Kaede NYC: Kimono Kits, Geisha Gear, Samurai Suits and More!
Nearly anything fashion-related can be found in Midtown Manhattan if you know where to look, so if you’re searching to dabble in the esoteric world of kimonos, look no further! (Well, at least continue to the end of this article).
Launched by Raymond Mongroo and Ken Inoue in November 2012, Kaede NYC is a kimono styling consultancy in the heart of Manhattan, a unique boutique wedged between a smattering of Italian restaurants and cafes at 330 West 38th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. Kaede NYC offers services that range from renting and custom-designing kimonos to consulting for special occasions and holding photo shoots, even including “full fantasy” experiences that allow clients to dress up as geishas or samurais.
According to Mongroo, the origins of Kaede NYC trace back to his fifth wedding anniversary, for which he incorporated a Japanese theme.
“My family has a very uniquely mixed ethnic background as we’re from Trinidad,” he said. “The most common mix there is either Black and Indian or Black and Chinese, and our families are mixes of both. I discovered that my ‘Chinese’ ancestry had Japanese roots because of the many Japanese immigrants who had come to Trinidad taken on Chinese names in order to assimilate. So in a celebration of my Japanese ancestry, I began gathering information on kimono-renting services in New York for my wife and I, as well as for our friends and family who were to attend the anniversary celebration. I found a few places, but some failed to respond promptly and others charged prices that were too expensive – nearly $300 for every kimono rented and an additional $100 for the help required to dress each person. A friend of mine then suggested that we find kimonos in Japan and have them shipped. This turned out to be the more economical alternative.”
After the wedding, Mongroo decided to make his newly-bought stash of kimonos available for rent. “I was sure that there were Japanese people or lovers of Japanese culture who would want to do something similar to what I had done for my wedding anniversary,” he said. “So, I expanded my inventory by finding vintage kimonos from Kyoto and Chinese pawn shops, and with the help of several other partners, created Kaede NYC. We didn’t expect much business until maybe six months after our website launched, but we’ve already been helping multiple clients! We recently rented clothes some to people attending a matsuri, or Japanese festival, from D.C. There will also be a matsuri in Brooklyn, New York, which our team here will attend. And I was just contacted by organizers for a Japanese-themed party who are planning to send people to us to rent kimonos.”
Si “Cherise” Chen, who began working for Kaede NYC as an intern and is currently one of its partners, said that her experiencing has been so far “really interesting.” She continued: “I helped launch all the social media for Kaede NYC. This included updating our Facebook and Twitter profiles and creating content for our website, much of which was our team just blogging about the things we like about Japanese culture.”
Other partners include Japanese designers Yukiko Sato, who studied at the Joshibi University of Art and Design in Tokyo and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and Masae Satouchi, who studied at the Yamano Kitsuke school. Sato’s resume boasts extensive experience in wardrobe styling, as well as a self-started fashion chain of “tesage” bags made from the leftover fabric of kimonos. Satouchi, who has worked for more than ten years as a hair and makeup artist, received a license to train kimono dresses from the renowned international Yamano Kitsuke School and has even created a more modern yukata (casual kimono) arrangement.
“Yukiko was the one to organize my Japanese-style wedding anniversary, and we brought in Masae for help in makeup, for which she has a great background,” said Mongroo.
Current interns for Kaede NYC are Marketing Intern Karen Goh, Social Media Intern Michelle Del Rosario, and Marketing and Social Media Interns Melissa Tow and Mai Woodcock. According to Mongroo, these four ladies comprise the second group of interns that Kaede NYC has so far brought on board.
Tow, a student of Rutgers University studying English Literature with a minor in political science, said that she was drawn to the internship because she “adore[s] how Japanese fashion isn’t afraid to be bold and colorful, with intricate embroidery.”
Woodcock, who studies Anthropology and Communication Studies at Montclair State University, said, “I love Japanese fashion because it can be so ‘out there,’ and it goes against the well-known fact that Japan can be a bit conservative. I love the culture because it is so many things: wacky, peaceful, energetic, elegant… I go to Japan every year and each time I find something fun or interesting. I love that respect is a huge part of the culture, that they are so close to nature and spirituality.” The daughter of a African-American father and a Japanese mother, Woodcock is fortunate enough to speak Japanese and is therefore often tasked with translating.
She continued: “As an intern, we’ve helped create a brochure, which I translated into Japanese, we went to a celebration of Japanese culture called Japan Week at Grand Central dressed in yukatas, we learned how to put on yukatas and help dress our clients, and we’ve been keeping our Facebook and blog updated. I think Kaede NYC is unique because we respect and keep up the traditional aspect of the kimono, but we include our own modern flair to it. We’re fun, personable, and knowledgeable!”
When asked about why he chose “Kaede” as the name of his boutique, Mongroo said: “The goal is to have Kaede NYC as a source of not only traditional Japanese wear, but also traditional ethnic wear for different cultures. Kaede means ‘maple’ in Japanese, and we liked this name because the maple tree symbolizes something that is growing, that is strong. In addition, the maple tree can be found in Asia, North America, Europe and Africa, so it reflects our cosmopolitan background.”
He added with a smile, “Also it’s the name of my favorite character in Elfen Lied,” referring to a popular manga and anime series.
To schedule an appointment with or learn more about Kaede NYC, please visit www.kaedenyc.com.