Saturday, March 8, 2014

Auntie Yosh

Today I'd like to share with you some personal items and artwork passed down to me by my late Great Aunt Yosh (Yoshiko Fukushima).

Great Auntie Yosh & Uncle Harry's wedding, Jan 21, 1941.
My aunt grew up in a family of all girls.  She was married to my Uncle Harry (Isami) in 1941 and went to live with him, his father and his 4 brothers at their home in Vancouver, BC.  Being the only woman of the house she was kept quite busy with household chores and taking care of the family.  

Fukushima family home in Vancouver.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbour of WWII, all Japanese Canadian families were evacuated from their homes to remote internment camps.  The government feared threats of war related sabotage and espionage.  My family was placed in Slocan, BC.  There, my father was born in 1945.  Following the war, Japanese Canadians were given the option of deportation or relocation within Canada.  Thus, my family was relocated to Fort William, Ontario (now Thunder Bay) where they still live today.  Auntie Yosh and Uncle Harry along with brothers Ross and Tosh moved eastward to Toronto where they settled and raised their families.

My Auntie Yosh worked as a seamstress at Simpson's (now The Bay) downtown Toronto.  She also made wedding gowns and formal wear for many friends and family members including her own wedding gown shown at the beginning of this post.  She volunteered for many years at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC) as a sumi-e (Japanese ink wash painting) and ikebana (Japanese art of flower arrangement) instructor.  Here are some treasures that were passed on to me.

Vintage boxes from The Room.
Pot of Gold, Birks and Simpsons
Her sewing stash came packaged in a variety of vintage boxes and bags.

Vintage satin and brocade fabrics.
Various vintage threads on wooden spools.
Japanese articles including wooden crochet hooks and one very curious personal care implement.
One of my favourite articles . . .
"Toilet Pins" 
Various vintage sewing machine needles, clippers, snaps and hook & eyes.
Notions and vintage cotton lace from bridal wear projects.
Traditional Japanese brush painting.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Looking towards the Future

To all of my long time followers and supporters, I'd like to introduce to you my new label, entitled simply, Jennifer Fukushima.  Launching August of 2014, with the new brand brings a host of new changes including new European fabrics, a new production team, high end finishing techniques and new prices.  This past season we tested the waters with many of these changes.  We had our fair share of turbulence, but we're getting the hang of things and will be ready to take off soon.

I know that this may surprise some of you and it may mean that the brand is no longer accessible to you or your clientele.  This truly makes me sad, however, we needed to move forward and this was the only way I could do so with the integrity that is so vital to the core of our mission.  Our focus moving forward will be on quality over quantity.

We were concerned about a number of things - first and foremost worker rights, but also quality, as well as streamlining our process.  

After researching and working with new manufacturers, it become blatantly obvious that one of the companies we've been using for a number of years did not pay their workers fairly and thus we had to look elsewhere.  Our new contractors come with an added cost, but also added quality and the assurance that these skilled workers are safe and fairly paid.  

Over our 12 year span of working with reclaimed vintage, it has become clear to us that we will never be able to offer the quality and consistency that customers expect.  It is difficult to predict the performance of materials of unknown origin throughout the process of sewing, washing and wearing.  Thus we've opted for all new materials (eco whenever possible).  We searched far and wide but were unable to source these specialty fabrics domestically, so we've gone with some reputable Italian suppliers.  Again, this change comes with an added price tag.  In addition, we've improved the quality of our finishings.  All items are pressed by an experienced professional so that seams lie flat and there are no strange bulges or puckers.  We've also taken measures to create beautiful, clean seam work both inside and out.

Lastly, streamlining our process has been a large factor in this change for us.  After 12 years in the business, I'm excited to be turning 30 this year.  I just can't see myself continuing to stress my body and mind by working day and night, sorting through dumpster sized bins of used clothing and hauling them from place to place in order to fulfill my vision.  I, like many of you hope to have a family someday and there just won't be time for all of this.

So as August nears, we'll be phasing out Paper People in order to introduce Jennifer Fukushima to the world.  I'd like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of those who have worked with and supported me over the years to make my dreams come true and to bring my designs to the hands and closets of women far and wide.  Follow my new brand on facebook to see our progress over the spring and summer months.