Why Grab Bags?

Our kimono and haori jacket grab bags are a tremendously popular fixture of our booth at every convention that allows grab bags (and that’s almost all of them).  We get a lot of complements from our awesome customers, and that’s super gratifying.  But we also get a question sometimes: why do we offer grab bags?

Our kimono grab bags feature a bundled kimono + obi and come complete with a sash you can use to tie the kimono closed while you get your obi on.  In short, this is a fabulous and fast way to wear kimono anywhere, anytime.  Haori grab bags come with a haori jacket and two additional surprises, typically small presents like stickers, chopsticks, folding fans, etc.  We love haori jackets because they’re easy to wear and can be combined with any outfit to add style and class without wearing a full kimono.

We first got the idea to do this from seeing fukubukuro: “lucky bags” or “mystery bags,” depending on who’s translating, on sale in Japan.  Fukubukuro are a New Years custom in which merchants place items in opaque bags and sell them at a discount.  Kimono-ya (-ya means “store”) sell fukubukuro too!  Grab bags seemed a great way to for us celebrate the New Years custom and help fulfill our mission to bring a slice of Japan to the United States.  Each convention happens once per year, so in a sense, each convention is a “New Year.”  It seemed fitting that we would celebrate each convention’s yearly event by offering our own fukubukuro.

We found out some great things by experimenting with grab bags.  People seemed to like the surprise factor.  It helps that our grab bags are typically $10-20 cheaper than the rack price (although more isn’t unheard of).  People are getting a surprise AND saving money!  A lot of folks find that’s a great combination for them.

But we also found out some other amazing things when we started offering grab bags.  Some of our customers reported that grab bags brought kimono more into their comfort zone.  While we make it abundantly clear that we’re willing to help anyone try on kimono, and people are welcome to buy off the rack without trying the kimono on, our customers only get to interact with us once or maybe a few times per year.  So even though our booth is a judgment-free zone, the rest of the world, unfortunately, isn’t.  Grab bags have become a means of bridging the everyday chasms caused by stigma.

We’ve heard from people from all over.  People on the autism spectrum and people with sensory processing disorder.  People with ADHD and people with anxiety.  People with disabilities including those using wheelchairs, who have insulin pumps or heart monitors, who use back braces or walkers, who have joint hypermobility, who have low vision or hearing–all sorts of disabilities.  People who had experienced abuse or assault, or who have PTSD from military combat.  People who are trans, genderqueer, genderfluid.  People from all walks of life who want to engage in the same kind of cultural exchange as everyone else but find it better, easier, and more comfortable to do so in their own safe space.  We’ve found that our humble grab bags are a way to level the playing field and make kimono more accessible to everyone.

We have made no secret of that fact that some of the folks who founded this company have disabilities, and that has made us determined to see everyone around us as worthwhile and worthy of respect.  Just by coincidence, virtually everyone in our company has severe allergies or food intolerances.  We all have our individual needs and we accommodate each other because we know we are all worth it.  We feel that way about our customers, too.

We certainly weren’t expecting a simple blind bag to make such a huge difference in our ability to get kimono into the lives of as many people as possible.  We hadn’t planned on grab bags becoming yet another means by which we could welcome people who might otherwise feel left out of such a joyful cultural exchange.  We hadn’t anticipated that a little inspiration from our journeys to Japan would become such an important tool in our toolbelt as we work hard to increase accessibility for our customers.

We’re just amazed and grateful it’s worked out that way.  This happy accident has brought our customers and us a lot of joy, so I hope you, too, can experience that joy and surprise sometime in your future.