BY ROJEN LEGASPI
In 2019, Natsuko Kondo, the founder of Kodama Apprel, a unisex slow fashion label that is hand produced in Melbourne, made a pivotal decision that altered the course of her life’s narrative.
Opting to follow the siren call of her dreams, she left her job in fashion production and embarked on the path of creativity and self-discovery. Little did she know that a global upheaval in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic awaited, reshaping her journey in unexpected ways. Navigating the uncertain tides, Natsuko found herself engaged in casual and part-time jobs while steadfastly nurturing her dream of creating meaningful designs.
EMBRACING THE CREATIVE PROCESS: THE HEART OF DESIGN
For Natsuko, the allure of design rests in the process itself. It’s not confined to a singular aspect but rather the holistic journey, from conceptual sketches to the final production, Natsuko’s design choices bear the weight of conscience. Exposure to mass production across different countries made her realise the fashion industry’s wastefulness.
With this newfound awareness, she embarked on a mission to establish an eco-friendly brand. Her focus shifted towards sustainable materials, prioritising organic cotton, hemp, and linen over conventional synthetics. This conscious decision stems from an understanding that these natural fibres necessitate fewer pesticides and chemicals for cultivation.
Biodegradable buttons and thoughtfully chosen details further underline her commitment to reducing environmental impact.
INNOVATIVE EVOLUTION WITHIN A GUIDING FRAMEWORK
To ensure her designs remain fresh and innovative without forsaking brand identity, Natsuko thrives on a mix of research, observation, and inspiration. People-watching, global travels, and art exhibitions converge to infuse new perspectives into her work.
A meticulously constructed brand guideline acts as her North Star, ensuring her creations consistently align with her values and vision. Constructive feedback from customers, both favourable and critical, plays a pivotal role in her growth and evolution.
NAVIGATING TOMORROW: COLLABORATIVE ASPIRATIONS
While collaborating with Revival Runway on the We Are Melbourne runway show, Natsuko envisions expanding the horizons of Kodama Apparel. Her participation exposes her work to a broader audience and offers a distinctive Japanese-inspired touch to the Melbourne fashion scene.
Her creations, rooted in her Japanese heritage, have uniqueness, wearability and timelessness, and combined with the principles of the slow fashion movement, embody the fusion of creativity and conscientiousness.
Her new collection will feature kimono inspired garments created from upcycled Japanese and traditional kimono fabrics. Natsuko’s goal of working towards ‘zero waste production’ has inspired her to use every little bit of fabric to create tote bags and bucket hats. This concept will be expanded into complete garments.
In a world where dreams intersect with challenges and creativity meets consciousness, Natsuko’s journey with Kodama Apparel stands as a testament to the power of perseverance, innovation, and the pursuit of meaningful artistic expression.
Discover more interesting designers in our Brands & Designers section