One of the things our company has always believed in and has been guided by is the commitment to quality craftsmanship in every piece we make. That’s because the traditional Japanese kimono, and all of its history, beauty, and significance, is the basis and inspiration for our modern day kimono robes. Every part of our company’s ethos stems from both the traditions that we’ve fallen in love with over time and our founders’ personal family history. We blend that with the inspiration from designs, palettes, and principles of ancient Chinese brushwork to bring a work of art to life through modern day kimono style.
Our craft is something so integral to our story. It’s the fulcrum of how we run our business — we come from a place of asking how can we create beautiful kimono patterns for the modern woman while bringing in those ancient Asian traditions to every single piece. Part of blending the past and the future relies on the actual craft of creating our kimono robes. And this week on the journal, we’re taking a deeper look into how we make kimono robes so you can see the deep connection we have to our family’s roots and the ancient craftsmanship used to produce the modern kimono style you see today.
At the beginning of the process, co-founders and sisters, Tiffany and Renee Tam, design the newest kimono patterns for the creative team. They take inspiration from vintage Asian art, which depicts incredible botanicals, beautiful scenes from nature, and the significance of symbolism, and interpret those expressions into their own kimono patterns for the modern woman. With botanicals as the natural link between each collection and style, the Tam sisters play with the elements of minimalism, breath, whimsicality, and sleekness. Each design choice tells a story with every thread. They add depth in the florals for a connection to tradition, or space between each design for a connection to minimalism. Every kimono pattern is tirelessly edited to become a gorgeous printed or handpainted work of wearable art. Once the kimono pattern is set, our team of artisans take over to hand sketch the designs. They use the timeless techniques of ancient Chinese art: depth, contrast, space, and balance. And with gorgeous botanical designs on a soft charmeuse blend, these modern kimono robes are a distinct nod to tradition and history.
After the sketch is finalized, the kimono is saturated in rich watercolors using a traditional paintbrush, again drawing inspiration from traditional Chinese aesthetics. The delicate silk is dyed with a base color and then artisans paint the kimono patterns onto the silk. Because this is such an intricate process, our Handpainted Kimono Robe Collection is a special one. It’s important to care for your Handpainted Kimono Robe like a piece of wearable art — keeping it out of the washing machine and dry cleaning only.
The Tam sisters grew up in the family business. Their parents owned both Canton Bazaar and Old Shanghai, storefronts in Chinatown, and worked with a family-run producer in China’s Silk Village. Renee and Tiffany still work with the same family of artisans for their pieces at KIM+ONO. This loyalty and creative bond has spanned decades, and the rich history and craftsmanship you get from that kind of long experience isn’t easily replicable.
The entire handpainting process takes seven days from start to finish. That means every single handpainted piece is a 168 hour work of art! And when we say we make kimono robes to be wearable art, we truly mean it. In fact, there are KIM+ONO customers who use their kimono robes as both loungewear and interior design! Take this beautiful blue kimono robe for instance, and hang it against a door that stays open. You’ve just brought a burst of color and piece of artwork into the room that’s certainly a conversation starter. These pieces are infused with history, tradition, craftsmanship, and intention. From the design process to the seven day production period, the beauty of these kimono styles is woven into each and every piece.
One of the qualities of these kimono robes that transcends time is their versatility. According to Culture Trip, by the Kamakura Period, Japanese kimono were an everyday style and the “art of kimono-making” became a highlighted trade during the Edo Period a few hundred years later, lasting until the late 1800s. These kimono also became family heirlooms — passed down from generation to generation. For the modern woman, that versatility and “everyday style” can take you from bedroom to boardroom. Whether you’re wearing your piece as a kimono dress, seen here with a belt and a hat to complement the fluid drape of the silk, or simply giving yourself a moment of self care and reflection by slipping into it at the end of a long day, the modern woman craves versatility. Riffing off that historial inspiration, we hope each piece we create gives you the confidence to wear it the way you want to wear it – whether it’s a kimono dress, a long kimono cover up for the beach, a bridesmaid kimono robe, or something else, it’s head-turning because you are.
It becomes more and more important to us that sustainability becomes a part of our practice. And that’s one thing we absolutely get inspired by when thinking about history. Our craftsmanship and quality means that your kimono robes will last a lifetime. Taking ancient principles of quality artisanship as our cornerstone techniques means any kimono style you choose is infused with decades and centuries of intention and skill. We hope that every time you slip into your favorite kimono style, you feel the history and inspiration of our artisans, and the confidence of feeling like you deserve a little bit of luxury every single day.