Australian Design / Feature

From chef to entrepreneur: Inspired vision of Arctic Oriental

 Arctic Oriental upcycle traditional Japanese dress to create unique cushions and bedding.

Arctic Oriental upcycle traditional Japanese dress to create unique cushions and bedding.

AN AUTUMN LEAF can inspire colour schemes. Ephemeral colours of a summer night sky may do the same. Geometry may inspire form. But whatever the key to creativity and innovation is, the well of inspiration expands greatly when travel comes into play. Throw into the mix the qualities necessary to be a successful chef and you will find determination, an innate eye for detail and an understanding of colour coordination and presentation.

Miranda Wright embodies all of this and has thrown her energy into her new homewares business, Arctic Oriental. As a chef, and with an enduring love of art and textiles, she has harnessed her imagination, vision and admiration for the beauty of traditional Japanese dress to create a business that thrives on upcycling exquisite kimonos and obis into unique cushions and bedding.

Her love of Japan began in 2004 on her first working holiday to the northern island of Hokkaido during the ski season. It was the first of many trips to the region over the following 10 years and is now a favourite destination for its natural beauty, people and cuisine. Wright now travels from her home in Perth, Western Australia to Japan twice a year.

“I got to know the culture and discovered these forgotten kimono and obis which I found in abundance in second hand shops during road trips,” she says of the colourful full-length robes and sashes. “They’re made from beautiful materials but it’s impractical to walk around in a kimono here in Australia.”

In 2014 Wright looked to the future and decided a change was required.

“I was a full time chef, working in remote mining camps in Western Australia and Arctic Oriental was borne out of a desire to pursue a more creative, flexible and self-driven career,” she explains. “I wanted a normal home life which meant not being separated from friends and family 80 per cent of the time.

Each cushion is meticulously designed and made.

Each cushion is meticulously designed and made.

“Using these amazing fabrics in cushions and bedding seemed the perfect way to incorporate this beauty into modern and functional homewares.  So I set about building a business plan to turn my ideas in to reality,” she says.

Each cushion is unique due to the individual nature of each kimono and obi. Fabric panels in each traditional dress vary in size and pattern. Wright studies the cloth and designs each cushion to limit wastage. She works out the cut and fabric combinations and prepares patterns to scale. Several collections feature curved panels and colour coordinated piping or contrast piping. The range includes limited edition and one-of-a-kind pieces.

The cushions are made in Bali, creating employment for several local women and a local photographer who creates lifestyle photos for the Arctic Oriental website.

“It makes me proud knowing that all of our products are made with sustainable materials, and are produced in a way that enhances local economies through the support of small business,” Wright says.

“Arctic Oriental has allowed me to explore my passion and express my creativity in another medium. From a concept to an end product, there is so much that happens in between.  Creating the product is only a tiny aspect of the process, and as I have found you need to focus just as much energy into branding, website design, logo design, marketing, sales, and the list goes on.”

Wright acknowledges that establishing a business is a major undertaking, “especially when you are a complete novice in the area.” She has learnt a great deal along the way and says it has been both a challenge and a rewarding journey.

“It’s amazing how an idea can blossom if you truly believe in it and have the passion and drive to nurture it from start to finish.”

Arctic Oriental will be exhibiting at DESIGN:Bazaar at stand DB22.

The quintessential vision of Arctic Oriental is to create  one-of-a-kind or limited edition pieces for the home.

The quintessential vision of Arctic Oriental is to create one-of-a-kind or limited edition pieces for the home.

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