Bebe Taian: Behind Bebe Taian

November 1, 2010

Behind Bebe Taian


I thought that since my week will be ridiculously busy, I should write what I can while I can this week. Past the point of introducing Bebe Taian itself, I thought the next logical step was to introduce the writer behind it. That would be me.

Hi there! You probably know me from Etsy as NigatsuBebe. Jewellery maker and avid designer, cat rescuer and charity funder, I'm also a kimono collector and retailer. I got my first kimono when I was about fourteen years old. Actually, my first two kimono, since there was a set on Ebay for around $60 or so. I didn't know a thing about them then, except that they were beautiful. One was an entirely black kimono made of rough silk gauze which had almost imperceptible silver stripes every few inches or so in it. Another was a black tomesode with blue and cream fan patterns which I adore. They are both modern pieces, Heisei-era (post-1989), late Showa (Showa is 1926-1989) at the oldest date. I've had both of those kimono for nearly ten years now. I still wear them sometimes. I love them both, but now that I have more kimono and know more about the kimono language, I have narrowed the places and events that I can acceptably wear them to. A black tomesode is the most formal of kimono- not the most versatile piece! But it is certainly one of the most beautiful in it's subtlety.

Now I am hooked.

When I first started collecting, there were few English-language websites that I could find at the time to adequately show how to wear them and what accessories were really necessary, and how to get them. I made many of my own accessories for years because of the costs and work involved in finding these items at reasonable prices. Almost ten years later, kimono and obi today are relatively easy to get with the advent of Japanese kimonoya stepping into English-language websites, but unless a person is savvy as to how to find them, how to pay for them, and is used to the huge prices of Japanese shipping on even the smallest item, it may be best to buy from someone who has already imported the item cheaply for you. The cost can be much less than some other kimono shops this way.

I do my best to inspect every kimono when listing it to be sure when mentioning flaws. Sometimes when I buy kimono, it is difficult to tell whether or not it is flawed from the photos or how bad a flaw may be. Sometimes I can see a flaw but it is removable or fixable. Sometimes, it is not. It is a risk I have to take. Often, damage to a kimono can be covered up; in some instances, it will not be seen when worn because of the ohashori (the fold at the hip) being in a different place depending on height of the wearer. Others, a simple haori would cover a stain perfectly without looking out of place. When a kimono can no longer be worn, it is taken apart and used to make other beautiful things, maximizing the life of the fabric for as long as possible. In the end, pieces are used as stuffing for pillows and quilts, for batting in certain types of other kimono, or for thin quilted pieces to be worn under regular woolen or silk kimono in winter for warmth. Even a damaged kimono can have its uses!

My cat, Bebe, is still involved in the whole process. Sort of. She doesn't play with kimono the way she does beads- I wouldn't let her! The last thing I need in a pile of silk is fur and claw marks! But she does sit by me and purr all night, occasionally nipping my hand to remind me to pet her tummy. She's become a fat cat over the years since I brought her home from a shelter. She picked me, not the other way around! We've found that she's diabetic, which accounts for her weight gain (I KNEW it wasn't the food...), and she needs hundreds of dollars in treatment. Selling off my kimono collection will give me an outlet for creative ideas and bring in more cash to help her get insulin while I apply for work elsewhere.

Much of our excess money goes towards helping cats get medical care when they need it most. A portion of the proceeds from NigatsuBebe go towards this same goal; recently, I put everything I made (including supply costs) to getting a sweet cat treatment when he broke out into a body-wide oozing rash. $175 later, and he is a happy cat with a cortisone shot and a flea treatment! I think Bebe would be happy knowing this, and I know all of the shelter cats who have been fed with NB funds certainly are.

Here's to one more venture: ganbatte yo!

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