Your kimono robe was made by two sisters with one dream. Inspired by vintage Asian art, their family history, and the beauty of botanicals, each and every petal and design is created by co-founders and sisters Renee and Tiffany Tam. Inextricable from each kimono pattern is their story: the highs and lows, and everything in between. Their life experiences and love of history and heritage has guided them in each modern kimono robe they’ve designed, but it’s you, the modern woman, who they think about the most when creating each piece. Today in the journal, we’re sharing the intimate details of how Renee and Tiffany’s story has woven into their designs, to create pieces for the modern woman, and to hopefully bring a little more comfort and joy to your every day.
Renee and Tiffany’s parents worked incredibly hard to build three emporiums in San Francisco’s historic Chinatown neighborhood. Renee remembers, “Our parents would work twelve hours daily to support the family. When my parents first opened their business in 1980, my mom was pregnant with Tiffany and she worked every day until labor. My grandma and uncle would take care of me while my parents were at work.” That effort to bring the stores to life, while their parents were raising a young family as well, lasted throughout the years. Tiffany adds, “Our parents had a store in Chinatown on Broadway St. and I recall my grandpa working there with my parents, while my grandma took care of me as a child. Family helping each other out was a huge deal.” For working class folks, it took everything their parents had to create their business and storefronts. Tiffany says, “I also remember my parents coming home for dinner, and many nights my dad would go back out to work to close the shops [after dinner]. We didn’t get to spend a ton of time with my parents, since they had to work so much.” Renee and Tiffany took what they learned from watching their parents build their family business and used it to stitch their own story with KIM+ONO
Evolving the family business into something that was true to the sisters took time and a lot of trial and error. From about 2003-2004, Renee and her husband Chris decided to take business online. Together, they operated and processed orders out of their apartment in the evenings and on weekends. Eventually in 2004, they launched the first iteration of KIM+ONO, which was then called Old Shanghai Online. There were only four people working on the business at that point — employees who are still with KIM+ONO today! Over the years, Renee decided to streamline the brand to kimono robes at the same time that Tiffany envisioned bringing the online shop to a more modernized visual and creative direction. As fate usually has it, once the sisters set out to create KIM+ONO with a small team of ten in 2017, opportunities started to arise. Tiffany recalls, “A family friend reached out to let me know one of her retail spaces was available and asked if I was interested. We were in the midst of the rebrand and thought this was the perfect opportunity to launch our first brick and mortar. With my parent’s support of allowing me to quit managing their stores to follow my dreams, Renee’s trust and support, and with a few bumps along the road, the KIM+ONO brick and mortar kimono store launched in April 2018.”
Throughout the entire evolution of their family business and the vision the sisters have for KIM+ONO have today is their deep bond of sisterhood. From a young age, they had a special relationship. Renee’s first memory of Tiffany was her “curiosity and sisterly love. She LOVED going through my stuff and followed me wherever I went. We’ve always been close since childhood. Tiffany agrees, “I recall when I was a few years old, we used to wear matching Chinese style pajamas. I basically wanted anything and everything that my sister had!” Now as adults and co-founders, their relationship has deepened. Tiffany says that working with her sister Renee is “The BEST thing ever! We’ve always had a close relationship, so we respect and trust one another. We also have very defined roles in the company and know what each of our strengths are, so we never step on each other's toes. An extra bonus is that we get to have daily lunches together.” Renee says that’s what she loves, too. She says, “[I’m] lucky to work with my best friend. We both grew up helping with the family business and shared all the aspects of the highs and lows that come with running a family business together. I was so excited when we decided to partner together to run KIM+ONO and I couldn’t have found a more perfect partner. As Tiff mentioned, we both have very defined roles and different talents so it's perfect when we merge both our skills together. I also love that I get to see her almost every day!”
Another part of both Renee and Tiffany’s story is the fact that they are both mothers, and you can feel it in every kimono fabric they choose. It’s so important to have versatile, luxurious pieces that the modern mother can love and the sisters know this from experience. When Renee’s family had a couple of health scares, she and her husband realized that we had to reprioritize and move focus to our family. Tiffany agrees and says that being a working mother running her own business is “Gratifying and stressful at the same time. It’s really hard trying to find a balance in work and family. I always feel guilty like a bad mom when I need to work late shifts/weekends and end up spending less time with my daughter. But I hope that it shows her that she too can work hard, be a proud Asian woman, and not be afraid to achieve her dreams.”
Every modern kimono robe and kimono pattern in our KIM+ONO collection is the realization of all these ups and downs, the bonds and the history between sisters Renee and Tiffany. Tiffany says, "As mothers, and modern women, it’s really important for us to find balance in life. And we put that intention into designing these pieces. When you wear one of these kimonos it feels like the ultimate act of self love. If we can make a person feel good about themselves with what we do, then that hits us right in the heart. That is our mission.” Renee confirms, “I couldn’t agree more.”