Tell us a little bit about the history of Kim + Ono! When did it launch and how did you get to where you are now?
Our family has been in San Francisco for years and Chinatown is a second home to us. We grew up in this neighborhood, working in our family business since we were kids, so it means a lot to us to be able to bring something new to our community. This is where our roots are, so we are thrilled to be continuing and adding to the traditions of this neighborhood.
Where did the passion for the art of Kimono design come from?
We’ve been selling kimonos in our family business for about 20 years. Back then when we were young, we traveled with our parents to Asia to see the craftsmanship process in person – each pattern being intricately hand painted, which created a beautiful piece of artwork that you can drape over your body. That tradition and culture really inspired us to make this a dream.
We love that your business started as a family effort! How has this element affected the success of Kim + Ono?
Yes our family’s support has been tremendous to our success! Growing up our parents have taught us the core values of determination, good work ethics, and building relationships, which shaped who we are today. We saw our parents endlessly working hard in order to support the family, which helped build the foundation of where we are at – to give us this opportunity to reach our dreams and success.
What are both the best and most challenging parts of working with your sister?
Best: We are each other’s best friends! 🙂 Though working in different departments (Renee/online & Tiffany/retail store), we’ve been working in the family business together for over 20 years, and compliment each other well with our experiences and make the perfect team.
Challenging: Sometimes we are not always on the same page – but the key is to be open minded, listen, and trust each other. Throughout all these years, we’ve both learned a lot from each other, and continuing to grow every day.
Where do you find inspiration when creating new designs?
We get our inspiration from Asian vintage art and in our travels.
Your store looks incredible! What made you decide to rebrand, and open a brick-and-mortar?
Aww thank you!! As we grew up working at our parents retail businesses in Chinatown, we have always felt that there was a lot of potential to bring kimono robes to an even larger audience that we hadn’t tapped into yet. With that, the rebranding process started, and soon after, we received an opportunity for our retail space. Everything is always about timing! The right timing helped us meet the right people, assemble the right team and then create, our dream of re-branding and expanding the family business into our very first brick and mortar in Chinatown.
How did you decide on an aesthetic for your new space?
We both were always drawn to modern, simple, and clean, and wanted the space to be aligned with our new re-branding. Definitely, we couldn’t have designed our store without our dream team: Alan, our architect designer from Alan Tse Design who helped create the foundation of the space, and Danielle from Designsake Studio who helped us with the whole rebrand from top to bottom. We wanted a minimalist aesthetic so that as soon as people walk in, they feel like they can take a deep breath and just relax. Everyone loves the mural and so do we! It was created by Valerie Santillo from Kamperett. We get a lot of inspiration from Asian vintage art, and one of our logos is a peony flower, so we showed Valerie those inspirations and she came up with the whole piece. Many of our kimono robes are hand-painted, so Valerie was the perfect match because she hand-painted the mural as well.
With your new storefront, how will your business change from day-to-day?
Now, with the new large space – retail in the front, and online operations in the back, the business is running a lot more productively and efficiently than ever. An added bonus – we get to meet all of our customers in person, and give them the personable shopping experience that we’ve always wanted! Through that, I am so grateful and humbled to hear all the amazing feedback from all that have traveled near and far to come to our space.
If you could choose one person to wear one of your Kimonos, who would it be, and why?
Joanne Encarnacion (@gofitjo) – This girl is amazing!! She’s real, honest, empowering, and speaks to the soul. Truly inspiring and encompasses everything on how I want to live my life – focusing on health and wellness.
If you could travel back in time, what advice would you tell yourself at the time you decided to start a business?
You can’t do EVERYTHING yourself, otherwise you will never grow. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Find amazing people who are good at what they do and learn to delegate. Building a great team to support you means everything.