Bebe Taian: New Kimono and Buying Online

May 3, 2011

New Kimono and Buying Online

Maybe I haven't mentioned it yet, but this week I received my giant box of new inventory (and a few personal collection items) from Japan. I was very worried because they were shipped only a few days before the earthquakes started. Most people in America will remember the 9.0 Tohoku earthquake, but really, there were many earthquakes before and after the 9.0 that week. I was not expecting to see these things at all, and had already put them out of mind. After all, if they had been lost, what could I do? Being upset would do no good. But, thankfully, they did arrive. <3 The seller must have shipped them very quickly! It took about two months for them to reach me, but it's well worth it.

I want to figure out how to set up my own show, an introduction to kimono, and show off some of the art of Taisho era as well. I think I have a vague idea, but I need more to start with. My "personal collection" is now a mix of museum-quality items that I will not likely personally wear, but want to display, and my own wearing-kimono. My wearing-kimono have to be fairly thought-out, since I'm quite a bit taller than I used to be, and have fairly long arms. Neither is a good thing when purchasing vintage (or even new) kimono! Oy.

I try to buy things that are relatively high-quality. By "high-quality", I generally mean "things in good-excellent condition"; no prominent stains, no tears, embroidery that I can't replace or repair, etc. If seams are torn, like a sleeve coming off, this is no problem for me to fix. Kimono are meant to be taken apart for cleaning, so this is expected. But, tears in the fabric are especially unrepairable. Prominent stains in places that are not hidden, such as the lining or where the obi will be, those are difficult to hide or fix, if they can be fixed at all. Often, by the time I get a stained item, I have no idea what made the stain or how long it's been set, or if the fabric will be damaged or will run if I try to remove the stain. It is a gamble every time.

Of course, buying online is a gamble in itself. I think I have mentioned this before, but when buying from overseas, there is a language barrier. It is difficult for someone without native knowledge of English to always describe something in details that we would get a clear image from, and anyways, in Japan, a used kimono is not something worth much notice. Maybe buying a secondhand one for kitsuke practice or for fabric is pretty normal, but I don't think buying anything secondhand has been very popular unless there is no other way to get it. So, maybe a person does not think to mention all stains sometimes, assuming that it will be used for display or crafting of some sort. Or, more likely, the person is unable to describe something because of limitations of language. Either way, there are certain risks and benefits to buying from Japanese sellers. I've received things that are much better than descriptions made them sound, and items that had many more flaws than photos could show. I've learned to expect anything when I make a purchase.

Up front, it is probably seems more expensive to buy from an American seller. But I think that when you see the price of Japanese shipping, find out how long a box can take to get to you (two months sometimes, even with EMS!), and find out that what you get might not be quite what you expected, some people find it easier to buy from someone who is already in the country. Items from Japan can sometimes be deceptively cheap up front, but when you find out how much the shipping is, you may find yourself paying over $100 for uninsured shipping for a few $5 items! O.o With domestic shipping, these things do not happen. What you pay for shipping is relatively uncomplicated with Priority Mail, which reaches anywhere in the US in three business days. Flat-rate boxes run between $15-20 for larger items, and some things can be safely condensed into the $6 flat-rate items.

For this reason, I think it is well worth it to go to someone domestic, and leave the hard work of scouting, checking items, and dealing with international sellers to someone who has the time to do these things. Buying a kimono should be a much simpler, more enjoyable experience, without guesswork or difficulty, don't you think?

I am happy to have such easy people to work with when buying from Japan- really, they've helped me a lot! My only concern for myself every time is whether or not that box will make it past customs or arrive undamaged. For someone who loves kimono as much as I do, it's... a little terrifying. But the thrill of unfolding new silks is the same every time! I want someone to have that joy without the uneasiness preceding it. I can't wait to share some of the new things with everyone.

No comments:

Post a Comment