Tatsuro Ishihara Ku Creative Director/Founder
Tatsu Ishihara was born in Okayama in 1955. He comes from a family with a long history of dealing in Japanese textiles, design, and antiques. After attending business school in Tokyo in the 70’s, Tatsu was profoundly influenced by the “New Wave” culture that emerged in London, kicked off by punk bands like the Sex Pistols and rising to worldwide popularity with the art-fashion conscious music of the B-52’s, Talking Heads, Blondie, The Police, and Devo. Tatsu created several stores in Japan exploring new wave culture, fashion, and music. When the initial popularity of New Wave as a worldwide phenomenon waned in the late 1980’s, Tatsu faced a moment of personal crisis. Should he look outward to the rest of the world for inspiration, or turn inward to the rich history of Japanese art, craft, and design innovation for inspiration?
He awoke to the realization that he needed to create a uniquely modern Japanese brand, and that brand was to be “Ku,” the first Japanese high-concept brand fusing the best of Japanese design with a sophisticated global sensibility. The “Ku” brand was in part Tatsu’s reaction to the sterile plastic anonymity of much modern design. He wanted to live in clothing and spaces that activated the five senses. Design is more than just a “look,” it must satisfy all the senses and present a pleasurable organic truth to activate a personal reality. Ku was created to be a “touch and feel” brand, not removed from the senses but enchanting them. This credo has proven a successful ideal and for over a decade Ku design has been an international success.
Steven Hoel Ku President/Founder
Steven Hoel graduated from Arizona State University in 1984 with a degree in Finance. The plan was to make his mark in the world of Investment Banking. He and his wife Junko Ogawa settled in Los Angeles California.
Soon after, Steven and Junko started a successful export company servicing many large account buyers in Japan. One of their customers, Tatsuro Ishihara , proposed an idea for a clothing brand based on Asian sensibilities. A partnership was formed between Steven and Junko and Tatsu, which lead to the birth of Ku USA.
As their partnership grew, Steven relied on Tatsu’s unerring eye and incredible sense of the “next wave” to hit Japanese culture, while Steven focused on developing new business opportunities. Over the course of their two-decade partnership, the combination of global brand building, spiritual metaphysics, and high concept design have propelled them to a unique position in Japan.
From here, Steven’s next challenge is to leverage the successes of the KU clothing brand and bring that intelligence to the high-end luxury market worldwide. In a time when artworks and custom crafted masterpieces of design are hotly sought by elite buyers, KU AMBIANCE sells one-of-a-kind art, innovative home furnishings, ultra-fine clothing, and luxury accessories that represent a rarefied high culture global lifestyle that is spiritually conscious and without peer.
Kiku Ryuno Director of Operations/Sales Europe
Kikue Ryuno grew up in Kyoto. Her daily childhood playground used to be the famous Daitokuji-temple. The everyday’s rituals in the Zen temple so became considerable components of her daily life. During the tea time every afternoon she was sitting among the other monks and answering the questions from the master monk. The basics of her aesthetic beliefs of perfection originate from that time, she would find out many years later.
But first as student – like many others of her generation in Japan’s bubble age – she had stronger interests in American and European culture. She travelled many countries across the world and started her career at an US sports company, until she decided to move to Berlin. In Berlin she made her way into the European fashion industry – dealing with brands, tradeshows, exhibitors. Consistently achieving strong results for her customers of the international textile business.
The more Kikue explored the international world of fashion industry, the more she got aware of her origins. She was able to reconstruct the scenes of her childhood, when aesthetics and perfection wasn’t something to think about – but something just to feel. At that moment she met Ku, which combines traditional arts with modern design and expresses the inspiration and internal beauty. She could notice again how beautiful Japanese traditional art, craft and lifestyle is, which she experienced everyday in the Zen-temple in her childhood.
Corinna Poth Creative Director/Retail Europe
Corinna Poth is a child of the sixties. She started her career as ceramist, went on as lawyer and last but not least found her own unusual way to combine rationalism and sensitiveness in consulting middle-class companies. Her concept helps to shift business strategies to a higher awareness for the essentials of well-being and happiness in active life.
One of her most beloved topic is the rebirth of independent retail stores, which will bring back a refined shop-culture, as it has vanished in most of European cities nowadays.
On her way she came into contact with KU, which comprises all aspects of what is needed for her concept. Sophisticated live style combined with applied arts, avant-garde combined with ancient skills and tradition, a perfect balance between western need of external perfection and eastern art of internal being. She believes, that with new millennium a highly developed society got the chance to surf on a new wave of joy of life deeply rooted in love for the beauty of nature and human being. KU to her is a vehicle on this way.