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What is Otakara NYC?

For now, Otakara exists project to project. It’s hard to create a lot of products since everything is hand-stitched. Everything is done with my two hands - from sketching, embroidering and even making the tags. But eventually, Otakara will grow to become a brand.

What led you to start Otakara?

It started during the Pandemic. With everything stopped it created a lot of free time. I was web surfing, looking to buy a good hand embroidered shirt but couldn’t find anything. The ones I found were either too expensive or very poorly made. So I decided to start stitching.

Did you have any previous experience in hand embroidering?

No, I learned it all during the Pandemic. It was basically a hobby I picked up. I kept stitching and I developed my skill little by little. I put all my work on my personal Instagram. 

What is the process to make each piece? 

I start by sketching the motifs. At this point I have built my own catalog of sketches and I just pick the ones I want to use, depending on the piece. Once I decide the motifs, I redraw them onto the garment using chalk. Next I pick the thread color, then I embroider the design.

You make it sound easy, but how long does it take to complete one piece?

It depends on the piece and also the size and quantity of the designs. On average I would say that it would take somewhere between 5 to 8 hours to complete one piece. But I’m getting faster through repetition. There are some motifs that I’ve gotten used to, so I’m getting faster.

Where do these motifs come from? 

They come from nostalgia. Most of the designs are from images that have remained with me throughout my life in both Japan and the US. I use Japanese imagery such as Mount Fuji, Daruma and Kanji. I came to New York 34 years ago and have been here close to half my life. I use symbols from New York, like the skyline, and the “I Love NY” image. One of my recent designs is of the Greek Coffee cups that say, ‘We Are Happy To Serve You’. I love to take recognizable images and reinterpret them through my embroidery.


I see a lot of Native American and Peanuts motifs, what’s the reason for that?

I originally came to America as a buyer for a second hand clothing store called Dept. Store. Through my career buying vintage items I developed a great love and respect for the Native American culture and so I love to incorporate them in my designs.

As a child Peanuts was my entrance into American culture. I loved reading the comics as a child and I would always draw the characters even then.

This will be your second pop up at Nepenthes NY. How will it differ from the first time around?

This time I’ll do sweatshirts and hoodies as well as baseball caps with some of my old and new embroidery designs. I chose to add ready-to-wear products this time around. I have also added some vintage patches to some of the pieces as well.