Sumiko dreamed of designing a white satin dress for an actress with names written all over it. “And then one day, Ann Rutherford who was an actress I admired from the ‘40s came into my store,” she says. “She brought beautiful fabric to me with the names of movies written all over it [and] wanted me to make [it] into a dress for her.”
She started by sewing dresses from fabrics her mother collected. In her teens, her mother brought her to a local seamstress who made Sumiko’s designs come to life from the sketches she drew. She left the family farm to attend college, and met her husband who was a budding artist from Los Angeles, where they had four children.
Sumiko taught elementary school while her husband began his career as a successful artist. Some of his influences included colors expressed in Japanese prints and fabrics found in kimonos, scrolls, and obis. She also recognized the beauty of kimonos and started designing clothing so unique that she soon realized tha both a store and a star were about to be born.
One of her favorite outfits, a silk blouse, and pair of matching pants that she made from her mother’s wedding kimono was featured in newspapers. No one had seen the likes of these designs before, and each piece was as unique as each kimono.
In the 1960s, Los Angeles underwent a renaissance not realized since the golden age of Hollywood. Sumiko and her husband found a space in West Hollywood. This soon became an art space in and of itself with a sculpted life size replica of a Rolls Royce that Sumiko’s husband fashioned from sheets of stainless steel and placed in the middle of the store.
Two of Sumiko’s most famous dresses included one made from red bicycle reflectors, and the other was a wedding dress made from “rice paper.” She clearly has a sense of humor.
If it is not yet clear, this story is about the successes my parents found both during and after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
One of my earliest childhood memories is when I cut off about a hundred handmade flowers that my mother sewed for a wedding dress. Since she was as kind as she was talented, she didn’t get mad, but simply re-sewed the dress a week later. She then patiently taught me how to sew silk roses by myself.