By Jamie Larson
On Saturday, April 28 and Sunday, April 29, an exhibition of some brand-new garments will be unveiled and available for purchase at Darryl’s
in Rhinebeck, New York. Created by Susan Kotulak, the “SuMoNo”
is a raincoat constructed from traditional Japanese kimono fabric that's been laminated. The result is a beautiful and useful piece of “wearable art” that seems designed to appeal to the sartorial styles of RI
(If you can’t wait until Saturday, Kotulak clued us in to some exclusive intelligence: the coats will actually be going up on display today. So you’ve got two days to get a sneak peek before the opening.)
Kotulak’s love for Japanese style began with pottery. She then fell in love with the bold patterns of kimonos and other Japanese fabrics, old and new. While the story behind the SuMoNo is long, the result is simply striking and feels at home on the lawn of a gala but is also edgy in a way that fits in seamlessly with modern street wear, which is increasingly incorporating Japanese elements.
“Kimonos are extremely interesting from a textile perspective,” Kotulak said. “There are a huge variety of patterns that incorporate world style trends through the years, which wash through them in beautiful ways.”
Kotulak grew up in New Jersey. Her father was blue collar and her mother sewed out of necessity.
“We were fairly strapped for money so I learned to sew,” she said. “Even back then I was always frustrated with the quality of materials.”
As a child she wore school uniforms and then, as she moved into a career as a managing director for a Fortune 50 corporation, she was trapped in the uniform of the “dress for success" '80s and '90s. After retiring in the late '90s, she quickly made up for lost time, kicking her other persona as a textile artist into high gear.
Her earliest work, hand screen-printed linen creations from her former SoHo studio, have been sold at wearable art galleries from Madison Avenue and Martha’s Vineyard, to Sarasota and Key West, Florida. After moving up to Clermont she became, and still is, an extremely productive potter. She built and began operating a giant Japanese-style anagama wood-fired kiln each year with the help of a specially skilled team, who need to keep the fires stoked constantly to create fantastically high temperatures.
Kotulak's passion for kimono began while attending wood-firings in Japan, and her carefully curated collection of kimono has supplanted pottery as her main artistic focus. She designed her first raincoat for a pottery-oriented springtime trip to Japan, when, she said, people kept trying to buy it right off her back.
Continued interest in that design inspired four years of experimentation in order to produce laminated silk using her collection of over 1,500 pieces of vintage fabric. The exodus of laminating facilities out of the U.S. and the difficulty of running the 14-inch-wide fabric created by Japanese looms at the few facilities that remained continued to stymie progress. So she brought the process in-house and bought industrial equipment for her own studio. For the last two years, a team of students from Bard College has worked with Kotulak to assist her in completing her vision.
“It’s as if the West has all of a sudden remembered what pattern is,” Kotulak said. “I think these are clothes daughters will wear out of their mothers' closets. There are no closures, so men have bought them. It hangs differently on different body types and looks great on everyone.”
Darryl’s has been known to showcase collections of unusual wearables both in Rhinebeck and NYC but this, store staff say, is their first foray into the “art to wear” movement.
Due to the complexity of the laminating process and the way the fabrics used were originally sourced, it's easy to say there's just nothing out there like the SuMoNo. So if you’re in the market to buy or just curious to get a look, it’s well worth the short (or even a long) trip to Darryl’s this weekend.
Susan Kotulak SuMoNo Collection Exhibit and Sale
Saturday, April 28 & Sunday, April 29, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
18A East Market St., Rhinebeck, NY