Home linen brand, The Kokuin, boasts vintage Indian prints juxtaposed with an endearing sense of Japanese ethos 

The Kokuin, founded by Connecticut-based Soumya James, offers table mats, coasters and napkins adorned with intricate block prints that have been hand-painted and uses natural dyes

author_img Sabrina Rajan Published :  15th May 2020 10:11 AM   |   Published :   |  15th May 2020 10:11 AM
The Kokuin

The Kokuin

Even as the world writhes with anxiety about businesses shut and jobs on the line, here we have a story of new beginnings and hope for a better tomorrow. Born in the middle of quarantine, The Kokuin was launched online by Soumya James on May 1. Hailing from Chennai, Soumya tells us that, “Kokuin is a Japanese word that means imprint or seal.” Besides the timing, there are other facets of The Kokuin that challenge the concepts of regular business modules. “When I visit Japan, I love to wander down quiet streets and walk into small shops. I am always struck by shops that only sell one type of item — last year I visited a shop which only sold hand-made notebooks. It was run by one person who made every single book in that shop! That kind of a business model is perhaps not for everyone, but it certainly appeals to me,” says Soumya, who always wanted to do something that was artistic, with her hands and didn’t take 20-years to master! Artisanal, handmade crafts  — ticked all the boxes for Soumya and produced an eclectic brand that is made in the USA, infused with Japanese ethos and embellished with Indian and contemporary block prints.

Ulterior motifs

Offering table mats, coasters and napkins adorned with intricate block prints that have been hand-painted and uses natural dyes, Soumya tells us that her appreciation for Japanese aesthetics and design have influenced the collection deeply. Her experiments with minimalism in design can be traced back to her fascination for the Zen gardens. Using fabrics from Japan and America, Soumya shares that she does want to focus on buying only locally sourced material. We do note a celebration of negative space and a vibrant earthy non-traditional palette of greens, browns, greys, teal and maroons in the collection that comprises 100 per cent cotton and linen. The motifs are intricate and speak of Soumya’s strong connection with Indian craft and heritage. Expect whimsical trajectories of fallen leaves, intricate royal ornaments and floral prints with shy flecks of paint.

Block that idea!
Meticulously finished with every stitch in place, Soumya who was a Post doctoral  Associate at Yale University, works on her collection from her home in New Haven. Self-taught, she learnt sewing, printing and fabric painting a year back, and now is armed with one sewing machine and a growing collection of gorgeous vintage blocks. “Vintage woodblocks have little nicks and cuts, and when they are imprinted on cloth they have a singular appeal and beauty, offering a physical impress of their journey in the hands of craftspeople,” says the independent art scholar who is researching Southeast Asian art history, even as she designs her own woodblocks now. “I look for inspiration for woodblock designs around me — maybe in temple motifs from Southeast Asia, 17 or 18th century textile motifs, or even everyday objects. If you look around, interesting patterns will jump up from unusual sources.”

A pair of coasters at Rs1,200 onwards. (Shipping not included. Deliveries after the lockdown.)