Sunday, August 26, 2012

We make Portland awesome: 5th Season

"We make Portland awesome" is a weekly series. I’m interested building our community of artists by helping us all find out more about each other.
This week: Akiko of 5th Season

Who are you?
My name is Akiko Oguchi – the visionary, designer and the detail oriented handcrafting elf behind 5th Season. I find great admiration in balance between aesthetics and function, right and left brain, and creatively looking at objects beyond their originally intended purpose to give it new function and identity. Born in Tokyo, Japan, raised in San Francisco bay area, tromped around California central coast and Sierra Nevada, hugged trees in Northern California, backpacked and fell hard for South America. A year and a half ago, I transplanted myself and my two kitties to Portland, OR, where my creativity and self expression has blossomed in leaps and bounds. I am an ideas and projects generator, chocolate and kale fiend, bubbly optimist and dreamer, fascinated by human interaction, finding great happiness in nature, and believe my best contribution to others is my joyous laugh. My favorite place to be is my parents' backyard in the sunshine, surrounded in greenery and fruits of their labor. 

What do you make? 
I design and handcraft functional and fashionably versatile handbags using reclaimed material. The current line includes shoulder bags, totes, wristlets, fanny packs, coin purses, iPad/laptop sleeves and diaper bags. I am currently working on bicycle panniers/packs. For the exterior, I use reclaimed and reinforced coffee burlap sacks gathered from various Portland based coffee roasting companies. Reclaimed clothing and natural fibers are used for liners and accents. Bags are fastened with wooden buttons handmade from tree branch trimmings. The coffee burlap sacks are the perfect balance of durability, rustic and chic. It's perfect for Farmer's Market outing, knitting parties, lounging on the beach, music festivals, picnic outings, or taking it to work or school.

All of my bags are named after first customers or dear friends who have supported and inspired me along the way. In the current collection, there are LeAH totes, AcE iPad/laptop sleeves, MiNI MaGGIE zippered pouches, ALeXA fanny packs and wristlets, ALiCE pleaded shoulder bags and AbBY baskets.

I love working closely with customers to design and create custom designed bags incorporating their unused yet sentimentally valuable clothing and fabric. I've worked with customers' grandmother's old dresses, children's baby clothes, mother's handkerchiefs, grandfather's army jackets, and commemorative t-shirts. Incorporated into their own custom designed bags, great memories come alive every time they use it.

Besides making things, what do you do?
I am a cycling enthusiast. I love long distance bike rides in my sexy spandex getup ;) I love being outdoors, hiking, backpacking, camping, getting dirty and coming home smelling of campfire. I love basking in the sunshine with a good friend and a book. I enjoy pushing my mental and physical abilities, and new challenges. I am continuously searching for new experiences that evoke new sensations and emotions, and connect me with new people and their worlds. Currently, my other projects include: passing the Japanese Language Literacy Test and empowering others to learn the language for their personal and professional growth; opening up a community center/retail brick and mortar featuring Portland based upcycling designers, and starting a quarterly community networking event based on personality instead of profession. 

What inspires you?
I am inspired by my parents and brothers who pour their hearts into passionately and relentlessly achieving their full, authentic potential. I am inspired by the amazing, badass entrepreneurs, that Portland attracts like white on bread, who express themselves wholeheartedly to tenaciously pursue their dreams and unite communities. I am also inspired by a plethora of electronica, Radio Lab, This American Life, fashion, color combinations and mother nature.

Where can your work be found? 
Eco Fashion Sale: 
Etcetera – St. Johns, Portland, OR
Branch and Birdie – Montavilla, Portland, OR
Kit Kit Dizzi – Nevada City, CA
Tender Loving Empire – downtown Portland, OR
Dinosaurus – SE Hawthorne, Portland, OR
Pie Shoes – NE Alberta, Portland, OR

What do you love about Portland?
Oh, SO.MANY.THINGS. Above all, I love the interconnectedness of communities, despite Portland's eclectic genre of people. I love the juxtaposition of wholehearted, die-hard passion expressed in people's actions and the equally present uber laid-back lifestyle. I love the priority of quality of life and growth of community. I think all of this is reflected in the physical structures of Portland. There are so many neighborhoods and nooks and crannies, one is bound to identify and find embrace within at least one. Portland is that gregarious, hilarious, down-to-earth, spontaneous, open-hearted friend, reliably armed with empathetic hospitality, great food, beer, music, and big bear hugs, inviting anyone and everyone to his parties, rallies even in crappy weather, and will put a giant smile on your face in the most unexpected times. And that, folks, is what I love about Portland.

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