Because We're Staying In Forever, We Should Wear These Crazy-Soft Kimonos
It started at a winery, of all places. The young lady helping me had the prettiest mask I had ever seen. It looked like silver silk batik with ribbons instead of elastic ties. “Oh, they’re just over in Poblacion,” she offered helpfully. “You can check them out on IG @rafikimono”
Thus began months of obsession. Stalking Rafikimono’s IG page and website, it was quite difficult not to want all its wares. Slipping one on (finally) at its showroom, the sensation of the fabric on the skin was so smooth and soft, you thank every silkworm that gave its life for this beauty.
How a genderless kimono sprung to life during a party
The idea for Rafikimono is, and originally always has been, that it's one size fits all. It's genderless—for men, women, anything in between. Plus, it’s ageless so it can be for someone who's young and hip or it could be for your lola. It's like the one garment that fits everybody; a garment that can fit someone as tiny as Shaun Sager, the Filipino pixie-like co-founder of Rafikimono, or fit a muscular six-foot-four guy.
The inception of Rafikimono, however, began when American expat Raffi Fuchs-Simon, the co-founder of the brand, had a birthday party with a bunch of friends from abroad. “So I thought, ‘Oh, it would be easy to make a kimono to give as a present,'” he says. “I used to collect fabric or I still collect fabrics, but that was when it was just me.”
Raffi admits that the aesthetic really comes from his sense of style. The clothes didn’t come first, the art did. “In the Philippines, usually an art show means you're selling your art, but the art show was also experiential,” he muses. “It's not just about a fashion accessory… it's to be made in love and worn. And as all of these ponderings were happening in my head, I met Shaun.”
How a pair of kimono aficionados fell in love and started a stylish business
“On our first date, I was wearing a kimono. It's like one of my favorite long kimonos. As we were talking, he was like, ‘Oh, I make kimonos.’” Shaun laughed.
“And she did have a collection of kimonos. And so then, it became this funny thing where we were like, okay, let's work on this together,” adds Raffi.
Shaun used to be a content creator for an agency before moving on to MAC Cosmetics as a content consultant, while Raffi ran the marketing team of an outsourcing company. They would fabric hunt abroad on the weekends, but soon, the two decided to get out of the corporate rat race and sell their velvety-smooth wares online and out of their homes.
Why Rafikimono expanded into shirts and shorts (that you can swim in)
“We started making different shirts for men and women,” Shaun began. “But Raffi has always been making his own shirts. I think that's how he and I got into it.”
“But the thing is,” says Raffi, “if you make a men's shirt, there are all the different sizes. There are so many different things that are so complicated and maybe it wouldn't work for everybody.”
And so were born the shorts. “We have a hidden pocket. You flip it over and that's like a contrasting fabric,” he describes. The shorts are also soft and airy—luxe without being too thick and heavy; comfortable and colorful. But as unlined beach shorts go, can you swim in them?
“Yeah,” Shaun laughs.
“I suppose so,” says Raffi. “They’re like my favorite thing.”
Why Raffi is obsessed with beautifully engineered pockets
“And of course, you know, they have pockets. The back pocket is, instead of floating, we put it on the side,” Raffi continues. “We just try to figure out little things like how do we improve? How do we make pockets better? Even in the teeny shorts, this is important to us—you don't even really notice it's nice because girls generally don’t have pockets in there... which doesn't make sense to us.”
Rafikimono pockets seem to be an obsession that the pair can’t let go of. “Deep pockets. Yes,” Raffi nods. “Everything we make has deep pockets. We call ourselves industrial designers rather than fashion designers, so there are deep pockets that don't bulge. It feels flowy and comfortable, it's not too tight on your stomach, it doesn't weigh you down.”
How Raffi and Shaun hunt for their wild fabrics
Thanks to a team of expert ates, who create what is essentially a kimono pattern that looks great on everybody and every body, Shaun and Raffi get to spend a lot more time doing the thing they love best: look for more fabric.
They've gone all over the world, including Italy, India, and Indonesia. Pasar Baru, one of the oldest markets in Jakarta, with seven floors of batik madness, is Raffi’s favorite. But they are just as proud to show off their hand-painted aboriginal cotton fabrics and Indian woodblock prints. Right now, the lockdown has curbed their travels, but there are plans to hop on a plane to Mexico when travel opens up again.
Why you should be wearing a luxury kimono
The duo also tries to be zero waste, which means the way fabrics are cut ensures the least amount of wastage. They have been saving retazos for two years and have bags and bags and bags of them. “We turned them into things, then we use the retazos that are too small as stuffing,” Raffi says.
Their more popular product (thanks to the pandemic) is their masks. Lightweight, breathable, silky fabric is paired with a tunnel design with cloth straps. No more elastic pinching around the ears. These are even great for those who wear glasses. Surprisingly, there is very little fog issue with these babies.
“We always say that the prints are just a bonus. It's really the comfort, the feeling—not just the feeling tactile on your skin,” says Shaun. “Like some people, they're the type that they put on a Rafikimono every single day to go to work or something.”
Owning a Rafikimono is a luxury. While buyers abroad may find its prices reasonable, locals might balk at P7,500 for a long kimono or P1,200 to P2,000 for the face masks. But there won’t be a kimono as soft, beach-ready, and well-made as a Rafikimono. With their interesting prints, these luxurious kimonos can be timeless in a creative way. “You can give it as an heirloom!” Raffi laughs proudly.
“I would say that we are not for people who choose a conservative path, the ones who want to be understated, you know,” he adds. “We are that little piece of flair that you'll want to have.”
“We try to make people's favorite piece of clothing in their closet,” says Shaun. “That piece of clothing that they wear when they're having a shitty day and they want to feel better or the clothing that they want to wear when they're having the best day of their life.”
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