Katie is the founder of Wabi Sabi Threads, a vintage kimono company that she started in 2017 while living abroad in Japan. “Wabi Sabi” means to embrace imperfect beauty in Japanese. This year, Katie launched the Flawed and Fearless Podcast to continue her mission of encouraging women to embrace their imperfections and live confidently.
Where to Find Katie:
Links We Talked About:
Fun Quotes from Podcast:
Just kind of realizing we’re all human, we have challenges, we have mistakes we make and we’re always learning and growing.
“…being a business owner takes a lot of discipline, a lot of self-discipline. You don’t have anyone telling you, “Oh, you should do this today” or “You need to get your marketing plan together.”
I think I’m learning and observing through other people that not everyone that can be a business owner, wants to be a business owner.
Transcript of Podcast:
The Sandi Savage Show
Sandi: Well, hey everybody. Welcome to the Sandi Savage Show. So glad that you are here. Today, I am super stoked because we have Katie Sharp here. I am going to have her tell you about everything that she’s doing and about her business and her podcast. I’m going to let you do it. I’m going to let you talk about it. I could go, “Oh, here’s all these wonderful things” but I want to hear it from you. Tell us about yourself. What are the things you’re doing right now?
Katie: Sounds good. Thank you, Sandi. I have a vintage kimono business that I started about two years ago now while we were living abroad in Japan.
Sandi: That’s so cool.
Katie: I started it because I saw kimonos all over the place- Forever 21, Target, everywhere. They’re fake and with a creative background, are they ethically produced? Are they good for the environment? Most likely, not. The kimonos that are with my company Wabi Sabi Threads are all vintage, one of a kind, silk kimonos. I have sourced them and now I have buyers set up, so each kimono is over a hundred years old. There are no two that I’ve come across that are alike yet. Long, short, all of that. Wabi Sabi Threads is the name of the kimono company. Wabi Sabi in Japanese loosely means ‘to embrace imperfect beauty’ so-
Sandi: Wow, I love that.
Katie: Yeah, I’m trying to make it more than just about selling clothes. I’ve always been passionate about fashion and helping women feel beautiful, so I started that about two years ago. Just in the last few months I launched a podcast called Flawed and Fearless so kind of going along with that Wabi Sabi theme. It’s in English now. I don’t have to explain it. Flawed and Fearless, just kind of bridging that gap between the highlight reel we don’t want to see online, especially in real life. Just kind of realizing we’re all human, we have challenges, we have mistakes we make and we’re always learning and growing. Those are my two main things right now. We’ve been in Lexington, Kentucky for about a year and a half. Ohio before that and then we were in Japan for about two and a half years.
Sandi: What took you there? Why were you in Japan?
Katie: I never thought I’d live in Japan. I’d never been to Asia. My husband’s job- he’s an engineer. We were there for about two and a half years. While we were there, his job relocated to Lexington. That’s how we’re here. I loved it. I’m sure I’ll talk about it later in our conversation as well but definitely travel is worth it. Save your money. Save your vacation days. Asia especially was amazing. Neither of us have actually ever been to Japan until we went there to pick out our house. It was a little nerve-wracking. I was a little nervous. That plane ride was a long 14-hour plane ride.
Sandi: You were like, “Where are we going?”
Katie: It was amazing. An awesome experience.
Sandi: Do you miss it?
Katie: Yes, I’ll move back. I would love for him to get promoted and then maybe a few kids down the road and let them go to an international school maybe in ten years. That’s my dream.
Sandi: There you go. Put that out there. What was one of your favorite things about Japan? What was it that just drew you to it?
Katie: There were a lot of things. Like I said, I didn’t know really much about Asia or Japan at all before moving there, but I knew I wanted to dive into the culture while I there. I wasn’t legally allowed to work full-time so I taught fitness classes, taught English classes, and then there was a super sweet Japanese woman who volunteered her time in our city to foreigners to teach them Japanese cultural events and things like that. I learned the traditional Japanese tea ceremony from her, and I got to perform it. If you’ve never seen it, it’s very meticulous. Every little inch of the tea ceremony has a purpose. I studied for six or eight months. That is very, very short. Most Japanese people study for decades and still continue taking lessons. I got to learn tea ceremony, very bare minimum. I did hand-sew one kimono with her help. That’s the last one. I’m sorry, I will not make a kimono for you. You don’t want my kimono. You don’t want it, especially hand sewn. My hand stitches were all over the place. I got to try that. I think the diversity of being in a city in Japan where we’re a minority and we were in the fourth largest city so not touristy. English was not on signs or venues or anything like that. There were a lot of challenges, but it was worth it. I’m ready to go back.
Sandi: I can imagine. What was the driving force behind starting this here in Lexington? You left Japan and now you have a business that has this. How did you get that all started?
Katie: With Wabi Sabi in particular?
Sandi: Uh huh.
Katie: I started it in May-June our last year. We moved back that August-September. I had a few months in Japan. Honestly, I’ve always loved the idea of being an entrepreneur. I just didn’t have something that I thought would be worth trying. I got certified to teach group fitness right before we moved over there. I thought I would probably bring home something in the fitness realm. I tried Taiko drumming.
Sandi: What is that?
Katie: It’s a giant drum. It’s a big drum. You stand up and play it and hit it. You’re almost squatting. It’s a great workout- it’s almost like tea ceremony but a very sacred tradition. My husband being an engineer, I’m like, “I’m going to come home and start this Taiko drumming business.” He’s like, “Katie, that’s not realistic. You just learned how to keep beat and the drums start at $10,000. How are you going to do this?” I was like, “Don’t kill my dream.”
Sandi: “Let me do it.”
Katie: I’m doing it. I went through all these conversations with Japanese friends. I started taking lessons, so I finally got into this lesson where they didn’t speak a word of English. I went to a few lessons, two or three, and then finally I’m like, “Okay, I need to figure out how to ask them in Japanese ‘How many songs can I learn? I have one year left in Japan. How many songs can I learn so that I can go teach other people?’” They said, “Oh one year? Maybe you can learn one song.” And I thought, “Okay, maybe this really isn’t feasible.” I put that aside and then my husband, Jeremy, his sister came to visit in Japan. She also has a fashion background like I do. She wanted to go buy a kimono but not pay thousands of dollars for a brand-new one. We went to second-hand store and I saw all of these beautiful kimonos sitting there. The real kimono and I thought, “I need to get this to the rest of the world.” I started slowly shopping and buying and tested out at the market. We were back in Ohio for a week in that May so tested it out. Everyone seemed to love the idea, so I launched my business online in June and kept it going. I took a short break when we moved home, bought a house, moved five times in the first two months.
Sandi: Just a short break. Oh my gosh.
Katie: Then back online so now mostly online focus. Last year, in 2018, I did a lot of outdoor weekend markets but this year we’re really focusing on online specifically.
Sandi: I want to see everything. Maybe like a trunk show here.
Katie: Pop ups, I do pop-ups. I’ve done a few in town. I’m also offering in-home try-on sessions because like you, I love to see the garments in person. So, if somebody wants to invite a few girlfriends over, I bring a rolling rack and they can try on twenty or thirty kimonos.
Sandi: Kimono party. Oh my gosh, now I totally want to have a kimono party.
Katie: Yes. And even at the markets I’ll have women try on every single kimono. I get it because that’s how I shop. You want to try on- they’re all unique, which one is most you.
Sandi: Can you tell me a little bit about the kimonos because people can’t see. Tell me a little bit about some of the history of it or how they started or how they make them? Materials, that kind of deal.
Katie: Traditionally, Japanese kimonos are all hand-sewn and usually all silk. They can be different forms of silk. You know a lot about materials, I’m sure, maybe more than I do. Raw silk or some of the silks feel different so each kimono can have a different touch to it. There are short kimonos. They’re called a haori. The haori is worn traditionally in the wintertime over a full-length kimono. It’s the one I have on today. They’re strings so they would just tie it shut as an extra layer of warmth. I have short kimonos on my website. I have not altered them in any way. I have long kimonos. If I have altered it, which has only been like two total I have a note in the description of that product. Other than that, I have not altered these in any way. They’re how they were once worn. The long kimonos in Japan, they’re actually pulled up about seven to ten inches so when you put on a long kimono, most likely it’s going to be dragging on the ground for you. You either need to alter it or figure out if you want to tie it up. Some of them when I model in pictures, I’m almost 5’9” so some of them do fit me because most of the women who used to own them probably were a lot shorter than I am. It can be deceiving if I’m wearing heels in the picture. They’re traditionally a lot longer because they were wrapped up and then there’s about- I’ve been dressed in a kimono about three to five times in Japan traditionally and there’s like ten layers. Strings and layers and they don’t want any curves so a lot of my friends- I mean, I’ve had towels stuffed around my waist because there should be no curves, like a straight line. I wore it in the wintertime and still was very hot. In the summer, they have what they call a yukata so it’s a summer, cotton kimono. They’re worn for outdoor festivals. I loved dressing up like that. When I would dress myself, it never looked that pretty. Sometimes I’d be undone by the time I get there. It was still really fun to just be able to participate in a such a rich, cultural diversity. It was a lot of fun.
Sandi: They’re so beautiful. My bestie, my best friend Greg, brought me- he was in Japan last year- and brought me a traditional kimono back that there were so many pieces. He explained it to me. He said, “Then you have to put this here and this here” and was explaining to me how to put it on. I was like, “Wow, this is much more.” There are so many different steps and layers to make sure that you’ve got all those folds right and everything.
Katie: A YouTube video doesn’t it do it justice. People take classes on how to dress in a kimono too.
Sandi: They’re so beautiful. They’re so beautiful and the colors are so beautiful. As somebody that creates, they’re so inspiring to me to look at. Did you have any idea when you were younger and dreaming about what you wanted to do with your life, that this is what you would be doing right now?
Katie: No, I had no idea. It’s funny you ask that, though, because I had a period of time when I was in grade school where I just loved Asian things. I never really thought I’d go over there or anything but for some reason, I think my grandfather was in World War II and then my dad was in the Vietnam war. There were a few pieces handed down to the family that had some Asian inspiration, so I had a few things in my bedroom and then that was just a phase. Kids go through all their fans and phases so then I got rid of all that Asian stuff. My mom’s like, “I wish I didn’t rid of all that Asian stuff.” No, I never thought I would have that connection. In the culture, there’s just so many other things I learned from being over there and just their respect for other people and the team focus they have over there. It’s just very unique and not found in other parts of the world.
Sandi: It makes you want to take a trip, like right now.
Katie: I’ll hop on a plane with you.
Sandi: I was researching a few months ago because I do work with fabrics and everything. I like raw silk and I was researching Silk Road like to go tour some of the factories and see some of the process in making silk and everything. I told Tim, I said, “Hey, I think I want to go and check some of this out.” He was like, “Dude, go do it. It sounds incredible.”
Katie: It is. And this one- I don’t know if I told you- the one I have on today; it’s covered in tiny circles that each circle was individually hand tied and then dyed to create that pattern. There’s still texture from the dyeing process.
Sandi: I’m going to put a picture on the actual website of this fabric so you can see it. We’ll take a picture of it so people can see what you’re talking about because it’s gorgeous and all of those are individually tied.
Katie: Yeah, individually hand tied. I did so many crafts over there. I loved it. You would have loved it. All the ex-pat wives did crafts every day. I did a shibori class and had to sew a few things. My shibori- I don’t think I did anything- it looked terrible. I don’t know how they do quality shibori work with that tiny, tiny meticulous detail.
Sandi: Gosh, it’s beautiful. When you first started this out, what is something you wish you had known when you first started? You haven’t been doing it for years and years and years. This is fairly new so it should be right on your mind. What do you wish you had known then when you started?
Katie: I would say two things. One, that being a business owner takes a lot of discipline, a lot of self-discipline. You don’t have anyone telling you, “Oh, you should do this today” or “You need to get your marketing plan together.” Discipline and then the other thing would be having a strong emotional IQ or health and wellbeing because you’re going to have challenges all through everything. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but still been very fortunate with the people I’ve met and connections and events and things like that. Having a strong emotional capacity to handle those challenges is really important. I’ve thought about throwing in the towel a lot especially at the beginning and moving back right away to Lexington from Japan.
Sandi: It’s very true. You have to be able to handle the good and the bad days because with any type of entrepreneurial venture, there are days where you’re going, “Oh my gosh, I am crazy to be doing this.” You just have to keep going step by step. Just keep going forward, just keep going forward. What do you think were some of the biggest obstacles that you faced when you started out?
Katie: Well, the fact that I had no idea what I was doing. That was a good thing and a bad thing. Now, for any future things, I have a lot of other ideas, I may at some point execute in other ways and avenues. I had no idea. I was very naïve which is a good thing. No one in my family or my husband’s family really has a background in business. The more entrepreneurs I’ve talked to, a lot have been fortunate to have a family member help guide them. Even taxes, every year I’m learning something new about taxes. I got some random $200 fee from Kentucky last year. I was like, “Where was my notification?” “Oh, you’re just supposed to know.” “I didn’t get an email or mail.” “No, you’re just supposed to know.” I think some of those are just not having somebody to always consult has been a little bit of an obstacle. I’m still figuring it out. My husband always tries to correct me when I say, “I don’t know.” I have to follow up with “but I will figure it out.” I just said that to him on the phone on the way here actually.
Sandi: I’ll figure it out.
Katie: I’ll figure it out. It’s okay I don’t know. It’s okay I might be a step behind someone at my age, that’s okay. It will get figured out.
Sandi: What you tell somebody that wanted to start their business now, in looking back at your journey of starting this? What would you tell somebody that wanted to start out something?
Katie: To just start. It sounds cliché and you see those quotes all over the place but really, just start. You’re not going to have all the answers at the beginning. Even as you’re going, you’re never going to have a clear path of the answers so it’s going to evolve. I think just starting even though I feel like I was very naïve at the beginning that it could work to your advantage.
Sandi: Tell me a little bit more about that because I think people believe that they have to have everything figured out. That they have to have that air-tight business plan. In some ways, that can be helpful, but then in some ways, that can hinder the creativity that you have at the beginning.
Katie: For example, with my podcast I just launched in February of this year. Technology, I mentioned to you, is not a strength of mine so I thought, “Oh, I don’t have the technology background” or “I don’t have these resources” or “Should I create a new website? Should I create a new social media account? Do I do all this? Do I invest money in this?” I just started recording on my MacBook and now in the last month I’ve gotten a microphone, not a crazy expensive investment but slowly increasing those things. If I wouldn’t have just started in February, I think I’d continue learning and thinking, “Oh, I need that fancy equipment” or “I need to go buy a domain now. Oh, I need to go do this” because somebody else is, but you need just start where you’re at. I mean, with a business, it’s okay if you don’t have a website on day one if you’re able to sell in person or sell via Instagram or whatever it be. Just start and see how it goes and test it.
Sandi: Tell me about your podcast. You just started it.
Katie: Flawed and Fearless. We also release episodes every week. The first three Wednesdays of the month I usually interview women and then the last one I do all the talking. Season One was on balance so just like there’s no such thing as perfect beauty. There’s no such thing as a perfectly balanced life. Season One I got to talk to women about that and see how they had points in their life when they’ve off balance or still are and then currently, we’re focusing on confidence. How much confidence impacts all areas of your life. It’s been fun. Every Wednesday a new episode on Apple, Spotify and Google Play. Check it out.
Sandi: Y’all, we will link all of that. Don’t worry about it. We’ll link it on the website so you can get directly to it. I loved your last one, I listened to your last podcast on confidence. It’s something that so many people struggle with when you look at confidence and comparison to other people. Gosh, you just got to be you, you know what I mean?
Katie: I’m learning, and I don’t want to wait until I’m older “Oh it comes with age.” Why do I have to be comfortable down the road? I need to try to achieve that a little sooner in life hopefully.
Sandi: You can say there’s no end goal of, “Well, now I’ve reached it. Now I am fully confident in every single thing that I do.” We’re all on that journey and so just to embrace it and love yourself.
Katie: If you’re confident where you’re at too, I think maybe you’re not getting out of your comfort zone. Even if you’re in a corporate position or you can’t be as creative on the day-to-day or try new things as much, still certain hobbies or trying new things that do challenge you. I think I’m learning and observing through other people that not everyone that can be a business owner, wants to be a business owner. Still achieving that confidence and growing in different ways.
Sandi: Absolutely. We’ll have your podcast link there. Are there other podcasts that you listen to or books that you recommend?
Katie: I was listening to a ton of podcasts before I launched mine. Now I kind of- after I get through editing, I’m like, “Okay, maybe one this week.” There are a few I like. Let’s see, which ones are the top ones right now? I’ve always loved the podcast How I Built This. It’s been around for a bunch of years now. That was the first podcast I listened to that got me hooked on podcasts. They just tell the whole story of big business and how it was built. It’s been fun to listen to that one. What’s another one? Through the church we attend, it’s called Crossroads Church, but the women in Cincinnati, Ohio put on a podcast called IKR. I Know Right. The last years was something about ‘the art of’ and then they focus on different topics. They did something on sexuality or something and then they did another one on diversity, so they focus on something and really dive into that and bring in experts and people with that background in that avenue. That’s been a fun one that I’ve been listening to.
Sandi: I love that. I want to listen to that for sure. Here, with this podcast, we have been talking to people, mostly creatives, about you do have so many challenges as a creative and an entrepreneur. Sometimes, it is challenging to keep a sense of joy in the middle of it. What do you think for you right now is maintaining your joy? How are you maintaining your joy in your life?
Katie: Rhythms-wise or something I’m excited about?
Katie: First part, rhythms I believe are really important so every day for me that looks like trying to wake up early and to have quiet time, alone time for reflection, cup of coffee, always have breakfast. Also, taking time for me so if that’s getting my nails done or a massage, the key for that is not feeling guilty when I take that time out or spend that money. Just not feeling guilty because I felt like I used to go but then I’m sitting there getting my nails done thinking, “Oh no, I have to go do something in an hour. I have to get out of here.” Just being present when you take that time out. Joy, looking forward, we’re expecting our first baby, a boy. Early September so in less than three months we’re going to have a child. That’s bringing joy, thinking about that and then really just continuing to dream and have ideas. I have a lot of ideas and there were a few months recently that I just didn’t have any. It felt a little depressing to me and finally, in the last few weeks, I went, “Oh, I have ideas again.” It’s just fun to have dreams, to have something that I could think about doing down the road.
Sandi: Tell me a little more about that. Do you think there was something that you changed in what you were doing, that re-sparked your imagination or did you go, “Oh my gosh, all of the sudden now I am just dreaming again”?
Katie: Could be. Have you heard of the phrase ‘brain dump’? I did one of those finally. I filled up like six front and back pages. Way too much, way too much. I did a brain dump. I also heard that when you have so much on your mind, it’s kind of suffocating the creative side of you. I don’t know if you feel that way.
Sandi: Oh my gosh, yes.
Katie: Clearing out your mind and brain and even though I try to sit down in the morning and have the quiet time, sometimes even that can feel rushed. Just giving all of your thoughts out on paper, they’re out there, you don’t have to do something with it today, but gives you more space. That’s helped this last week for me especially.
Sandi: Absolutely. Yes. I say just write down everything.
Katie: Do you write down on a consistent basis as well?
Sandi: Yes, and my husband does too every night. He’ll sit every night and write everything down.
Katie: Just thoughts and get it out.
Sandi: Thoughts and get it out of his head so he’s not having to think about that stuff. You can get a good a good night’s sleep. There’s just basic self-care that you need to care for yourself. Are there any other pieces of self-care that you do?
Katie: I’m working on going to bed on time. I need to go to sleep early. My husband’s been traveling a lot and apparently, I’m like a child where I need him to tell me to go to bed. I’m going to sleep at one in the morning doing nothing, so I think for me, that’s one area I’m still working through. Just make sure I go to bed on time, so I don’t sleep in, so I don’t miss the quiet time and I’m not rushed to leaving. Still working on that.
Sandi: I can stay up way too late too. I will read or listen to non-fiction during the day and at night, I read fiction. But sometimes I get so into it, I’m going, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh” and then I go, “Ah, it’s one o’clock. What in the world? It is too late.” I think that proper sleep is something in self-care that people miss all the time. You have to take care of yourself. We need to get some sleep sometimes. Here’s a question for you. There are a few questions that I love to ask everybody that I talk to. What do you believe that people need in the world right now?
Katie: One of my main passions as it may have come out in some form or another, is that women especially need to believe that they are beautiful and it sounds cheesy or super lovey-dovey but I went to Rachel Hollis- if you follow her or heard of her.
Sandi: “Wash that face.”
Katie: Yes. I actually haven’t even read her book. I do follow her on social media. I went to her- she had some sort of movie documentary earlier this year and I went to it. She was mostly focused on her conference. In the last year or two, she’s had a few conferences with a few hundred women at least. I’m not sure exactly how many. They did an activity where they had a list of struggles or battles that women were going through. I don’t know if you heard of this. They had this list and things on the list were anything from “I’ve had an abortion” or “I’ve been abused” or really, really big things and then the very last one on the list was “I don’t like how I look.” You’re supposed to stand for a sister or something like that was the purpose of this activity. You pass your paper around. Somebody has your paper. They have no idea who checked off the list and you’re supposed to stand up when that person said yes, I’ve done this, or I’ve had this experience. There were all different numbers across the board but the biggest one that people stood for was “I don’t like how I look.” Most of the women did not believe they were beautiful. Out of hundreds of women, I think she said over 90% were standing. It just made me so sad how many women don’t like how they look. We’re all beautiful in our own way so that’s what my passion and mission through business is. Hopefully, I’m able to encourage someone and help them feel a little more confident, just not on the outside but inward as well so that they can really do what they’re called to do.
Sandi: I love that. I just want to give you a hug right now because it’s true and it’s so needed. Women need to know that they are beautiful and that they’re valued and that they’re wanted and that they’re needed and that they’re smart. They’re capable and we need to get that message more out into the world. Thank you for your part in doing that. Is there a question that you wish somebody would ask you and what would be the answer to it?
Katie: Let’s see. I like talking about Japan. What else? How was living abroad, maybe, would be one. Why travel? And really, while living abroad is when I felt I grew most of my confidence and being uncomfortable every day. I would want to answer with that like, “You need to get out of your comfort zone.” In Japan, even going to the post office, something as mundane as that, was a challenge. I would say the same thing in the same form with this same verbiage in Japanese and it would work at one post office one day, go back to the same post office the next day and that phrase did not work and so every day was a challenge in some way or another. I really had to work on my perspective and not beating myself up. Figuring it out, like I said. Even if you are not able to live abroad or travel to a country with a different language, just getting out of your comfort zone has made a huge impact in my life.
Sandi: Tell us where you to find you, all of your- your podcast, your website, tell us all that. We’ll link all that too but just so people know how to find you.
Katie: Sounds good. I’m on Instagram. My personal Instagram is @itskatiesharp and then @WabiSabiThreads on Facebook and Instagram. It’s not currently as active but we are up there. I share pictures and discounts and things like that when it’s up there with new product releases. WabiSabiThreads.co is the website. Podcast is Flawed and Fearless. You can search Apple, Spotify or Google Play. I think that’s it.
Sandi: Thank you so much for joining us.
Katie: Thank you, Sandi.
Sandi: You have such a beautiful spirit about you. You just radiate love. It just comes right off of you. Guys, you need to go out and seek her out.
Katie: Thank you, Sandi, I’m so excited that we’ve been able to connect here.
Sandi: Absolutely. Thank you so much for being on.