Aimlessly walking down Graham Ave on a Wednesday afternoon was glorious for two reasons. One being the perfect weather we’re enjoying here early July in New York City and the other is because I came across the launch of IKO INO’s jewelry line. It was the combination of late 90’s R’n’B music and dazzling colors of the designers pieces that drew me in to take a closer look. What I first noticed was how intricately created the pieces all seemed to be. A dazzlingly bold, statement-making colour combined with a tough structure, which the girls said was their main focus. The pieces are woven out of parachute chord that has the ability to carry 550lb’s of weight. Beauty and rugged durability combined.
I spoke with the two girls who’re behind this label. From my initial expectation and quality of the product, I only naturally assumed that they would be two designing moguls who were years within the industry. Designers who will talk my ear off with their experienced turn of phrase where the average person won’t understand a single thing. However, I was shocked to learn that the entire operation is (wo)manned by two girls in their early twenties: Tokyo native Mariko Makino (aged 26) and her long time friend and co-worker Chelsea Fisher (aged 24). They proved that there’s no such thing as being too young to enter the industry and were incredibly humble when discussing their pieces.
I caught up with the girls at Mariko’s apartment, which is on the cusp of stylish neighbourhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick. But that’s not all that was badass about these budding fashionista’s. They had ferocious sass to boot.
Mariko – M
Chelsea – C
The two girls are sitting on Mariko’s floor, I hand them both a beer. Mariko doesn’t drink; Chelsea was hesitant as she was saying how she had a big night out the previous evening.
Thank you girls for meeting up with me on such a hot day:
M – Pleasure.
First off: Where did you girls meet?
C – We worked in a café together in the LES…and then Mariko became my boss.
That escalated quickly. How did that all work out?
C – It was great. Working at the café was one of the worst working experiences of my entire life but the people there was what made it bareable.
M – I was the manager of the café.
C – I buttered bagels, basically. (laughs)
M – I was working 70 hour weeks, I practically lived there. It was really busy, we were underpaid and hung-over usually, so it made it tough. The one thing that was great about that job was the people. I don’t particularly like working alone because I’m a very social person and I knew from the time Chelsea and I worked together that we’d be a good partnership.
C – There was a while there where we would sit down and try and think of an APP to create or try and figure out how to work together. It was kind of like asking someone ‘Do you wanna be my boyfriend?’ We were so happy to start IKO INO.
Why choose NYC?
C – I’m from Colorado and I came here to go to the New School. My first year in college, I went to Florida, but it didn’t really work for me so I wanted something completely opposite. I wanted to write and the New School had a really good writing program, so yeah, that’s what initially brought me here.
M – I was born in NYC, but in third grade moved to Tokyo and lived there until high school. Then I came to NYU for schooling. I chose the school based on the city though, I knew I wanted the NYC experience and lifestyle. I need lots of friends and people surrounding me at all times.
What sort of NYC scene do you enjoy?
C – I think it’s more people’s backyards and decks.
People that you know right? You’re not breaking into people’s backyards and getting wasted are you?
C – (laughs) Yeah, of course. I’d say I like to go to dark bars/dive bars. Anywhere where you can get whisky real cheap. I’ve never really been into the club scene. It’s not unappealing, but the people I surround myself with are people who can make NYC seem cosy.
M – I’m definitely a backyard chiller as well. Last night I was on the peer in Greenpoint and I spent the whole evening chain smoking. Also, I go to a lot of shows, most of my NYU friends are musicians so they carried me into this music scene that I have learnt to love. My music taste is changing, first it was all Brooklyn up and coming, the DIY scene which is totally dead at this point. I’ve gotten more bourgeois (sic) since then.
What would your average Sunday include?
C – It’s interesting because since we launched and just before then we’ve been working all the time.
M – The weekend is time to work, basically.
C – I haven’t had a normal Sunday in a while. I suppose working is our average Sunday.
M – and froyo. Oh and also, I’d try be grilling on a Sunday evening.
Have you travelled at all together? If not, separately?
Together - been to Harlem (laugh), that’s about it.
C – We need to go to the beach or something. We’re trying. I went to Kenya once for a bit and I’ve been to Mexico.
M – Since my family lives in Japan, any spare time I have to travel, I would go home and see my parents and sister.
Ok well, let me ask you this. Where would you travel if money were no object?
C – Working my way to Japan, I like to joke that I’d be huge in Japan (referring to her height, laughs). Or Thailand.
M – I’ve never been to Europe, so it would definitely be somewhere there. Berlin sounds really cool, and even though France is cliché I really want to eat baguettes and ham all day.
C – France would be nice, somewhere in the south of France.
Have you had any memorable fights/funny moments while together?
M – We haven’t fought yet. It’s terrible. I just want to see how we would reconcile a fight. We’re both not fighters and pretty understanding.
C – There’s something interesting about it, even if I didn’t want to work on IKO INO I still would because I don’t want to disappoint Mariko, probably because she’s not my boss but co-worker. We help balance each other like Ying and Yang.
M – Funny moments? Oh gosh
C – For a while when we were doing look-book work, Mariko was driving us all around in this 15 seater decrepit van and we’d spend the day cruising around listening to HOT 97. That was pretty fun.
Like a nice warm tub. Not too hot, not too cold, right?
Together – Exactly. (both laugh)
How do you find working together? Have you seen eye to eye on all works so far?
C – I don’t think we’ve seen eye to eye on everything, we’ve definitely compromised on things. From when we decided to partner to when we launched, it was a really short period of time (2 and a half months from agreeing to partner together to their initial launch), so we didn’t have a chance to over think things. If it hadn’t happened in such a whirlwind, then we probably would have doubted ourselves too much.
How did you choose the material to make the necklaces? Why that material?
M – The material that’s used on the pieces is nylon parachute cord or leather cord and the nylon cord was something I was really intrigued by. It was originally developed during World War II and is actually used in parachutes. It comes in amazing colors and I can hand die them if I choose to. The beauty of it is that it can be cut and still used to save your friends life if they were drowning in the Hudson River. They’re inspired by survival bracelets.
C – It’s such a strong material, it’s very durable.
M – Some can carry 550 pounds of weight. I chose it because it was beautiful with a secret functionality. I was really tired of getting jewelry that would fall apart. I wanted to make something that wouldn’t break unless I wanted to break it and use it to save Chelsea.
What would you say inspires you most?
C – I think a lot of our inspiration and drive comes from our friends. A lot of our friends were doing great things. Living in New York City pushes you to work really hard. We wanted to create something with our name behind it. It’s so..
M – [Finishing Chelsea’s sentence] fulfilling. For me, I just love the idea of creating things that you can give to someone and receive instant feedback. Jewelry is something you can have on you and create fond memories with, something that is beautiful.
C – [continues on from Mariko] and I really like the idea of producing jewelry because it’s an accessory. I originally thought you didn’t need it, but having worn the designs every day it’s moved from being an accessory to a necessity.
What’s your take on men wearing jewelry?
M – I LOVE IT. My boyfriend is this guy who’s comfortable with his sexuality and will wear anything. I feel like the reason why it’s not more common is because it takes a lot more self-confidence for a man to wear something that is loud and is capable of making a statement. Our pieces aren’t necessarily feminine because it is strong, practical and industrial, not dainty.
C – The buckle is really appealing to men because it’s a buckle. No fragile hoop, it’s like a seatbelt in a sense. In recent times we’re coming into an age where men are dressing well and are taking more fashion based chances and it will be interesting to see where men will take wearable fashion next.
Ultimate goals in the business?
M – Right now we’re only two and a half months in. Focussing on a long term goal is insane. We’re just taking it further every time. I want to make all things better, on the next level.
C – I would like nurture Mariko to allow her to completely let loose creatively.
M – And we want to throw more parties. Work hard, party hard.
Which celebrity would you love to see wearing one of your pieces?
Together – Oh my gosh.
C – We used to joke that we could put it on Rihanna, but I don’t think that she’s the ideal representative of our work.
M – Yolandi from Die Antwood (looks up photos of her) she’s so hot. I think she’s awesome and would look sick in our stuff. They played a show not too long ago with my boyfriends band and I gave my boyfriend a free pass for her. You play a show with her and fuck her backstage and that’s your pass. It didn’t happen.
I think she’d look awesome in it. She’s the one. She’s the face of our brand.
C – I’m definitely looking for something unexpected. A rapper would be really fun. But that’s heavily influenced by HOT 97 (laughs).
Any potential of getting a sneak peak into your future ideas?
M – We’ve already been thinking about that. We wanted to offer a bit more variety and colours in the pieces. We’re currently sitting on this chain that was sent to us and I’ve been making some pretty incredible things with it.
C – Plexiglass stuff would look really cool.
M – Chain, nylons, plastic, leather, that’s all you need.
What do you think should be easier in life?
C – Wow.
M – Woooooowwww. We’re gonna think for a moment.
M – I think travel should be easier. I think we should have worked out teleporting at this point. Generally speaking, fuck that, it should be easy.
C – The things that I think should be easier are things that I just make harder for myself. Like loving people. I should personally make things less hard for myself. Wow, is that too philosophical? Too deep? (Laughs).
Any words of wisdom for budding designers?
M – Don’t be afraid to try something because you’re scared of failure. I was sitting on this dream for so long because of this fear. Chelsea was my saviour in that sense because she pushed me through it. No point in worrying about something until it happens. You really have nothing to lose.
C – Well, I suppose people’s response for that would be ‘gotta pay rent’. But, rice and beans! Saves everything.
Any last words to the people who didn’t believe you’d do anything worthwhile?
M – No-ones ever said anything to my face. (laughs). It was out of the blue for both of us. First I was the food girl and when I told people I wanted to make jewelry everyone would say things like “what the fuck, are you a housewife that’s having a [mid-life crisis] moment?”
C – I think the biggest fuck you to everybody that doubted IKO INO is wearing the pieces. Because it’s AWESOME. They’d see it and love it and we’d be satisfied with our ‘fuck you’.
IKO INO items are available on their website http://www.iko-ino.com/ and can be purchased at the MOVES store located at 419 Graham Ave, Brooklyn.