About Ouno - High Design and Green
Ouno Design is committed to high-end design that is also future-friendly and sustainable, and we're part of the handmade revolution in modern interior decor.
We currently produce only custom work.
Ouno (pronounced "OO-no") makes one-of-a-kind and limited-edition decor accessories - bags and fashion accessories for men and women, pillows, bedding, throws & blankets, floor cushions, rugs and wall hangings, sculptural objects and conversation pieces. Virtually all of our soft furnishings and accessories are "upcycled" from vintage materials and are hand-constructed in Vancouver, B.C. Our highest-quality vintage materials include antique and modern Japanese cottons and linens, mod 1960s and '70s European graphic prints, rough wool weaves, certain early synthetics, midcentury-modern woven textiles, and sheepskin etc. reclaimed from vintage coats. "Upcycling" is the recycling of older materials for newer, more deluxe purposes. On rare occasions we also use new organically produced textiles such as bamboo, hemp and organic cotton.
In the tradition of West Coast Modernism, Ouno Design incorporates Scandinavian, Japanese and ancient design influences to bring warmth and natural texture to both modern and traditional decor. The Japanese aesthetic of "wabi sabi", which denotes simplicity, natural imperfection and the beauty of happenstance, is an influence. We think simplicity should not be cold or exclude fantasy, tactility and imagination. These qualities are too easily omitted in modern design and interiors. For some of our design influences click here.
The ancient name "Ouno" comes from both Finland and Japan, countries whose celebrated design, architecture and textile traditions we admire. Fittingly, in Japan Ouno is the name of both an ancient temple and a futuristic anime character.
Ouno Design is based out of the old Good Shepherd Mission, a converted church building in Vancouver.
About Our Materials & Methods
For a discussion of our sources and methods, click here.
We only work with rare vintage textiles and second-hand materials in top condition. On rare occasions we use new sustainably-produced fabrics such as organic cotton, hemp and bamboo. For our pillows we don't use secondary backings; all our pillows have the same textile on the front and back, except in rare circumstances. This distinguishes them from the vast majority of pillows on the market. Our pillows are filled with 100% new feather inserts, but hypoallergenic foam is also available. When they become readily available we will be offering bamboo and other hypoallergenic and sustainable materials as fillings. Currently, many of these are unproven, prohibitively expensive and have to be transported over great distances.
Because our materials are largely vintage or recycled, variations in colour and patina should be expected. Without ever compromising our high standards of beauty and durability, we incorporate some natural fading, dye inconsistencies and other intrinsic elements of our materials into the finished product. Any major flaws or eccentricities will be noted in the description, and more detailed photographs of any item are available upon request.
How Ouno Salvages Old Things To Make New
We primarily use beautiful, collectible vintage materials to make our soft furnishings. This can be a labour intensive process.
Why do we prefer vintage textiles?
Quality. We started our design business partly because we loved older fabrics and had already amassed a valuable collection. The quality of textile production has changed over the years, and with notable exceptions, it's not for the better. Industry's need to make fabrics faster, cheaper and in larger quantities has inevitably changed the way fabrics look and feel. To get the kind of textile quality and longevity and character that was affordable to many in the 1930s, or 1960s, you often now have to pay about $300 a yard. Fabrics once made either by hand or in small mills have a beautiful weight and texture. The more efficient the machinery, it seems the less character a textile often has. The quality of the fibres, the dyes... vintage textiles often have the kind of depth and beauty that make them perpetually interesting to live with, rather than disposable.
The first step is to source materials. Most of what we buy comes from "rag houses." Rag houses are hard-to-access warehouses where old textiles go to die - clothes, bedding, curtains, homewares, any soft furnishings - and from where they are reincarnated as raw materials. The textiles arrive at the warehouse in mixed bales, and there they are sorted and re-baled and sent out to be re-distributed or recycled. The best of the clothing is bought by "pickers" who work for the vintage clothing stores. Like us, pickers buy in bulk, paying by the pound. But most items that end up at rag houses are there because they can't be re-sold locally, not even at Value Village or the Salvation Army, and in fact much of what ends up at the rag house has already proved unsellable at charity or second-hand shops, and we see plenty of items with their Value Village tags still attached. These rejects are sorted at the rag house and sent on. Cotton mills will re-pulp old cottons to make new fabric; mills in India and Africa will buy and pulp old jeans to make new ones; and charities will buy bales of old t-shirts and send them overseas to clothe people in need. The uses of old textiles are very mixed, but they are all a great example of recycling. In our case, we're welcome at the rag house because we don't compete with the other pickers - we will buy vintage textiles that are in excellent condition but are undesirable for some reason: they're an unfashionable cut, or are a size 18 muumuu, or they are stunning mid-century modern curtains with a rip, or an authentic Moroccan berber carpet with a single rust stain that we will happily cut around. So that's our niche. We will buy curtains, weavings, silk scarves, coats (for our trench coat bags, for example), cashmere sweaters, vintage bedspreads, etc. Some of our best creations have been made out of once-expensive evening dresses. Apart from the rag house, we will also occasionally buy from thrift stores, if they're affordable, or online. Recyclers such as ourselves tend to have many sources. Lastly, we don't always consciously set out to find a particular item. We buy anything of high quality and intrinsic beauty. We bring it back to the studio and figure out what to do with it later.
Washing Materials, and Testing for Durability
The next step is wash everything and determine the stability of the dyes, etc. Where possible we wash and dry everything on hot heat to make sure things are going to continue to look good no matter how our customers wash them, and to make sure dyes are not going to transfer to other items - like your sofa, for instance. We wash everything with environment-friendly soaps.
Once fabrics are washed, we then have to determine whether there are flaws or damage to be cut away. Once we've assessed how much useable fabric we are actually dealing with, then we try to figure out its best use. Sometimes it takes months to decide what to do with a particular material. We collected vintage silk scarves for a year before we discovered how to use them, and it was the same with trench coats - it's a process of playing around in the studio.