Meet the Experimental New Brand That’s Making Kimonos a Modern Staple

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Kayomo Lab Black and White Kimono
Photo: Courtesy of Kayomo Lab

Western fashion has always had a certain fascination with ethnic clothing, often borrowing from cultures around the world and adapting pieces for its clientele. From Christian Dior’s kaftan-inspired dresses in the 50s to Acne Studios’ take on the salwar kameez for Spring/Summer 2017, recent decades have seen traditional clothing become mainstream trends. It is this same fascination that led two friends from London (both of Lebanese origin) to revisit the kimono and transform it into a modern-day wardrobe staple.

Earlier this week, Ziad Khoury and Alexandre Al Khawam launched unisex label Kayomo Lab during London Fashion Week. Their first collection, ‘Project 001’, focuses entirely on the kimono, an idea born from Ziad’s childhood fascination with Japanese culture. The word, which translates to “a thing to wear” (“ki” meaning to wear and “mono” meaning a thing), is perfectly in line with his views of fashion; “I believe that you should be wearing your clothes and not the other way around.” He adds, “The ability to redefine that concept and adapt it to a modern generation that moves and acts and thinks differently than the previous one was the real challenge behind the excitement of starting this first Kimono-focused collection.”

A collection really comes together when you first design your piece then look for the best fabrics to bring them to life.

Ziad brings two years of experience in the Italian fashion industry to the table. When asked how formative that time was for him, he replies, “My two years spent working for Italian fashion houses were really a foot in the door but nothing more. That experience was helpful to understand the business aspect of fashion, but in my opinion it really was my curiosity and my passion for tailoring that pushed me. It pushed me to travel across Italy to find the best fabrics and the best manufacturers. I was lucky to meet a mentor and rely on a group of retired master tailors who opened a lot of doors for me. They made me understand that a collection really comes together when you first design your piece then look for the best fabrics to bring them to life.” As for Alexandre, don’t let his day job as a financial consultant fool you; the young financier also has a sold-out painting exhibition in London under his belt.

So which one of them acts as the right brain and which one as the left? “We are similar in so many ways but are also very complementary in others, so it is just a natural flow that works. We have known each other since we were born and have developed a close friendship since our early days, so our edge is in knowing how to balance that relationship to achieve the best output without even thinking about it. Both of us are creative and versatile people, so we wear different hats and are comfortable juggling many tasks,” they explain.

Kayomo Lab Brown Kimono
Photo: Courtesy of Kayomo Lab

If the name Alexandre Al Khawam rings a bell, that’s because you’ve probably read about his marriage to acclaimed jewelry designer Noor Fares last summer. While Ziad calls her “a true ambassador of the Arts who inspires hundreds of people to be creative”, Alexandre admits that her feedback was instrumental in the launch of their new brand. “Noor is a perfectionist, so she will always push you to be one, encouraging you not to settle for something until the piece is 100 percent perfect. Noor’s creative aura is quite rare. Her spirit, whether consciously or unconsciously, must have had an effect on me over the years,” he shares. Her number one piece of advice? “If you are serious about the brand, be prepared to spend at least ten years building it, and never, ever compromise on quality.”

As for what the future holds for Kayomo Lab, Ziad and Alexandre revealed that “Project 002” was already in production, with a focus on providing an additional 200 kimono jackets and, later, trousers and shirts to match them. They also hinted at some big-name collaborations and a foray into more ethnic-inspired concepts. Watch this space.

To place an order, visit www.kayomolab.com.

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