AAPI Month: The History and Heritage We're Celebrating All Month Long

KIM+ONO is a small family business founded on the heritage and history of the Tam family. Sisters and co-founders, Renee and Tiffany Tam, have created modern kimono robes which were inspired by traditional Japanese kimono and their experiences with the traditional garments as children. While we are always celebrating the Tam family’s Asian American heritage, we are especially excited to celebrate AAPI month all May long! 

If you have shopped our floral kimono robes, kimono wraps, and plus size kimono robes, you may not be familiar with AAPI month and the history behind the month long celebration. So today in the journal, we’re taking the heritage woven into each of our modern kimono robes and putting it on the page so you can celebrate with us and learn more about AAPI heritage this month.

What is AAPI month & what does it celebrate?

AAPI Month (or Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month) is held annually every May. It celebrates, acknowledges, and remembers the contributions to our American culture and history from individuals and communities of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. Included under the umbrella term “AAPI” are all cultures from the continent of Asia, which includes all of East, Southeast, and South Asia, the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.

In America, there are over 22 million people of AAPI descent and make up around seven percent of our population in the United States. While our floral kimono robes have taken inspiration from Renee and Tiffany Tam’s families’ Chinese and Japanese heritage, we are celebrating all of the diverse AAPI cultures all month long!

KIM+ONO Kimono Robes
How did AAPI month become official?

Starting in the 1970s, there began a movement to officially recognize AAPI contributions to our country, but it took more than a decade to truly bring it into official existence. It started out as a week long celebration during the first ten days of May in 1977. Frank Horton, a New York representative introduced a resolution to the House of Representatives and the senate took up a similar joint resolution later that same year, which was not passed. Following that rejection of the joint resolution in 1977, Horton then brought a new resolution, which asked for the president to make the first ten days of May the official week-long celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander individuals and communities in America.

Congress did pass that resolution and President Jimmy Carter signed it into law in 1978. It wasn’t until 1990 that Congress expanded the observance of the week, which purposefully included May 7th and May 10th (more on that below), into a full month designated to AAPI heritage. Finally in 1992, President George H. W. Bush signed the law instating May as AAPI month.

Handpainted Silk Cherry Blossom Kimono Robe
Why is AAPI month in May?

May is integral to AAPI history in the United States and was chosen for significant reasons. May commemorates two important days in AAPI history: the first date is May 7, 1843. That date recognizes the first Japanese people to immigrate to the United States. The second date, May 10, 1869, is commemorative because it’s recognized as the Golden Spike Day, which marked the final stake of the transcontinental railroad. The project was only completed due to significant contributions and labor from Chinese workers.

Tiffany and Renee Tam, sisters and co-founders of KIM+ONO
Photo by Augie Chang
Celebrating Our AAPI Heritage through Modern Kimono Robes

In some ways, Tiffany and Renee Tam were destined to open KIM+ONO since their childhood growing up in San Francisco. 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; it was always a second home to them. As they got a bit older, they pitched in at the stores and running the shops became truly a family affair, something they built together. 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. The young girls got a taste of Asian culture, traditional Japanese kimono, handcrafted techniques, and more as they traveled to Asia with their parents.

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 traditional Japanese kimono 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 Kimono Store
Photo by Augie Chang
Modern Floral Kimono Robes, Woven with AAPI Heritage

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 Japanese kimono — their versatility, importance to the family, and kimono fabric — and weave them into a modern kimono robe with similar elements. The most striking parts of the traditional Japanese kimono were also elements the Tam sisters believed modern women craved: luxuriously soft kimono fabrics and the durability and versatility to work as an everyday garment, styled multiple ways. Using the history of kimono and inspiration from vintage Asian art, they set out to build their line of floral kimono robes. Now, you can wear their creations as a silk kimono jacket over jeans, a plus size 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. The kimono fabric is woven with this heritage and the Tam sisters’ childhood history. This AAPI heritage is something we’re always celebrating, but this month in particular, we invite you to join us in honoring the heritage behind each piece. And 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 behind the floral kimono robe that’s as unique as you are.

Business Creative Process Handcrafted Heritage

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  • Hi Julie, thank you so much for your kind words and support! We’re so happy to hear you feel special each time you slip into your kimono robe, that means so much to us. Thanks again for sharing your kind thoughts!

    Courtney on
  • Thank you for sharing your story with us – Watching the TV news this week & learning more about the month of May & the impact of American Asian Pacific Islander contributions made your story so very real & emotional for me personally. Several years ago I purchased one of your kimonos that left me feeling so special when pairing it with jeans & white tee shirt even to grocery store of all places!!!!! Your garments scream, “look at me, look at my beautiful kimono”, & on a day or night out I feel so lovely; the month of May coupled with your story makes me want to share your story after compliments from strangers – Currently I own six of your beautiful kimonos.

    Julie Blake on

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