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Hawai‘i Designer Reise Kochi Makes Moves from Womenswear to Leather Goods

We caught up with the leather junkie to get his thoughts on his hide-and-chic career, avant-garde accessories and more.


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Leather harness

PHOTOS: COURTESY OF REISE KOCHI

 

In 2010, the fashion community got a taste of Reise Kochi’s womenswear line during a Honolulu Community College fashion show. The collection garnered him the Best Design Award. A few years later, while styling and working for Ari South, he found a new muse—a leather satchel that his grandfather made. Kochi stepped away from clothing and began creating leather goods including bags and wallets, then venturing to more, shall we say, risqué pieces. 

 

Reise’s Pieces

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

ON THE BEGINNING

After my grandfather passed, I found a leather satchel that he would sometimes use. He was always good with his hands, but when I found out that he made it, it inspired me to start making my own bags and to carry on his legacy. After a while, I took a break from bags and expanded to other leather accessories. [But] lately, I’ve returned to what first inspired me because it’s what feels natural. It’s in my DNA.

 

on styling

Neiman Marcus

 

I started styling after Neiman Marcus asked me to be part of a styling competition, not because I was a stylist, but because I just graduated from the HCC fashion program. I fell in love with styling after that and have worked on fashion shows, editorials and helped to create lookbooks for a handful of locally based designers: Ari South, Language of the Birds, Rumi Murakami, Salvage Public, Ten Tomorrow and Tutuvi.

 

On pet goods

Pet goods

 

I started making pet harnesses because there was a lack in the market for my dog, Mimi Falkor. To match, I created poo-poo bag holders. Every dog walker needs something sleek, yet functional, to carry their poo-poo bags in.

 

on leather harnesses

Leather harnesses

 

I missed designing for the body and still wanted to use the leather I was using for the bags, which were saddle grade. So, harnesses made sense; I could still contour and give shape to the human form. When people think of a harness, they think sex, but for me, it adds a modern edge and strength to an outfit. It transforms the body and how the wearer holds herself or himself.

 

On his latest project

Latest project

When I design a bag, I prototype it on hard stock first—I don’t like to waste materials. I recently designed bags for a fashion show and the final products were my designs mocked up on card stock and laser cut to create a 3D affect. Currently, I’ve been working on transforming those prototypes into leather pieces, since I received a bunch of preorders. It’s a long process because I do all my own designing and producing; there aren’t any leather bag manufacturers out here and it’s important to me that all my products be made in Hawai‘i.

 

Follow Reise Kochi on Instagram @reisekochi

 

READ MORE STORIES BY STACEY MAKIYA

 

 

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