabrics. We already reuse packaging, have switched to paper tape, along with paperless billing whenever we can.
Fast fashion is one of the biggest threats to our planet – what solutions do you think need to be implemented to bring about real change?
High street shops should bring out fewer collections a year, move away from micro fashions. More transparency as to where and how the fabric and manufacturing is done and the conditions of the workers. I think the whole out of sight out of mind is still prevalent with most people. Maybe ecology should be taught in schools, educate from an early age. I’d like to see the end of mega companies like Shein who can copy young designers at a fraction of the cost!
How would you advise other businesses who are wanting to make the shift towards circularity but are feeling overwhelmed?
I am only just starting to learn myself and becoming more aware of being sustainable. Keep at it, research, find your niche.
What tips do you have for customers who want to make the move away from fast fashion?
Start investing in quality pieces that will last, think of buying second hand as well. Stop buying so much online, think about the quality of the products you’re buying. Add items to work with your existing wardrobe, don’t follow fashion create your own style!