At the heart of KIM+ONO is family. Our co-founders are also sisters, and Renee and Tiffany Tam have woven that love of family and tradition into each and every design. The Tam sisters grew up watching their parents work hard in Chinatown, as they ran a business, raised a family, and instilled a work ethic into their daughters that brought KIM+ONO to life decades later. Renee and Tiffany’s vision for KIM+ONO isn’t just influenced by their immediate family, but by their family’s Asian heritage as well. And this month, we are celebrating that Asian heritage with a deeper look into our founders’ family history, their families’ Chinese and Japanese cultures, and how each and every modern kimono robe celebrates the heritage of which they are so proud.
As women of color who are not immune to the conflation and appropriation of their cultures, Renee and Tiffany Tam have been thoughtful and intentional in how they’ve woven their own cultures into these new modern day pieces. We do not “replicate” traditional Japanese kimono; instead, our kimono robes are inspired and influenced by the rich kimono history behind these traditional garments. The sisters had moving experiences with these pieces as little girls, and the beauty and symbolism of the traditional Japanese kimono stayed with them as adults when they took over their family business and started designing their modern kimono robes, plus size kimono robes, and pieces in the kimono style for the modern woman.
This week, we’re tapping into a very personal part of Tiffany and Renee’s story: their family rituals. Rituals are at the heart of every culture. Rituals are the things that give us steadiness, groundedness, and a connection to our ancestors. They give us a kind of energetic hug when we need to feel centered in who we are in an ever changing world. Our modern kimono robes are meant to be a way for you to create your own rituals: whether it’s a morning cup of coffee with your favorite floral kimono wrap, or the bridal robe that you drape across your shoulders as you’re preparing to walk down the aisle. Wherever and however you wear your modern kimono robe, we want you to ritualize it, make it a part of your daily practice, and feel centered each time you slip it on. So this week, we sat down to chat with Tiffany to share more a bit about our founders’ family history, the rituals passed down in the Tam family, and how these modern pieces can become heirlooms in your own family when you connect them to ritual and celebrate the heritage from which they came.
Chinese New Year has always been a huge part of our lives. We always get together the night before, the week after, and at the end of the holiday for dinners. During this time, the married couples would pass out lucky red envelopes to the young kids for good luck. Also on the Chinese "day of the dead" (similar to Halloween once a year), we would visit the cemetery to pay respects to our ancestors. In the more recents years, Renee and I travel to Cabo once a year to celebrate our birthdays and each other. We know that whether it’s wrapping up in your favorite kimono style at the end of the day, or taking a trip as sisters, it’s important to mark certain moments with a ritual practice of gratitude and rest.
Back when we worked in our parents' stores in Chinatown, we went along with them on their buying trips to Asia to import antiques, home decor, clothing, and accessories. We saw so many beautiful Asian artwork that had all kinds of symbols and images: cranes, cherry blossoms, lotus, butterflies, and more always struck us as little girls. Growing up, this kind of beautiful imagery was all around us — in our travels, home, and work environment. They were a part of our everyday rituals, and so we have brought these into our modern kimono robe designs as well.
When we were young kids, our parents worked A LOT to support our family. We only got to see them during dinner time, and after that our dad would go back to work. The one day that we would spend time all together is on Sundays. Those Sundays at the park feeding the squirrels and other animals feel like they were yesterday. Nowadays Renee and I get together with our family on the weekends, have our occasional sister dinner dates, and we’re hoping that we still get to do our Cabo trip this year!
We typically have dinner together every evening, and finish off the night with a 10 minute family yoga stretch class. What I learned from this past year is that life is really short, and spending time with the ones you love is what's most important to us. Carving out space for that kind of ritual is so vital to our well-being.
We are strong and resilient. This entire year has been one of unrest, but hopefully it has been in service of bringing greater awareness to inequality and discrimination. It’s important through all of the challenges that AAPI (and all BIPOC) face, that we remember we are stronger than any of these inequities. That we remember our heritages and cultures make us beautiful, and that when we stand together, we can do anything.
Rituals are important to practice so that they keep us grounded as a family, and teach our kids how to connect to our heritage and culture. Being in the US, we have already adapted so much of the American culture. Since we are Asian American, I would always want our Asian culture and heritage to be passed down from generation to generation. It is who we are.
No matter what culture and heritage you come from, we hope learning a bit about our founders’ family heritage gives you a deeper appreciation and understanding of all our kimono styles and modern kimono robe designs. Thank you for taking the time to show us love and support during this very special Asian Heritage Month!