Can you tell us about where you’re from in Japan? What was it like growing up there?
I grew up in Osaka as an only child, but early on, I moved with my family to Tenkawa, a countryside village in Nara Prefecture. My mom grew up in Tenkawa, and wanted to go back to open her own shop and cafe. My father built the shop and my mother makes the clothing and jewelry thats for sale at Koo, which you can visit today in Tenkawa.
There are lots of tourists in Tenkawa, but also lots of artists. There’s a Shinto temple there that has a famous chime that you can ring for the god of artists. It’s very pretty.
Did you grow up helping your mom make stuff?
At first, only making chai and coffee in her shop! Starting from when I was about 12 years old I worked in the cafe. It was a little bit stressful, but I also learned a lot from that experience, like how to talk to strangers and appreciate customers.
How does your upbringing influence your thinking about clothing design?
I’ve always liked fashion since I was little, but I didn’t think about making clothes until recently.
My mom is my fashion idol, and I got into clothing design because of her. She makes everything by hand, which has given me an appreciation for natural fabrics and traditional dye processes. She makes indigo dye herself and was the first person to show me indigo dye. She also spins her own wool to make thread that she weaves into fabric.
Can you tell us a bit about your art?
I feel so happy when I’m focused on making something. It makes my mom happy too--to know that I’m making things. I like being able to show her what I’ve created, thanks to her.
I’m drawing all the time, and I primarily do fine pen mandalas in black and white. I’m inspired by what’s natural, in both my art and clothing design. I also like things that have a good process.
You can follow Akari on Instagram at @akaritachibana
See her art at akaritachibana.com