This week we are excited to find out a little more about Kristin Dickson-Okuda from Rowena Sartin. Kristin not only produces her own line but also runs concept store Iko Iko in Los Angeles with her husband Shin, who designs furniture under the project Waka Waka.
Can you tell us a little about your background – what did you study/where did you work before launching Rowena Sartin?
I grew up in Austin, Texas. I studied art history and Spanish literature in college in Boston thinking I'd want to live in Spain and work for a art institution. I took a less capricious route and moved to California instead where I had various jobs relating to the art industry and eventually clothing. I eventually worked for a small designer in Los Angeles where I learned the realities of design, production, and sales. A few leaps, falls, and climbs later I discovered how to start making what I wanted to make.
You run the amazing concept store Iko Iko in LA with your husband, and both have your own projects as well. What does a typical day at work look like?
Never glamorous, rather a lot of running around to make things happen. Shin has a separate woodshop so everyday he typically works there. I take care of any fabric runs, contractor meetings and sourcing errands in the morning then work in the studio all day between store visitors. I'm really grateful to have the studio be part of the space because it enables me to design and sew as I get ideas. Mondays and Tuesdays are typically full studio days since the shop is closed then. Dinner is our time to relax and relate after the day. Maybe a movie thereafter. Shin likes old samurai films and I like dance documentaries.
What motivated you to start your own business?
The desire to create my own formula for work. I enjoy the freedom of it all and the possibilities that exist and have learned what kind of environment I need in order to be effective with what I make.
Do you have any tips for aspiring designers or small business owners? Anything you wish you had known at the start?
I think being open to the process it requires to develop the vocabulary of your work. Process is what leads me to good ideas, and I think making good work requires time to develop meaning. There's a lot of stuff in the world now, so offering ideas that are really precise is important to my creative conversation.
Who/what are you inspired by at the moment?
Hans Peter Feldman, our last trip to Japan, having a baby! I don't usually make things from a fantasy perspective or thematically related to anything. I think about clothing as problem solving shapes and combining unlike things, like things, common things to be something different. I'm overly conscious of how the internet has made everything available for "inspiration," so I try to look outward from that in order to make a valid expression.
What are you most proud of in your careers to date?
That we're able to still do this. Feeling comfortable in our vocabulary. I weigh things differently than when I was younger and have lost that interfering ego that was encouraging me make temporary ideas. Being flexible is something I've learned how to embrace, as well as concerning myself with relevance, especially as I get older.
Where do you see yourselves in 10 years?
I'd like to be able to do some material focused projects like creating a new fabric, work on a color theory collection. Ideally to have ample time devoted to development. We'd like to be able to spend part of the year working in Japan and give our child the chance to connect with where Shin is from. I would like the opportunity to step outside of our current perspective here in Los Angeles.
Can you tell us your favourite places to go in LA?
Anzen hardware store, Sqirl Cafe, Elysian Park, Ooga Booga, Pie'n Burger, the Getty
How do you like to spend your days off?
Reading, eating something indulgent, a thrift store, a long walk.
What did you eat for breakfast?
Poached egg, yogurt with granola and coffee.
Rowena Sartin is currently exclusively stocked at Kinobi in Australia, and is also available at select retailers in the US and Japan.