We first came across Colenimo (www.colenimo.com) earlier this year when we were researching our article on quality women’s knitwear. We were finding it a real struggle to find UK made, classically stylish garments for women (not for myself you understand, but I am well aware we have a good following of women readers). Thankfully we came across Colenimo, and consequentially Aya Nakagawa its founder and chief designer. When I saw Colenimo’s Spring/Summer Lookbook we knew that we had to feature Colenimo on The Holborn, the ‘Bright Young Things’/’Great Gatsby’ vibe of the whole collection is so painfully spot on in its execution that we immediately got in contact with Aya to find out more about this London based brand…
So how did Colenimo get started. How did you actually go about getting the company up and running?
I started Colenimo a couple of years after moving to London, I had previously worked in fashion in Tokyo for eight years. I was studying English and doing various bits of work experience at brands in London and decided to start my own thing. Something about London makes things seem possible, the attitude towards start-ups is much more positive here. I was lucky to have friends in London who worked in the industry as hair-dressers, make-up artists and photographers so that was (and still is) a huge help. Getting the right images I think is really important for a new brand.
In the beginning I was doing a lot of the work all by myself from my bedroom (design, pattern making, production) which was a big change from working at larger companies in Tokyo, it was very hard work but was a lot of fun.
We printed look books and sent them out and were lucky to be picked up by a few stores in London, Couverture were the first shop to buy from us and we are proud to say are still a stockist today.
What kind of elements inspire you during your design process?
I’m really inspired by fabrics and accessories, when I feel a particular fabric I can almost see the final garment in my hands. I do a lot of research at vintage fashion fairs & flea markets, as well as all the interesting details and quirks of design, it’s inspiring to see the quality and finesse of older pieces of clothing.
Where do you source the fabrics for your clothing? What have been your favourite fabrics to use?
We’ve recently been using a number of fabrics from a family run Yorkshire mill called Moon (Abraham Moon & Sons of Leeds) . The pride and attention to detail that goes into every meter of fabric they produce is amazing, that kind of commitment to quality is a huge source of inspiration to us. We love to use utility fabrics, fabrics with a purpose and a story, for example, British Navy Melton Wool or Waxed cottons.
How do you ensure the quality of your product? Where are they manufactured?
We manufacture at a small number of factories in London. During the production process we are in constant contact with our factories, we often visit so we can see with our own eyes the quality of the final product. This kind of relationship we have with the actual people who make our would just not be possible if we were to manufacture abroad.
What kind production techniques go into making one of your garments?
We use quite traditional techniques really, technically our garments don not demand any really high tech production methods. We do a lot of bound and French seam finishing, which lasts longer than the usual over-locked finishing you see on most mass-produced modern garments. Our leather pieces are cut by hand; our leather cutter is a genius at getting as little wastage out of each hide as possible.
We recently started producing a range of pieces that are over-dyed with Woad, a traditional English Indigo. The woad is grown, processed and applied at a single site using traditional techniques. The woad gives a beautiful deep indigo colour and the process means that every piece has it’s own character and ages distinctively.
What can we expect from the new Spring/Summer Collection?
SS13 was inspired by tennis star Helen Wills Moody AKA “Little Miss Poker Face”, famous in the 1920’s and 30’s. The collection smart preppy pieces with casual vintage sportswear inspired attire.
Do you have a personal favourite piece from Colenimo? What would you wear it with?
My all time favourite has to be the Melton Wool Flight Jacket from AW11/12, it’s a really simple piece but I wear it all the time with just about anything. It’s good just casual with jeans or chinos but has enough vintage charm to pair up with a girlie summer.
Colenimo is available through its own online store (shop.colenimo.com), The Swanfield Boutique (swanfieldboutique.co.uk) & Couverture (www.couvertureandthegarbstore.com). You can also follow Colenimo on Twitter, and Tumblr.
AN & JMN