Kinobi is a Melbourne based store that promotes slow and ethical fashion by incorporating a number of brands that create clothes in a slow and considered manner. Kinobi is a name that comes from the Japanese phrase “ki no bi”; a term coined to describe the coming together of beauty and function. Ally Macrae launched Kinobi to promote slow fashion in the face of an industry that is becoming increasingly ignorant towards the ethics of manufacturing and producing clothes. As the slow and ethical fashion movement gains traction, she was able to answer a few questions about the importance of this movement in the fashion industry and more importantly, how Kinobi caters for the ethically inclined individual.
What do you believe is important about the sustainable and ethical fashion movement?
The mainstream fashion system as it stands today is broken. The speed and volume at which new products are being made doesn’t make sense any more and it’s not serving anyone – not customers, not designers, not the environment and definitely not those along the supply chain who are actually making the products. The sustainable and ethical fashion movement is important because it draws attention to these issues. Without awareness there can be no action. It’s important for the wider industry, but also on a personal, individual level.
“Slow fashion is a mindful mode of creating and consuming clothing. It connects the wearer with the garment, and the people behind the product too. It separates fashion from the trend cycle and instead honours design, functionality and expertise.”
How do you think slow fashion has the potential to transform the fashion industry? Do you think this is something that could realistically happen?
By questioning the way we design, make, sell and buy fashion, we can find better ways of working (and wearing). I think today there is a disconnect in the way we relate to clothing. In essence it is something that is an intimate part of our everyday. It serves us on a practical and psychological level. But fashion has become a disposable commodity. Slow fashion is working to reconnect us with clothing, to emphasise purpose, craftsmanship and transparency. I think it’s a movement that is already transforming the industry and while change may be slow, I’m hopeful for the future.
What does slow fashion mean to you?
Slow fashion is a mindful mode of creating and consuming clothing. It connects the wearer with the garment, and the people behind the product too. It separates fashion from the trend cycle and instead honours design, functionality and expertise.
In what ways are you making slow and sustainable fashion an accessible movement? Why is this important to you?
On a practical level, we try to promote slow and sustainable fashion by telling the story of the designers we stock on each product page, through our blog Kinobi Journal, social media and our regular pop up events. We hope to introduce people to new brands creating really beautiful products that also work in a considered way by showcasing their process and inspirations. Another crucial element is customer service. It’s so important to be responsive, open to questions and enthusiastic about what you are selling. The conversations we have with our customers, either in person or online, are key to making slow fashion accessible.
“There is something special about wearing a garment that you know has been made ethically. For me, it’s often because the item has traces of the maker or designer… As the wearer, you take more care and respect of a garment like this. You look after it, mend it, hold on to it. It’s a dynamic that fast-fashion can’t replicate.”
What benefits come with wearing and creating ethical fashion?
There is something special about wearing a garment that you know has been made ethically. For me, it’s often because the item has traces of the maker or designer. When something has been carefully constructed, it feels different. The fabric is usually much nicer on the body, the seams more robust, the fit better. As the wearer, you take more care and respect of a garment like this. You look after it, mend it, hold on to it. It’s a dynamic that fast-fashion can’t replicate. In terms of creating ethical fashion, one benefit is the ability to really stand behind your product and have a sense of pride in putting something out into the world that has been made in a positive way. It’s also far more sustainable in the long term.
What do you look for in brands represented on Kinobi’s online store?
Kinobi strives to promote the work of emerging, independent designers who use hand-made, ethical, local, sustainable or small-scale production methods. But first and foremost, we only stock brands that have a clear vision and aesthetic that resonates with us. There has to be a sense of creativity and a unique perspective. At the end of the day, even if a product has been made in a completely zero-waste, ethical way, if no one wants to buy and use it then it is not sustainable at all.
How do you promote inclusiveness in the brands you represent and the people you cater for?
We are a small, independent business so it can be challenging catering to everyone but it’s important to us to stock garments that can suit a range of lifestyles, body shapes and ages. Because we stock labels from all around the world, I think the store has aunique feeling that is based on shared values and ideals rather than being limited to one market segment or age bracket. There is a mix that comes through from the products that have been made in different regions, and developed from diverse sources of inspiration, as well as the imagery that is a mix of in-house photography shot in Melbourne and shoots by the designers.
“Personal style is an integral part of the slow fashion concept. It’s about knowing ones self and staying true to that, rather than buying and wearing what we think we should.”
Do you have any fashion inspirations or icons? If so, how are these reflected in your own personal style and in the kind of fashion that Kinobi promotes.
I have many sources of inspiration! Possibly too many. I’m very enthusiastic about a lot of things, but at the same time after many years I’ve come to know what I don’t like too – which is almost more helpful. I’m most drawn to things that are simple and understated, that consider the wearer first. On a personal level, I love vintage workwear, natural fabrics, relaxed silhouettes and neutral colours. I think these elements can be found in Kinobi too.
In what ways do you integrate personal style with the slow fashion movement?
Personal style is an integral part of the slow fashion concept. It’s about knowing ones self and staying true to that, rather than buying and wearing what we think we should. For me, this means taking the time to consider how a new item will fit into my life, what value it will add and what function it will serve.
You can support Kinobi and the designers here.