Featured Designer: Boniko’s Safehouse

FK talks to Rio from Melbourne based label, Boniko’s Safehouse

What can we expect to see from Boniko’s Safehouse?
‘Safehouse’ is somewhere I can escape and explore new ideas, run a sustainable and ethical fashion/design business practice and offer unique products and services not to be found elsewhere. In addition to our signature Japanese toe socks and other organic cotton products, you will also find ‘Boniko’ dolls made of recycled factory seconds toe socks and recycled materials, ‘Boniko’ Jumbo cushions, now both with ‘innergreen’ corn fibre filling! Also one off/re-make/limited production clothing in natural fibre and recycled materials I create under a mini label ‘Blannnk’.

What is your background and how did it result in Boniko’s?
I spent most of my early age at my grandparents’ place where they ran a Kimono sewing and tailoring business in Japan. Our toys, clothes, school bags were made and repaired by my grandparents, and I naturally picked up needles and threads. I was initially trained as a product designer, then a fashion designer, and I also work as a professional pattern maker. Besides my background in fashion industry, ironically I have always had love-hate relationship with fashion. I love the creative and technical process of fashion, but hate the fact that it gets driven purely by the sales figure and disposable seasonal trends. I purely enjoy the process of turning 2D ideas into 3D forms. As a hybrid designer, I had been searching for fashion products which can be treated as non-seasonal objects, then BONIKO was born.

Who or what inspires you?
The person I have been inspired most is an architect, Michael Reynolds and his Earthship. My inspiration often comes from unexpectedly while I m walking on the street or watching people passing by. I’m a big believer of coincidence, being at the right place at the right time. Other source would be my childhood nostalgia, travelling, Flea Markets, Japanese textiles, kimono history and styling, animals, natures and creatures, Old horror films, and something ugly but interesting!

How do you feel your Japanese heritage affects your brand aesthetic?
Japanese term ‘Iki’ often used in Kimono styling, means effortless coolness which comes out unexpectedly. It could be a bright red silk lining when a person takes off a humble black jacket, or it might be a pair of cute socks when the shoes come off. Whether I’m working on a crazy patchwork or simple draping style, I follow the simple rule of “form follows function”. All my design features, from every seam placements to top stitching details, have reasons to be there. I value hidden beauty and timeless quality in design and finish of the products. Besides, Japan is the place where opposite elements reside together in harmony. Old and new, east and west, simplicity and complexity. I feel that the similar juxtaposition is simulated in my work unconsciously, having a huge affects to its aesthetic.

You have recently just made the big move from Perth to Melbourne. What will you miss in Perth?
My family; my 12 year old puppy Bonnie, crazy bulldog Chai and a ferret Kin. My house in the hills, surrounded by bushland and wild visitors. We have resident possum and magpie families, kookaburra couple, blue tongue lizards. A friendly goat visited us one time, whilst a not so friendly emu chased poor Bonnie around the block! Its really wild out there!

What are your plans for the second half of 2010?
Cutting down on freelance pattern making work and concentrating on my own design to fill our new store with fresh creations. Now I have my base in Melbourne, I would love to participate in more design markets.
I’m also currently working on a collaborative project with a textile designer based in Melbourne for an up and coming exhibition.



  • Sandra says:

    Yaay! I love Boniko’s Safehouse. Their products are unique and they are lovely people too!

  • Rio says:

    Hi Sandra…! Thank you so much for your lovely comment, we are really excited about FK Melbourne! It will be so much fun 🙂
    Looking forward to seeing you there. Rio + Mao @ BONIKO’s SAFEHOUSE

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