Tech Experience Inspires Brandon Kawai to Become a Clothing Designer

The casual fashion style of the tech industry and its leaders has been critiqued as being too basic, but Brandon Kawai saw nothing but possibilities for this particular style when he interned two years ago at a startup tech company in downtown Los Angeles.

The idea of outfitting entrepreneurs inspired Kawai more than developing the next cool app. So in 2018 he charted a new career direction when he introduced his basics and fashion brand called Kawai, which made its wholesale debut at the LA Men’s Market in March.

Kawai wanted his self-named brand to offer T-shirts, sweatpants and jackets that were casual and comfortable but different from other labels. “I wanted to make clothes for the young L.A. entrepreneur. They could be nice enough to wear to work or to go to happy hour at a place like Perch afterwards,” Kawai said, referring to the high-end bar and nightclub in downtown Los Angeles. “Kawai’s clothes are made in Los Angeles. This city made me into who I am.”

As a kid in Fullerton, Calif., he learned about putting clothes together from his mother and grandmother, who sewed garments while he sketched clothes. When he got his driver’s license, he would drive to Los Angeles’ Fairfax Avenue to check out the flagship stores for streetwear brands including The Hundreds and Diamond Supply Co.

When he got serious about fashion, he searched the Internet for Los Angeles patternmakers who could help create the clothing he sketched. His first foray into fashion was making denim trucker caps. When his fraternity brothers at California State University, Fullerton and high school friends purchased the caps, he took it as a sign that he was on his way to a solid business.

Kawai broadened his collection to include jackets with Japanese silhouettes, denim work shirts, sweatpants and T-shirts. The line’s silhouettes are oversized. The T-shirts have a boxy fit with drop shoulders.

On some shirts, the brand’s name is embroidered. On others, Kawai screen-prints graphics. But he doesn’t want the embroidery or graphics to dominate the clothes. “Embroidery and screen-printing are tools to enhance the garments,” he said. “I want the silhouettes to do the talking. I want people to say, ‘That’s a Kawai shirt because of the way it is cut and the fabrics.’”

The Kawai label is divided into two lines. Kawai’s Collection 1 offers finer fabrics, such as a French terry shirt that retails for $110. The higher-end collection features a long-sleeve work shirt made of Japanese indigo denim. It retails for $350.

The basics line features tees made of a softer, ringspun cotton and retails for $40.

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