Yoshimi Radstrom Of KABAN+ On Fostering Imagination

PHOTOS BY KAREN HERNANDEZ FOR THE ASSEMBLIST

PHOTOS BY KAREN HERNANDEZ FOR THE ASSEMBLIST

Here at Brand Assembly we appreciate our designer community's unique and often innovative point of view within their respective brands. With this in mind, we are excited to introduce today's studio chat with the truly creative designer behind KABAN+.

Enter Yoshimi Radstrom, the LA-based designer who is re-energizing the conversation around fostering timeless fashion. In her work with KABAN+ Yoshimi reconstructs vintage clothing (the most current assortment offers quirky t-shirts, patchwork denim and woven bags) to provide her customers with fun staples that are truly one of a kind. In doing so KABAN+ is carving out a niche path in the contemporary market - and we've taken notice. 

To find out more about Yoshimi's plans for KABAN+ we visited the inspiring designer at her Los Angeles studio to see what she's working on, the importance of maintaining quality craftsmanship and what she's assembling daily from a design perspective. Read on to learn more and also enjoy a second part of our conversation over on The Style Line.

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Please introduce yourself!

I moved to the U.S. from Japan in my 20’s and have been working in the fashion industry as a textile, graphic and fashion designer ever since. I chose the U.S. because I admired American culture and was inspired by its music, cinema and fashion. I value the relationships and friendships I have built here over the years, and am always looking forward to the new people I will meet. My friends and family make me who I am, now and going forward. Having a great support network is very important to me.

Talk to us about the initial inspiration in launching KABAN+.

"Kaban" means purse/bag in Japanese. I’ve been making my own bags since my teens and whenever I carried them people asked me where I got them. About 4 and a half years ago, I made a multi-colored crochet bag and got so many questions about where I got it that I decided to start making them to sell to friends. KABAN started as purse line, but the expansion to clothing was a natural progression for me. Hence, KABAN+!

As a contemporary brand what has it been like to cater to both men and women? Do you have any advice for fellow designers who are looking to design a compelling assortment for both?

Many KABAN+ pieces can be unisex. I usually use men's vintage to start my designs, so it’s natural that bigger sizes fit men and smaller sizes fit women. I also use feminine vintage materials, like vintage linens, to make clothes just for women. I think that making designs that can work for both genders and look good together as a collection makes it easier to appeal to a wider demographic.

With KABAN+’s commitment to reconstructing vintage clothing how do you maintain quality craftsmanship and what are three big takeaways you’ve learned?

I carefully select all of my source materials, but using vintage means that most of the time they come with imperfections. To maintain a level of quality, they are repaired and washed before being turned into new designs. When the final product is completed, they are washed again to reveal any defects and are repaired if any appear. 

I always try to explain to the customer that this is upcycled, reconstructed vintage clothing and imperfections are part of what makes each piece one of a kind.

How did you first connect with Brand Assembly and what has been the most rewarding aspect of being part of the designer community? 

My friend read about Brand Assembly in WWD and contacted me when I was in Japan over the summer to help me apply. It was a surprise when she informed me that KABAN+ was accepted to the show. Brand Assembly was our first trade show, and was a great learning experience. We made contacts from LA to Japan, and got a feature in WWD as one of the emerging brands for the Los Angeles Spring 2017 Market (they picked one brand from each show). It was inspiring to speak to the other designers, exchange experiences and ideas, and hear their success stories.

What do you assemble daily?

I'm always trying to get outside of what's comfortable and expected. I like to break the balance and value of things, and create new balance and value through reimagining them. Things that are considered ugly now may be beautiful next season. I think there is nothing definitely wrong and definitely right in the fashion world, or in any aesthetic field. Whatever I do each day, I embrace this concept.