Interviews | January 8, 2020

Komono – A decade ahead

Let’s celebrate Komono’s ten-year anniversary with one of the key players in its journey: Anton Janssens, co-founder and head designer of the Belgian company

words Enrico S. Benincasa

Ten years of Komono: can you name the three most important moments/turning points of your path?

The excitement of starting Komono in 2009 is something that has always stayed with me throughout the years. In the beginning, there was never a grand plan, it very much began from passion and just saying: “Let’s do this!”. I figured that if it all failed, at least I would have a fantastic story to tell. A pivotal moment arose when we launched our Print series in 2012, a collection of watches with printed fabric straps. Demand was soaring and we saw the company grow exponentially. It very much signified the start of KOMONO as one of the leading voices in fashion accessories. In the years that followed we increased wholesale to 80 countries and opened shops from Antwerp to Barcelona and Madrid. This year, the launch of our collaboration with the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp is something I consider equally important as it very much corresponds with our brand DNA and our focus on creativity and innovation.

And what was the most challenging moment for you in your ten-year history?

Definitely the whole transformation from entrepreneur into a people manager. When I started the company, I was very much aware of every small process and was involved in every decision. It took me some time to be able to let that go and give the necessary trust to other people. It sometimes took me quite by surprise how fast we saw the company grow at certain points. I remember when we hosted our first international sales meeting. We had 200 people visiting, lot of new faces, and I had to address them all. I very much had to step out of my comfort zone at certain moments.

You have always considered Komono as a fashion brand strongly related to the Antwerp cultural scenes, but able to embrace influences from the whole world. Might it be said that this approach has been one of the keys to your success?

I would say so as it differentiates us from a lot of other brands who take more of a functional approach to accessories. I do feel influenced by Antwerp and its history. It’s quite a small city but with a creativity and expertise in fashion that is world renowned. It makes that you can easily connect with other people and exchange ideas within this creative bubble. On the other hand, I do find it extremely important to connect with the outside world. We’re blessed to be able to work with some of the best partners around who have a tremendous knowledge about their local market and can share their expertise on what works and what not. This combination ensures that we can create a brand that feels distinctively Antwerp while having a global impact.

Your logo really reflects your identity as a company, it’s also really recognizable and its
style reminds your idea of minimalistic design. Can you tell us something more about its

When we were brainstorming about brand names, KOMONO (which means ‘small things’ in Japanese) was on the top of our list. When we played around with the name, we noticed how you could easily make something resembling of eyewear in the first two O’s and of watches in the third O. It immediately felt right. The name of the brand and its logo were very much decided at the same time.

People are a fundamental part of companies: besides the roles, what are the main skills –
professional and human ones – that a person should have to be part of the Komono’s family?

It’s very much about personality and attitude. At KOMONO, we pride ourselves at going off the beaten track – doing things always a bit differently. I really need to feel a drive and a sense of passion. You need to be willing to go for it, make mistakes and learn from them in order to be able to grow. I do hope that when people eventually leave, they feel that they have gained throughout the process and were able to develop themselves, not only on a professional level but also on a personal one. 

You’re going to launch a new collection to celebrate this important milestone. What are its main features?

We wanted to honor an important milestone in our company’s history, the Print series, while also having our eyes firmly set on the future. We did not want to make a re-edition or quickly rehash some old ideas, hence why we took on board design agency Mirko Borsche and also introduced eyewear into the capsule. An allusion on archetypal print designs such as tie dye, animal, flowers, camo and paisley, the capsule rethinks traditional design ideas and embraces the experimental.

Is it true that you’re also going to unveil your first ski mask collection next fall? What do
we have to expect from this new Komono styles?

As part of our ten-year celebration, we are indeed launching our fist ski masks, a hint to my days as a professional snowboarder. Staying true to our roots of going off-piste, the first Komono goggle adds superior design and a touch of playfulness to the skiwear category. Referencing the practice of personalizing your board, every goggle will come with replaceable patches that can be added or removed according to your state of mind.

What’s the biggest challenge that Komono will face in the next ten years?

Continuing our growth while also staying true to our brand DNA. At KOMONO, every day represents a new challenge and a possibility to completely reinvent ourselves. Balancing this with an ever-expanding company structure and a more elaborate supply chain is key for the years to come.