Home > Japanique Boutique > Artisan Profiles > Irene Camerino

How would you describe your art/craft? I upcycle vintage Japanese textiles from kimono and obi and repurpose them into clothing, accessories, and home décor for modern living.

What kinds of items do you sell? What is the price range? I am usually at SF/ Bay Area Cherry Blossom Festivals and Asian Arts Events selling vests, purses/ totes, pillows, cosmetic/ coin purses, and scarves made with upcycled textiles. Prices range from $6 - $300.

How long have you been doing this? I’ve designed and sewed since I was a teenager; but I’ve specialized in upcycling Japanese textiles for the past 20 years. My mother is half Japanese, half Filipino so you could say my love of vintage Japanese textiles is in my blood. I collect vintage Uchikake (wedding kimono) and obi; and would see many damaged pieces. I realized that the average person couldn’t see beyond the damage. I could and it was simply a matter of removing the damage so its beauty could again shine.

Have you travelled to Japan? Yes, I’ve been to Kyoto about 6 times; 4 of which were Textile Tours with Kyoto Kimono.

What is your favorite thing about working with kimono fabric? I’m inspired by the artistry in the fabric – the intricate detail and colors created through the dyeing process; and the embellishments such as gold leaf, hand painting, embroidery added after. Oftentimes, the size of the remnant and the design inspires what is created from it. For example, I may make a purse from a stained/damaged obi. And from the remnants make a matching cosmetic purse, and then a coin purse from the smallest remnants.

What is the most challenging thing about working with kimono fabric? Japanese textiles are 14” wide and I’m cutting around stains, holes, and other damage so I am constantly piecing sections together. Silks can also be difficult to handle because it is very slippery. Fortunately, my sewing machine has a walking foot which helps. Obi fabric is like a heavy brocade and can be difficult to manipulate, especially if you have arthritis like me. As a result, I am not making as many purses as before.

Get in touch with Irene through:
Irene's Original
Her website:
Her instagram: https://www.instagram.com/irenes_original/

Here are some of Irene's originals: