Tina Zulu knows kimonos. The niche market PR and branding guru launched her passion project- Kimono Zulu – September 2016, and it has been growing organically ever since. She officially launched at Launch HTX, and currently hosts pop-ups, trunk shows, and even offers kimono playdates; one of which happened while I was visiting Houston a couple months ago. I met up with Tina, along with the brand’s muse- Zoe “Fashion Plate” at Launch, where the kimonos were set up on a clothing rack. Tina also brought along other fun props and accessories. We also utilized some pieces from Launch HTX, such as: gloves from Inclan Studio, bracelets from Burdlife, handbags from Magpies & Peacocks, and necklaces from Modern Artifacts. As you can see from the photos, we clearly had a blast!
Tina, in a way, is like my soul sister, at least in regards to fashion. She’s always had that eclectic style and creative spirit. “Vintage is a part of my personal style — I love mixing old and new, high-end designer pieces with vintage gems and thrift scores to express myself.”
Throughout the 90s, she ran an event production company called Urban Sugar Productions, where she met a thorough list of artists, models, designers, etc., most of whom she still works with today; like graffiti artist- GONZO247. “On a whim, GONZO tagged a couture evening gown for me for a graffiti themed gala. I loved it so much, and it inspired me to work with other artists to embellish our kimonos. GONZO really inspires me and I’m so proud of the work he does to brand and represent Houston’s creative spirit.”
Tina has always been a fan of Japanese culture, which started with Hello Kitty (I mean…who isn’t a fan of HK…). She’s been collecting the cute cartoon kitty memorabilia since its’ launch. When she took her son to the Japan Festival last year, she came across a booth that offered vintage kimonos. She immediately connected with the vendor and invited her to do a booth at Houston Vintage Festival. When that vendor was unable to do so, Tina offered to do the booth on her behalf. “I think it was at that moment, that I realized I wanted to be a kimono hustler! So, while filling out Houston Vintage Festival vendor form, I had to enter a company name and upload a logo so that’s when I came up with “Kimono Zulu” — when you marry someone with a cool family name like ZULU, believe me, you’ll use it for everything!”
So the concept of Kimono Zulu was born…..
“Our brand muse- Zoe is a long-time friend and personal inspiration — not only in the fashion sense, but also by the way she lives her life. Zoe’s fun-loving attitude, creative energy, and generosity is contagious and we are grateful to have her support as we spread Kimono fever to all.”
Since launching, the brand has collaborated with several fashion designers and multimedia artists to reimagine and embellish vintage kimonos. These artists have done anything from screen printing, hand painting, to spray painting their designs on the kimonos; while the fashion designers cut and re-design the kimonos, transforming them into new and sometimes more modern silhouettes. Collaborations to date have included: Selven O’Keef Jarmon, Katsola, Christy Karll, Rene Cruz, Elijah Coccetti, Dandee Warhol, Jennifer Gabiola of Dawning Soul, Royal McGee, Ann Brooks, Mina Gaber, Soi-K, Judy Masliyah of My Flaming Heart….and stay tuned for more!
“I am honored to have had the opportunity to be showcased among so much local talent. I made great relationships with fellow designers and wonderful people that have since kept in touch with — and even collaborated with. They helped me “launch” Kimono Zulu and introduce it to a broader audience and for that, I’m forever grateful!”
“Every kimono I have is special, a one-of-a-kind treasure. One of the oldest I’ve had was patchwork silk kimono of beautiful shibori (Japanese form of tie-dye) fabric from the 30s.”
Prices start at $150-$325 for vintage kimonos and $250-$525 for artist collaboration pieces. For more information, visit the brand’s Facebook page, and follow on Instagram. Follow @kimonozulu on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to find their next trunk show or pop-up! Or schedule a kimono playdate with Tina Zulu, firstname.lastname@example.org, 713.581.4788.
** All images c/o Tina Zulu **