The Importance of Family, History & the Birth of Kimono Robes

Every company has an origin story. For KIM+ONO, our origin story goes back decades right alongside the history of the Tam family itself. And because kimonos have been the inspiration behind our kimono robes, you could even say our origin story extends past our own family and back to the history of the kimono itself. At this time of year, family and origins are so important, so this week on the blog, we’re breaking down how we got here through family, business and artistic inspirations from generations past.

Peony & Butterfly Kimono Robe
Photo by Delbarr Moradi
Business in Chinatown: A Family Affair

You might say that sisters Tiffany and Renee Tam were destined to open KIM+ONO from childhood. Their parents owned two stores on Chinatown’s Grant Ave — Canton Bazaar and Old Shanghai. From a young age, the sisters were always running around the store and hanging in Chinatown when they weren’t in school. As they got a bit older, they pitched in at the stores and running the shops was truly a family affair. Not only did this teach Tiffany and Renee how running a retail business in Chinatown worked, but their parents also took them on business trips to China as they worked with vendors and artisans to source the inventory for the stores.

This childhood experience of the process from sourcing to selling gave Tiffany and Renee a firsthand knowledge of what it would take to build their own branch of the family business. They had seen kimonos in their travels to Asia and, as adults, they were inspired by those pieces to the point where they finally asked themselves, “How could we make a traditional kimono work for the modern woman?”

KIM+ONO
Photo by Delbarr Moradi
A Short History of Traditional Kimonos

The Tam sisters learned all about the history of traditional kimonos in their travels. Although Japanese kimonos are typically what you might think of when you think of kimonos, those Japanese kimonos were heavily influenced by Han Chinese clothing worn during the Chinese Qing Dynasty. While the influences from both countries created different patterns and features, the kimono fabric has been traditionally been made of satin weaves or silk.

According to Culture Trip, by the Kamakura Period, Japanese kimonos 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 kimonos also became family heirlooms — passed down from generation to generation.
Coral Chrysanthemum Kimono Robe
Photo by Delbarr Moradi
The Birth of the Modern Kimono Robe

As Tiffany and Renee considered their question, “How can we make a traditional kimono work for a modern woman?” they decided to take the same elements of the traditional kimono — their versatility, importance to the family, and kimono fabric — and weave them into a modern kimono robe.

The best parts of the Japanese kimono were also elements the Tam sisters believed modern women craved: luxurious kimono fabrics and versatility to work as an everyday garment. Using the history of kimonos and inspiration from vintage Asian art, they set out to build their line of kimono robes. Now, you can wear their creations as a silk kimono jacket over jeans, a maxi kimono robe to pair with a dress, or simply a piece to lounge in around the house.

Tiffany and Renee’s value of handcrafted heritage lives in every piece they offer, from every lightweight kimono cover up to silk kimono jacket. So next time you pick out your very own modern kimono robe, you can be sure there was an origin story, history, and generations of inspiration woven right into the fabric, making it as unique as you.

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