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Category: keiko limehouse

INTERVIEW: Keiko Limehouse of Mina/Mas(Part 2)

On Friday I posted the first part of the interview that I conducted with Keiko Limehouse of Mina/Mas boutique. The fashionable mother of two runs a edgy yet diverse boutique in Columbia, South Carolina and has no problem helping out up and comers. While the first segment of the interview focused more on Keiko and her opinions about the fashion industry, this second segment focuses more on the boutique, and it’s inner workings. I would again like to thank Keiko, this time publicly for sitting down for an interview and everything else she has done.

Below the clip is the second and final segment of our interview focusing more on Mina/Mas and the inner workings of the boutique.

803: First, I love the space, did you come up with the aesthetic for the space? Did you have any inspiration?
Keiko: Yes. I chose primarily chose pink because it’s a signature for women, and I wanted to provide an avenue in which women felt more than comfortable in and something that was purely for women. Whereas men have alot of places to just go and relax, like sports bars and cigar bars, women don’t really have that so I wanted to give them their place of comfort
803: So it’s more than just “come here and buy your clothes”?
Keiko: Oh yeah! We’re a firm believer of “If you can make a woman feel good on the outside she can remember all the good things on the inside.” Given the fact that I am a woman, most women are moms, sisters, career women: we have so many things going on in our lives we tend to forget about ourselves.
803: So is there a reason you chose this pink specifically?
Keiko: I felt that a lighter pink would be too foo foo little girl. And I think the depth of the color says something about us because it’s kind of deep. We’re deep as well because we have motivations and things we want to do. It’s the type of color that if it’s too light, it’s kind of glaring and if you go too dark, it’s kind of gothic.
803: Why did you decide to only stock 3-6 pieces of each garment as opposed to more?
Keiko: I hate bulk shopping, and I really feel that for women in Columbia, unfortunately, there’s not a lot to choose from here. Traditionally they have to go out to Charlotte, Charleston and Atlanta to find something that’s different, so I specifically had the intention to find those pieces and bring them here. I, myself, now have children and I can’t get up and move as frequently as I could have when I was younger so this was a way to control my own vice as well as to offer that to all of my clients.803: So did you make the boutique to solve a problem you were finding when buying pieces?
Keiko: That definitely was a big piece in deciding only to have 3-6 people, however in deciding to have the store, my biggest thing was helping women to remember themselves. A lot of times as career women and moms, we tend to forget about ourselves. You put your career first, you put your kids first, you’re putting your husband first, you put everyone first and you forget about yourself. I just wanted to remind them of themselves.
803: Do you shop for yourself or do you have a specific woman in mind when you go to buy things for the boutique?
Keiko: It’s been a growing process and I have amazing clients, they are like friends and family. Since I don’t have a lot of family here they kind of filled that hole. We go way out for our clients, and kind of take them under our wings. So knowing what their needs are and their criteria, like their body type, I go to find things that of course I personally like, but are applicable to their bodies.
803: So over time the styling of the store could change depending on your client base?
Keiko: I think that I’ve been kind of lucky in the sense that the clients that we do have really like what we’re already doing. So I don’t really want to change my formula per se but I am aware that not every single line is for every single body type. So we will probably develop more lines of clothes that are more equipped for different body types as opposed to changing what we already have. We try to keep a nice selection of workwear everyday wear, going out wear, formal wear. So we try to have a little bit for a vast audience.
803: So I know that Tara and Kayla are both interns, so is everyone who works in the store an intern?
Keiko: No, we have two other employees as well both of whom have other things that they are pursuing. So it was kind of a blessing in disguise: they are still with us, but their time given over the summer kind of had elapsed. I knew in advance that they weren’t going to be here and it just so happened that Tara and Kayla approached me about an internship at the same time.
803: So is their internship focusing on the business aspect or more of the fashion aspect of the boutique?
Keiko: Initially when I interviewed with both of them, I wanted them, I think in some senses, and I hope not to be jumping the gun but I know in a lot of internships they just work the store, Ideally I don’t want them to just work the store. I want them a.) to utilize the talents that they’ve learned alongside with learn anything that they want to obtain from this or receive from this. I hope that they pursue those things here. I share all my inside things with them so that they are fully equipped, whereas alot of people just let them have a job, and utilize the free services. I’m letting them see everything that, I see the goods and the bads, the uglies and in betweens. The same way that I form relationships with my clients they’ve been here for a little while and they are doing the same thing.
803: It seems to me alot of the things that you do are about empowerment, is this intentional?
Keiko: That’s definitely our hopes. Definitely, we do try to do alot of different events. We eventually want to turn Mina/Mas into a label which is why I wanted to pull Tara on board because she designs and stuff. I’m trying to push her and motivate her to keep going with that as well as I want her to work with us to kind of design some of our pieces too. But ultimately we want to turn into a label and then take the proceeds from that and develop youth programs like group homes for kids803: So do you have any local designers stocked?
Keiko: Well here’s the thing, I’ve interviewed with several and have allowed for them to host their items here for free. Whereas if they say their products are XYZ as long as they fall with in the boutiques price point, they receive all the commission for that. Just given different circumstance I haven’t had anyone that was consistent enough that brought a line. It is something that I would entertain for sure. I think that there is alot of unrecognized talent in Columbia and being a business, formost people that own a business it’s “self before anyone else” whereas I’m a firm believer in “what you give out is what you get back.” So although sometimes I don’t see my blessings I know that they are always there so I always love helping people to advance even if it far exceeds myself.
803: Have you considered expanding into menswear?
Keiko: We’re actually contemplating that currently. There’s not really a high custom made suits in demand. But there is a high demand for the absence of custom made suits. So I really want to have that service. Not a tailoring suits because I know of places here that advertise as custom made but really they are tailor made. But we actually want to custom make and that’s about the extent of us going into menswear.
803: Alot of people don’t understand that many times in music and in arts there are alot of people who work on teams behind the scenes. I was wondering if it was the same way with boutiques and more importantly, Mina/Mas.
Keiko: Well we work with one person, she owns Silky Alterations, and she’s helping to incorporate some pieces for the future. But there’s all kinds of people that we are still kind of collaborating with and growing relationships with before we put anything in writing. You want to make sure that before you get into bed with someone you want to make sure that they have the same mindset as you and has your back the same way that you have theirs. So we’re still grooming those but in terms of who we have now, Silky is sort of our “signature seamstress”


INTERVIEW: Keiko Limehouse of Mina/Mas

Since returning to Columbia, SC I’ve been meeting and speaking with alot of people. Some of it has been to progress my own personal brand and to make moves for myself independent of my internet presence, and some of it has been to strengthen my internet presence and bring that original content that I’ve been whining about wanting to bring. Well last Saturday I sat down with Keiko Limehouse at her boutique Mina/Mas, here in Columbia, and engaged her in a conversation(I like this term instead of interview). During the time I was there I was allowed to witness first hand the individual attention she gives to each client and how she explains a garment’s functionality, as well as how she pretty much is a stylist for loyal clients. The conversation went for a few hours and so I have divided it into two sections. While you’ll have to wait for part 2 which will speak more about the boutique specifically, here is the first part which focuses on Keiko and her opinions as well as her two children, Mina her 10 year old daughter, and Mas her 3 year old son.

See the rest of the interview below the clip

803: I know the name, Mina/Mas came from your children, so were they a big inspiration?

Keiko: Absolutely, I was doing real estate before and my daughter had got to a point where she wasn’t seeing mommy necessarily work because my work was done by the time she got home from school. As well as seeing mommy flip investment properties, she wasn’t there to see that. So she would comment “So and so’s mom made cookies and cakes” and not really see what mommy was doing. So I felt that in order for her to really respect what mommy was doing, she really needed to see how much work mommy really does put into things and how passionate I am about everything that I do. So given that everything that I do in life is for them I felt that it had no other option than to be named after them

I wanted my daughter to not only see the hard work and the rewards but You know I left a really nice comfort zone career to pursue my passion. I wanted her to see that you know anytime you put your mind up to something you can make it happen. It was important for me to impose independence on her and my son and allow her to see the whole process. They are the reason I wake up in the morning so it had to be named after them.

803: So are those art pieces that are featured theirs?

Keiko: Yes, my daughter is a phenomenal little artist and we have several local restaurants and businesses that want to host her stuff. And once I started to get to the place that people were actually asking for it, I decided that I should be the one to host her stuff. So eventually once we get more pieces we’re going to develop an attachment to our site. Since she’s so little I didn’t want to develop her own personal site just yet, because there are crazy people out there, so I was mindful of that so I want people to see her page in attachment to ours. And I’m all about my kids and helping htem pursue whatever they want to do and she has a talent that was given to her and I want her to develop that

803: Did she design those pieces specifically for the store?

Keiko: I just let her do whatever she has in her mind. She does do alot of different kind of artwork, she does acrylic, oil, pastel, watercolor, animal, contemporary, she does it all. And I don’t try to influence her with what direction to go into I just let her do what she wants to do.

803: Do you have any specific opinions about fashion in a national or international sense?

Keiko: I’m the type of person that is notorious for wearing $1000 shoes with a $2 t-shirt. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of a brand or a designer just because of the label but instead I like the colors, the fabrics, textiles, the make of the items, and how long it’s going to last. I like the ones that haven’t been recognized yet.

803: Do you regret not taking the location advice?

Keiko: No because in that time frame I’ve been given more time to reflect and grow as well as to critique the bigger plans. So I don’t regret it because I thing that everything that happens happens for a reason. And I can’t say the location that I have is a bad one,. Columbia is very nichey in the sense that you go to specific places. It’s not like this is a high volume area with boutiques on every corner like it is in California. So with that being said you’er going to gear towards only certain areas. But no I don’t regret it at all, I think it gave me time for growth and to allow me to do what I needed to do.

803: Do you have any specific feelings on the Columbia Fashion Industry in comparison to the other industries out there.

Keiko: In comparison to a lot of other industries we are a lot behind but I think that gives a lot of the talent here room to grow. So it’s a great place to be if you have a dream and desire and talent, it’s a great place to start. Instead of like jumping into more established industries, I think that it’s a great place to start. There are a lot of great things going on. But in comparison to some of the bigger industries I think we’re a lot behind. So, it has it’s goods and it’s bads. I think that being that we’re so behind allows for those people who are trying to make moves to grow and to make those moves.

803: Do you feel as if Columbia will ever be able to have an actual voice in fashion seeing as we have so many other more stronger industries nearby?

Keiko: I think that we can but as a whole I think that a lot of people are scared to step on the same platform. I think that a lot of times people work against each other instead of with each other. And that extends a lot even outside of the industry, but I feel as if we focus on the bigger plans and the bigger picture and be willing to step on the same playing field instead of trying to be crabs in a bucket, for lack of better terms. then we could easily compete with some of our closer markets.

Read Part Two.