Japanese lifestyle store to open in St Augustines Street
- Credit: Denise Bradley
A bustling high street of independent shops is set to welcome a new member, who has found inspiration overseas.
Japanese lifestyle and gift store Mizu-Usagi - which translates at 'water rabbit' - will open in NR3's St Augustines Street in NR3 this summer in the former Norfolk retro unit.
The name of the business originates from owner Louise Frere-Smith's zodiac sign.
The 59-year-old returned to her hometown of Norwich from Tokyo four years ago, where she lived for 15 years and worked in a Japanese school.
She explained: "I started buying and collecting kimonos and obis - the big wide belts that ladies wear around a kimono.
"I knew I wanted to do something with them rather than having them stuffed in a cupboard.
"So I started making simple square tote bags from kimono fabric.
"It was just a hobby.
- 1 Busy roads near UEA to close until beginning of September
- 2 Blaze near children's playground in Norwich believed to be arson
- 3 City passengers on TUI flight to Mallorca land in BELFAST
- 4 Busy petrol station near Norwich closes for two months
- 5 'Inspirational and selfless' teenager, Maisie Lossau, dies aged 17
- 6 Five-bed home with its own bar goes up for sale for £750k
- 7 Which city roads will be closed for car-free day?
- 8 Brother and sister found dead in home were grieving beloved father
- 9 Posh hotel gets one-star food hygiene rating
- 10 City road closure extended for nearly three months as works continue
"With my sewing machine in my bedroom, I made bags for friends and commissions - and it grew from that.
"I started making high-quality tote bags from the obis, which are made of thick silk and finished with leather handles."
When Louise came back to Norwich she started doing markets and pop-ups selling her wares, which expanded to other upcycled pieces like pillow covers and zipper pouches and other items like Kokeshi dolls.
Kokeshi dolls have been gifted to children in Japan for more than 150 years as toys.
Louise, who lives just off St Augustines Street, said: "It's a niche market but I was so shocked at the interest of Japanese products.
"It really boosted my confidence.
"I've been away for so long I often feel like a foreigner in my own country.
"Because I lived in Japan, things like this became normal to me. I didn't realise things like kimonos and dolls would be so popular here."
As well as making beautiful items, Louise has the environment at the heart of her business - making sure not a single scrap of material is wasted.
She said: "It's precious and beautiful material. Any scraps I keep hold of to make small things like pin cushions.
"I even give the scraps away to customers.
"I'm very much zero-waste and have been since the beginning."
She added how she is excited to have the first permeant home for her brand: "St Augustines is a nice, happy street. It's a lovely community."
Japanese shopping phrases
How much is this?
Kore wa ikuradesu ka?
I'm just looking
Miteiru dake desu
Do you have this in another size?
Koreha-betsu no saizudesu ka?
Do you have _____?
Can I try this on?
Kore o tameshite mite mo īdesu ka
Can I return this?
Kore o kaeshite mo īdesu ka
How much does it cost?
Sore wa dorekurai shimasu ka?
I'm just browsing