A new line of house-made prints spices up an already unique offering
Asiatica in Westwood is known for making exquisite one-of-a-kind clothing from vintage Japanese kimono textiles that owner Elizabeth Wilson has collected for over four decades during her yearly sourcing trips to Japan. But with the inability to travel during the pandemic, she and Asiatica’s designer, Kate McConnell, decided to create their own silk print designs to complement the existing inventory of Japanese fabrics used in the clothing collections.
“The Asiatica print project was essentially born out of necessity,” says McConnell. “With such an amazing Japanese textile archive existing in our Rainbow Boulevard shop and design studio, Elizabeth and I decided to pick a group of standout patterns and translate them into our own prints, with the help of freelance designer Michaela Knittel.”
Knittel, a RISD grad, serves often as Asiatica’s website model, but is also a clothing designer in her own right, with a small womenswear label, Cvet Préri, that offers made-to-order pieces. “I was thrilled to help Asiatica develop their own prints using their incredible fabrics,” Knittel says. “Their extensive collection of textiles is gorgeous, often very old and made by hand with traditional techniques. Elizabeth has a discerning eye for unusual and specialty prints. Some kimonos and samplers are unable to be cut and made into new clothing,” Knittel explains. “So they wanted to explore recreating the patterns to be printed digitally.”
Knittel started the process by documenting the fabrics flat with a camera. She created some prints by digitally altering the flat images, though many prints were recreated entirely by her hand illustrating. Often, the traditional samplers would only be about a foot wide, which meant the print’s repeat was defined vertically but not horizontally. “Working off of the archival prints added compelling layers to the process, and trying to encapsulate the spirit of hand-dyed, handpainted, time-aged prints was an interesting challenge that I hope we achieved,” she says.
The initial collection of Asiatica’s house-made prints consists of six new prints translated to dresses, shirts, tanks, camisoles, and pants. It will be fun to see where Kansas City’s preeminent design house takes this special project in the future.