In his 20s and armed, if that is the word, with a liberal arts education with specialties in philosophy and French, he decided to enroll in the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, a local school with a heavy emphasis on the trades. “It was definitely not predicted that I would be a patternmaker,” said the designer who, though raised near New Haven, left the East Coast at 18 to attend, for a brief and not notably successful period, San Francisco State University.
“It was the first time in my life when I did something that felt completely natural,” he said of his stint at FIDM, as the school is known. “I really had no burning aspirations to have a career in design. I was mostly fueled by dissatisfaction with what I wanted and couldn’t find.”
He first made some shirts, and then, when friends of friends asked to buy them, he sewed some more. He added trousers that hang informally, loosely, but with a deceptively architectonic structure and that are Californian only in the sense that West Coast style has tended to emphasize simplicity. “I was so anti-California for the longest time,” he said.
With the profits from his early efforts, Mr. Kinori ventured into jackets, and in less than five years, by word of mouth, he found he had a name and a brand. When backers approached him with plans for scaling up, he demurred. And while it is impossible to predict whether this may change, he is satisfied for now with the steady growth of a loyal customer base that is not so small anymore.
“I love clothes, I love making clothes, I love presenting clothes,” Mr. Kinori said from behind a protective mask that, while it concealed a characteristically wry smile, emphasized the intensity of his gaze. “Intuition is my home place 100 percent. Building up a story and a spirit with an object is what I’m after. I don’t know that there is much more to it. That’s kind of enough.”