Designer Heidi Kure had a lot going on: a successful career as a costumer for Disney, creative work with local theater groups, a relationship and a new son. Sure, her life was busy dealing with a huge corporate entity like Disney is never a completely straightforward proposition, and whose family life isn't just a little complicated?
Then her son, Phoenix Sebastian, was diagnosed with autism, adding another layer of complexity. She began to make the necessary changes: working from home in order to spend time with Phoenix, simplifying her living environment to create a safe place for him, researching his condition. She split up with Phoenix's father. She channeled her creativity into a company called P.S. I Love You, designing and manufacturing therapeutic clothing and toys for children with special needs. She was making progress, streamlining her life.
Then came Sept. 11.
As it did a lot of people, the shock of that day motivated Kure to ask herself what she really wanted from her time on earth. And as happens for so many, the answer came to her in a dream.
"I was visiting my sister in Liverpool, and I dreamed about kimonos," says Kure. She got up immediately, in the wee hours, and looked on the Internet to see if the name she had literally dreamt up was already taken. It wasn't, and thus the seed of Obiwear was planted.
Kure's work for Disney is to create costumes for the actors elaborately detailed pieces of clothing that must be researched for historical accuracy, sketched, cut and stitched, necessitating hours of work. Kimonos, on the other hand, are almost radically simple. The shape comes from the wearer, not the construction of the garment.
"I realized how nice it was, the simplicity," Kure says. "It fit what I want my life to be, as opposed to intricate cutting, intricate stitchery."
Her kimonos (really yukatas, plain cotton robes that are more casual than the formal silk kimono) reflect the balance she's struck in her life: The very plain form is composed of a dizzying assortment of patterned textiles. "Each one is different. It's like a jigsaw," says Kure. Every robe is a collage of similarly hued prints, and every robe has a tiny phoenix symbol sewn in at the neck. Japanese kimonos, Kure explains, traditionally have a semori, or "back protector," embroidered inside the collar. Her phoenix semori is the namesake of her son, who inspired the collection and whom Kure considers her luck.
Kure depends on her intuition and on happy accidents. While driving around one of her favorite neighborhoods, the ViMi district, she noticed a small, freestanding building near the railroad tracks. It looked almost like a child's drawing: a square with a door in the middle and a window on either side. Her workshop is now housed there, the tiny space serving as a nexus for her Disney work and her budding Obiwear business. Once she was established in her new place, she introduced herself to her neighbors.
"I just walked in and asked, 'What do you do?'" Kure laughs, describing the beginning of her association with Lure Design. "I thought, hmm, our names rhyme."
Lure ended up designing the Obiwear logo, as well as the phoenix symbol that's sewn into every garment. Though it was a relatively informal project, the design firm was happy to work with its new neighbor. "She had some ideas," says Lure's Kim Fox. "I just love seeing someone out there doing it, just putting it out there."
It's not all intuition and dreams, though; Kure has plans for a website (www.obiwear.com) and plans to wholesale the robes to spas. Since they're 100 percent cotton, they're more practical in the South than the usual spa-provided heavy terrycloth robe, and Kure can customize the color scheme to the client.
"I sent Sharon Osbourne one," she says, displaying the handwritten thank-you note she received from Ozzy's wife. "I did a bright-orange one for her to go with her hair. She thinks it's lovely."