The brand KOTOWA emerged from a desire to appreciate the style of kimonos in the same way as regular fashion. The brand commenced accepting orders in December 2023 and has been thriving since, with orders streaming in from customers overseas.
The brand is led by three individuals: Mademoiselle Yulia, a DJ and model who also showcases kimono styles on her YouTube channel; Miki Hisayama, the founder of a Japanese clothing brand; and Takako Kabasawa, a kimono editor and creative director. The brand name KOTOWA encapsulates the essence of both Eastern and Western influences. It blends with the nostalgic charm of “Koto” (古都 – the ancient capital), and intertwines the notions of harmony and the joy of embracing “Wa” (和 – Japanese culture), crafting a name filled with significance.
The inaugural item in the collection is the Duo Coat, a versatile piece that complements both traditional Japanese clothing and Western attire. It is crafted to be worn not only with kimonos but also as part of everyday looks.
According to Creative Director Kabasawa, the focal point of their attention was the design of the collar.
“We maintained the essence of the 1950s with a broad lapel, while making subtle adjustments to the size and angle of the collar during the toile stage to harmonize with the kimono’s lapel and ensure a stylish appearance when worn in Western style.”
At first glance, it may resemble a pea coat, but the refined lines along the kimono collar and the cocoon silhouette seamlessly harmonize with the kimono ensemble.
The brand’s journey began with the real-life challenges faced by three individuals who share a genuine passion for both kimono and fashion.
“I had an experience where I bought a mantle from a fashion brand to wear for both Japanese and Western styles. Unfortunately, the collar didn’t work well with the kimono, so, in the end, I could only wear it with Western outfits. When I shared this story with Ms. Yulia and Ms. Hisayama, they had similar experiences. That’s when we decided, if it doesn’t exist in the market, let’s create it !” explained Kabasawa, detailing the brand’s inception and also the concept behind the Duo-Coat.
“Existing dual-purpose coats seemed too conservative, lacking a modern appeal. Our goal was to create a design that is both modern and timeless, drawing inspiration from the classical couture spirit of the 1950s. After two toiles and three sample prototypes, we fine-tuned the design to achieve the current balanced look.”
The meticulous collar features a design where, by fastening hidden buttons, it can be worn with a closed collar style, offering a 2-way design. It seems that the term “Duo” in the name Duo Coat represents not only the fusion of Japanese and Western styles but also signifies a 2-way functionality.
Additionally, thoughtful details adorn the cuffs, catering to the preferences of kimono enthusiasts. The incorporation of slim set-in sleeves from the shoulder seams to the front, coupled with a split raglan sleeve at the back offering a wide range of motion, ensures a sleek and comfortable fit for both kimonos and clothing with voluminous sleeves or thick knits. To prevent kimono sleeves from peeking out of the cuffs, straps have been added, showcasing a considerate touch for enhanced comfort.
Traditional practices are often maintained even when their old customs and forms have lost their original meaning. The desire to preserve tradition can often lead to continued adherence to certain aspects. In the world of kimono, there are plenty of established norms that can make individuals feel restricted, as if they are tied to and must stick to a specific mold. On the other hand, attempting to break free from these norms by embracing the unconventional may result in creating something entirely new and different.
“While cherishing the fundamental concept of the ‘good old days,’ our aim is to elevate it to a modern level. We aspire to enjoy kimono just like fashion while preserving its fundamental essence. Our vision is to create things not based on what generally fits or what is convenient, but simply on what ‘we truly desire.’ As a result, we believe we’ve crafted something that resonates timelessly and agelessly with women who wish to revel in fashion and kimono without constraints and limitations.”
Miki Hisayama (left), Mademoiselle Julia (center), and Takako Kabasawa (right)
Coats designed for kimonos often require substantial storage space and are primarily intended for winter wear. Considering the infrequency of occasions to wear kimonos, finding a coat versatile enough for more regular use poses quite a challenge. Nevertheless, the Duo Coat, crafted for everyday wear, seems to offer a promising solution for both young women aspiring to wear kimonos and stylish ladies with a penchant for fashion.
Looking to the future, the brand’s primary focus continues in the realm of kimono-inspired items, with exciting plans to expand into accessories and innerwear. KOTOWA introduces something truly meaningful, blending a dedication to preserving tradition with an embrace of innovation, all while crafting designs that resonate with the essence of ‘things we truly desire.’