A brand that’s a custom fit Kondo knit Co. Ltd.
Website: Kondo knit Co. Ltd.
Category: Japanese Apparel & Textiles
His own customer
“Basically, we create clothes we would want to wear,” says Kazuya Kondo, the managing director of Kondo Knit Co., Ltd. In fact, Kondo’s dark knit coat, understated sweater and linen shirt are his own products.
Two brands for two modes
Weaving through his bustling factory, Kondo discusses the overarching concept behind the company’s two brands, evam eva and vie. Kondo explains that the company designs, produces and sells a full lineup of evam eva articles, their brand for everyday wear including jackets, pants, hats, wallets and even shoes. In addition, their vie brand covers relaxation and household goods like pajamas and towels.
Adapting to changing times
Twenty years ago, when Kondo first started working at his wife’s family business, it would have been hard to imagine that the business would develop to have proprietary brands, eight stores in Japan and a growing overseas distribution network. But Kondo Knit is a business that has adapted well to changing times.
World War II had hardly ended when Kondo’s wife’s grandfather saw an opportunity to provide for his family. Using surplus silk material from parachutes, he separated the fibers into thread and created knit garments with the help of a relative’s manual knitting machine. Kondo Knit’s main business became OEM for knit garments, with their clothing for women and children sold in Tokyo and Osaka, and even in the US and the former Soviet Union.
The “triple punch”
But around 1996, as China’s garment factories were beginning to increase output, Kondo witnessed his company suffering from “a triple punch” of decreasing orders, lower retail prices and an increasingly disadvantageous cost structure. “We did not see much of a future in OEM,” he recalls. The company decided that survival necessitated starting its own brand.
A successful transition
After some initial tests, Kondo Knit registered its evam eva brand in 2001 and thus initiated a crossover by replacing OEM work with this new clothing line, followed subsequently with vie, both of which are designed by Kondo’s wife. They faced the challenge of creating a new distribution network, but their efforts paid off, as they were able to reduce the vast majority of OEM work several years ago.
The company made its first forays overseas by entering a Paris exhibition in 2008. Kondo remembers being told at first that he shouldn’t expect to get any orders; yet, much to his pleasant surprise, they did. Kondo is now operating a store in Paris as a yearlong trial, with the goal of using the lessons learned to later establish a more permanent shop. Kondo Knit has also been showing its brands at exhibitions in New York and Los Angeles since February and September of 2013, respectively.
Both in Japan and abroad, customers have shown increasing interest in evam eva and vie. Clothing may not make the man, but it certainly has made a strong business for Kondo Knit-as a result of adapting to changing times.
Website: Kondo knit Co. Ltd.
JETRO, or the Japan External Trade Organization, is a government-related organization that works to promote mutual trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world. Originally established in 1958 to promote Japanese exports abroad, JETRO’s core focus in the 21st century has shifted toward promoting foreign direct investment into Japan and helping small to medium size Japanese firms maximize their global export potential.