Interview: Anton Janssens of KOMONO
When a brand lists, “a fierce dedication to quality and craft” as its founding principal we instantly pay attention. And this is the premise of KOMONO. Founded in Belgium in 2009 by Raf Maes and Anton Janssens- KOMONO brings sleek design, inspired colour palate, and a minimalist aesthetic to the world of accessories.
Following an initial plan whilst snowboarding to do something different, the two friends put their experience and personal motivations together to form the brand- merging the relevant intersection of Vision and Timing. What we have more than seven years later is a forward-thinking eyewear and watch brand that encapsulates modernity and contemporary craftsmanship combined with an uncompromising attention to ever-evolving quality and design. Here we speak with co-founder Anton Janssens about the birth of the brand and what makes it tick.
Anton, you are one of the founders of KOMONO, can you tell us when you decided with business partner, Raf Maes, to create an eyewear and watch brand?
It all started back in 2009. We were working in fashion distribution and we’d been doing it for 10 years and were really successful. I was flying all over the world for clients and consulting them and we had this real international network. One thing that stood out for us however was that we thought and behaved like a brand, as opposed to just distributing brands, and that became the foundation of what we built KOMONO. We collectively thought that there was a gap in the market for more accessible luxury and I suppose quite impulsively we connected the dots to create our very own brand. Also, nobody was doing this in the timepiece and watch market.
What was the initial inspiration and why did you call the brand KOMONO?
KOMONO, as well as being a lovely word, is Japanese for ‘small things’ and this has resonance with the product itself, but the link with Japan really ends there. The brand is all about a specific Belgium craftsmanship that has become synonymous with the Antwerp region in particular. The perfect vision of timing embodies our spirit and we are firm believers in delivering a consistent and coherent message through KOMONO, from prodict to packaging, from images to content. Every detail matters.
So, the brand is relatively young, what is KOMONO about today? Has this evolved in the past few years?
It hasn’t changed at the bottom line. Making luxury accessible and contemporary in design and with a kind of rebellious youth at its heart. What has evolved is the learnings we have experienced through manufacturing and the quality of materials that we use. It’s always been of paramount importance to produce the very best craftsmanship and quality, but production-wise I would say we have become very credible, because of the experience we gained over the years.
You have an exciting collection ranging from Core to Crafted and then Curated, what is the purpose for this mix?
The Core range is our everyday product, which is still a showcase of our sartorial excellence. The Crafted is a way that we can go deeper and push the boundaries considering our craftsmanship. When it comes down to material, we don’t event think with boundaries. We like challenges when it comes down to innovations. The Curated is a platform to express our creative side, where we can give back and support like-minded people and showcase our character in its truest form. We don’t sell the same product across all territories either, it is a considered distribution based on consumer research and needs.
How important is having stories to tell about each product seasonally, as it seems this is something KOMONO is very aware of?
Story-telling is hugely important as it builds awareness for the brand and product obviously, but it has to feel very organic and consistent. Stories are layers you create beyond the product, giving depth and meaning to the brand. We put a great deal of thought into what we create and therefore, naturally, this should garner interesting stories to tell- as opposed to curating a story for the sake of it.
In Belgium, the home of KOMONO, attention to craftsmanship and finer detail is inherently important, is this something that translates as a core value within KOMONO?
Quality is a core value. Challenging ourselves through design and striving for the very best quality means everything. It’s in our DNA, we are perfectionists and this this is deep-rooted in us and in Antwerp design generically.
Is KOMONO driven by trends or is it seen as a leader rather than a facilitator?
We are very much in the ‘leader’ role. Capturing contemporary designs and aesthetic. We venture into the unwritten rule, which is very organic and natural. This is not meant to sound arrogant, but we’ve always been good at feeling or second-guessing what might be around the corner and showing what the future looks like.
What is the plan globally for the brand, considering the rise in popularity and with the pop-up in London?
We started as a brand built on passion, a shared passion for accessible luxury where the perfect timing and vision acts as our motivation. Through a network of relationships and celebrating the creativity of others we aim to organically build awareness for the brand through key events and story-telling.
Where do you see the brand evolving in the next five to ten years- both in terms of product and brand?
We will stick to the products we always have, but we are never satisfied and always pushing and challenging what we do. We have thought that maybe we can be doing too much and that we need to let collections breath a little more. For example, with watches, their life-span can be up to 10-years.
Last September we introduced the optical range, which is a new venture for us. With this new collection, we stay true to our DNA of providing accessible luxury. We strongly believe in selling the KOMONO Opticals collection only at opticians, because we take our eyes seriously. The collection will not be sold online, which is a strong statement in times like these.
komono.com | London pop-up shop at 48 Neal Street, Seven Dials until the end of May 2017.