Kristin Dickson-Okuda

It’s hard to know where to start with an introduction to Kristin Dickson-Okuda. In 2009, she opened a tiny LA shop called IKO IKO, and since then has routinely inspired and surprised us with the work she both curates and creates. IKO IKO is a design and concept-focused retail space as well as a platform for Kristin’s clothing line Rowena Sartin, and her husband Shin’s furniture line WAKA WAKA. Collectively these projects combine their specific and often unexpected aesthetic into a blend of mediums, places, and experiences; it’s a highly considered, high and low mix that feels both ahead of and outside of any trends. “Perhaps the biggest influence for me is how to make something under limits and work with restrictions, how to show formal design decisions with simplicity and grace,”she explains. We visited her at home in Silver Lake to learn more.

Could you share more about your upbringing and childhood: where did you grow up, what were you into as an adolescent, and what’s led you to where you are today?
I grew up in Austin, Texas…like a mash-up of “Friday Night Lights” and “My So Called Life.” I spent a lot of time trying to understand why I didn’t like football and why I wasn’t a cheerleader. I was informed by the Pixies, The Smiths, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Luscious Jackson, lake swims, parties in the woods, DIY pillowcase dresses from Sassy magazine, live music, and lots of thrift stores.
Austin was a very different city when I was growing up there—it felt incredibly small and casual, hippie and homegrown. My family had a restaurant called the Red Tomato downtown. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, taking her to get her hair set, sorting dresser drawers full of photographs, pressing flowers, and making clothes. I went to school in Boston, then moved to San Francisco in 1999, a time of some major action. It was a really abstract and indulgent environment. I worked for a gallery and thought the only solution was to move to Spain but decided to finally confront my desire to make clothes. I came to Los Angeles and began the process. I suppose all the jobs, internships, friendships, and mistakes have led to now. My medium for expression is making clothing, and I think of the process as an ongoing conversation that ebbs and flows. IKO IKO gave me a space to figure out how I wanted to show ideas and an actual space where people could come to experience our thoughts. 
How have the places you’ve lived informed your style choices?
I like to think about whether style/preference is innate or how it is procured, how one builds a creative language. Place is of course influential, but I think curiosity about otherness has made me most aware. I was a product of teen/women’s magazine culture, trying to appropriate style cues from 90s ads and editorials, accessing images that could provide me a vantage point outside of the suburbs. Exploring my grandmothers’ closets, seeing what could be interesting and unlikely was also one of my hobbies, examining a more mature person’s taste. I like the less popular thing, the less desirable option because you have to consider why it appeals to you and how you can make it your own. I enjoy seeing how contradiction and exaggeration can be visualized.
Perhaps the biggest influence for me is how to make something under limits, working within conflicts, with restrictions, how to show feeling through the formal decisions you make in your designs with simplicity and grace. I like work that reflects an economy of means and work that shows a balance
of high and low.  
Being in a place, be it physical or spiritual, that feels outside of my home is incredibly motivating.  Shin has been deeply influential.  Getting time in Japan and seeing the intricacies of that culture have made me think more about why and how I make an idea. Japan is a whole other topic of inspiration.

What designers, philosophies, or principles most inform and inspire your practice?
Paulina Olowska, Nakako Hayashki, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Susan Cianciolo, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Pedro Almodovar, Helio Oticica, Alice Mertens. Work and life are intertwined in a push and pull—life makes the questions for the work. In this moment I’m exploring the idea of garments that you wear over what you have, pieces that are additions.
Can you share more about your perspective of having a self-made career and working independently?
I value the freedom in my work situation. There’s not really a ceiling when you work independently, so I can fail or succeed, but it mostly depends on how hard I work and I like to work hard. The most difficult thing at present is balancing the equation in response to family life and being a mom. But I also think it’s been helpful in changing what I want my creative trajectory to be now. It’s made me shed the ego in my process. I think I’m approaching a very real moment and happily because of Issei.
 "There’s not really a ceiling when you work independently, so I can fail or succeed, but it mostly depends on how hard I work and I like to work hard."
Do you have a personal mantra or any favorite quotations?
The documentary “Blank City” ends with Jim Jarmusch’s optimistic statement: “Forget about the past and bring the future.” [I’m intrigued by] the idea of what “future” is,  what it looks like, and how it’s this idea that every generation goes toward with the same inquiries and intentions (but in a different costume).

What do you make for dinner by yourself?

Cheese, wine, a rustic loaf, and a vegetable.
Do you have any sort of beauty routine or related rituals?
I’m not fussy about beauty routines. Charcoal soap, some drugstore brand Japanese eye cream from my mother-in-law, Mac’s Ruby Woo, rosewater, Comme des Garcons 71. Sleep and getting to read are treasured moments.
What is next for you?
Finding the right answers for the present.
What are the biggest things you’ve learned?
Being a new parent has offered some incredible observations and lots of appreciation for what matters and what is totally insignificant. And love. Love is major.



Photography by YE RIN MOK | Moving images by CLAIRE COTTRELL | Story by LEIGH PATTERSON