Kozo Kawamura

A styling session with Colony Clothing founder Kozo Kawamura

Armed with pieces from the Luxury Resort & Jet Set Collection, Kozo Kawamura held a three-day trunk show and styling sessions in Makati.

Last weekend, Kozo Kawamura, founder of Singapore-based fashion brand Colony Clothing, was in town for a three-day trunk show at Tiño Suits & Tailoring in Makati. The collaboration marks Colony Clothing’s expansion across the Southeast Asian market, as well as Tiño’s venture into well-crafted ready-to-wear clothing made in Asia. 

The Japanese tastemaker also held exclusive styling sessions for clients at the tailoring house, using pieces from his brand’s Luxury Resort & Jet Set Collection—casual lounge shirts and cardigans, structured yet lightweight jackets, trousers with elastic waistbands, and the like. 

A snapshot of Colony Clothing in Singapore. Photo from Colony Clothing.

Catering primarily to a Singaporean lifestyle—a jetsetter with a tropical homebase and an East-meets-West sensibility—Colony Clothing carries garments fit for humid summers and seasonal weather conditions in other countries. However, when creating new items and styling for different markets, Kawamura takes the time to study and make the necessary adjustments.

“The weather in the Philippines is quite similar to Singapore’s, but the body proportions of the people here are a bit different,” says Kawamura, when asked about what he has learned about styling Filipinos. “Next time, I’ll be bringing a wider variety of sizes to cater to more clients.” 

A styling masterclass

To understand Kawamura’s creative process (and to dress up in well-made clothing), I took on Tiño general manager Hannah Reyes-Torres’ invitation to have a styling session with Colony’s brand founder. Prior to the makeover, I only told Kawamura what I do for work. I didn’t disclose my favorite colors, styles, or whatnot—he only had what I told him and what I wore on that day to work with. 

Before the makeover, this is what I had on: a brown checkered jacket over a navy blue shirt, finished with navy blue cropped pants and a pair of blue Onitsukas. I guess, from this ensemble, Kawamura understood what my favorite colors were.

The first piece that he lent me was a pair of denim-like tapered wool pants. What drew my attention immediately was the elastic waistband, which was a refreshing element to business casual pants. “Since I travel a lot, I am not fond of using belts. By using an elastic waistband, my pants will adjust whether I’m sitting, standing, or on the move,” Kawamura said. 

Kawamura shows me the elastic waistband and soft wool texture of the pants.
Later on during the session, Kawamura told me that he wanted to lengthen my legs with this pair of pants.

To complement the wool pants, Kawamura made me wear Colony Clothing’s signature lounge shirt, decked with white, light blue, and green stripes. As the breathable cotton shirt is meant to be laid-back, Kawamura advised against tucking the shirt in my pants—an interesting style cue, given that the session seemed to be going the business casual direction. That Kawamura gave me an almost-light blue shirt was also a surprise, since I thought it was a color that didn’t work with my skin tone. But I’m leaving the expert to judge. 

Next, Kawamura pulled out the Colony Clothing S/S 2020 Work Jacket, which was rife with interesting details. Standing out were the buttons that were attached to the jacket not with thread, but with a short metal chain that made the buttons dangle a bit. Another noticeable detail is the jacket’s fabric—William Halstead’s wool mohair blend—which was structured yet soft, cool to the touch, and crease-free. I layered the jacket over the lounge shirt, and it hung over my torso to a T. 

Notice the unique way the buttons are attached to the jacket.

To finish the look, Kawamura pulled out a pair of repello calf moccasin-type shoes in dark peat from Berwick 1707 (a shoe brand that Tiño carries in-store). As a last flourish, he lent me his periwinkle acrylic glasses from Kobe-based Nackymade, an artisanal eyewear brand that Kawamura also carries at the Colony Clothing boutique in Singapore. 

When I asked why he styled me the way he did, Kawamura took my professional duties into account. “With this kind of outfit, you can send a message to your interviewer that you’re serious with your job, but not in a way that you will intimidate them,” he said.

The writer, styled by Kozo Kawamura, who is donning an all-brown outfit from his own brand.

I took another look in the mirror and understood what he pointed out. The untucked shirt, framed with a sharp yet still easy-going jacket, the dark blue hues, and the tassels of the moccasins—they are all a step above casual wear, but the colors, cuts, and proportions speak of a person who goes about his business in a serious yet undaunting way. If I find that the weather is quite humid, I can simply remove the jacket and sport the lounge shirt-wool pants combo. And even with the layers, I didn’t feel restricted or stuffy at all.

Fun with fashion

While weather conditions and a client’s lifestyle are key aspects to Colony Clothing and Kawamura’s sartorial eye, what’s most important to the stylist is the client’s enthusiasm for good clothing. “I’m always looking for people who are happy to wear clothing. They enjoy fashion and wear good clothing for themselves. They do not like to show off,” he emphasizes. 

After all, it’s this enthusiasm and love for fashion that jumpstarted Kawamura’s career in the industry. Born in 1975, the stylist grew up with the emergence of Japanese Americana—think vintage-style denim, workwear, and classic American garments worn and styled with a Japanese twist. The style has its roots in postwar 1940s Japan, but the trend took off in the 1980s. 

Kawamura took up economics in college while balancing a part-time job at Japanese fashion brand BEAMS, which gave the young Kawamura access to well-made Western clothing and fabrics. Thus began a 15-year working relationship with the brand, where he took on store management, trunk show curation, and styling, among other responsibilities.

Kawamura enjoys fashion, but pays special attention to attire.

Combining this with his tenure at Colony Clothing, Kawamura has been enjoying a fashion-filled styling career for over 25 years now. It’s no wonder that, with the scant details I gave him about my lifestyle, Kawamura was able to whip up an outfit that not only suited my professional responsibilities and went in line with my personal aesthetics, but also made me learn something new about myself. (Again, I didn’t know I could wear light blue well!)

“I am very particular about attire. I love it, I understand it. If you know attire, you can enjoy fashion. Please understand it,” Kawamura stresses. “Trends are not important for me. I like to style clients according to their lifestyle—where they are going, what they are wearing—but I always want to make a small tweak or surprise.”

Kawamura knows that he’s done a good job of getting into the mind of a client and styling them accordingly just by looking at their faces. 

“I’ll do all the adjustments, the color matching, and all that, but at the end of it, if I look at my customer’s faces and see that they’re happy and smiling, then I know I’ve done a good job. It’s the same reaction with good food; you eat something tasty, then you become happy.” 

From left: Tiño general manager Hannah Reyes-Torres, the writer, Kozo Kawamura.

Tiño Suits & Tailoring will be the official carrier and distributor of Colony Clothing in the Philippines. The tailoring shop is located at G/F Herco Center 114 Benavidez St., Legaspi Village 1229 Makati, Philippines. For more information, visit their official website, Facebook page, or Instagram account.

The new lifestyle.