Interview: Tom Cohn

By / Dec 12th, 2013 / / No comments

If you’re the kind of person that would rather pick a costume instead of an outfit to wear every day, then Kigu could be for you. If you’ve always dreamed of being a bat or a unicorn, then this innovative little company are here to help you transform into your chosen critter. With everything from bats to Christmas trees on the menu, it’s difficult not to start imagining your whole wardrobe packed to burstin’ with these lovely fleecy animals. Big in festival season, you’ve probably seen a lion or two hanging out by the hay bales knee-deep in mud.

With their distinctive animal costumes, Kigu are close to the hearts of the Ohh Deer team, and co-founder Jamie Mitchell collaborated with them on a range of tees (which you can see above), and we stock their products in our store. 

We spoke to Kigu founder Tom Cohn about how he came to set up a onesie empire.

Can you tell me a little about how Kigu came into being?

Back in 2009, a friend brought some animal costumes back with him from a trip to Japan. I thought they were absolutely amazing and I fell in love with the product. I did some research and found out they were called ‘kigurumi’ and you couldn’t get them anywhere, except for Japan! At the time I was going to a lot of festivals and thought they would be the best thing to wear at those kinds of events. People were mad for fancy dress, but everyone was buying their costumes from rubbish high-street joke shops selling wigs, stink bombs and fart spray. Their costumes would fall apart after 5 minutes and looked crap. I thought there was a gap in the market for a brand that was really in touch with the people who wanted to dress up, get boozy and have a good time. And I wanted to provide a product that would be really good quality, super-comfy and just as fun to wear at home, chilling out, as it would be at a party or festival. So I got in contact with the company in Japan who was making kigurumi. We made some improvements to the product to make them better for the UK market – adding pockets, changing linings, making them a bit bigger etc and, with my best friend Nick, we scraped together £4,000 to bring 300 of them over from Japan. We got a friend to build us a quick website, another friend did us a quick logo and Kigu was born.

Can you tell me about yourself and your background before you setup the company?

Running Kigu is my first proper job since university. Before that I did the usual rubbish jobs like working in Sainsbury’s, manning a kitchen and bathroom showroom, and I even sold double glazing for a while. I’d always wanted to be my own boss though. I get a bit stressed working for other people, having someone looking over my shoulder, so I’m really pleased I managed to get something off the ground.

What tips would you give to someone looking to start their own business?

Chances are, when you’re starting a business, cash is going to be tight, so you need to pull in as many favours as you possibly can. Don’t be scared to ask friends, family and even friends of friends for support and advice. Try and do things differently and in your own style. If you do something you think is cool, then there will be other people out there that agree. And you’ll enjoy your job more too. If I could give one bit of advice though, it would be to get a proper business mentor. Someone who you can meet with monthly and who can support you through the difficult times. I’ve got two and it makes all the difference. There are a number of charities and mentoring organisations out there.

What plans do Kigu have for the future?

Right now we’re working on a whole host of new Kigus to add to the range. Next spring/summer is going to be a big one for us as we’re hitting all the festivals with two new product ranges to include animal wellies, made in collaboration with JuJu, and another something really special. We’re also launching a number of websites in other European countries.

How many people work at Kigu now?

We’re only little. Right now it’s myself, Katia who oversees our marketing efforts, and Charlotte who manages our operations. But we also work with a number of people on a freelance basis from graphic and product designers to web developers, and the guys who man the warehouse.

Do you ever wear a Kigu to work?

Yeah, sure. Whenever we get a new style in I always like to try it out for myself for a while and, especially when it’s cold in the office, it’s not unusual for everyone to have a Kigu on.

Why do you think Kigus have been such a success?

People in the UK love dressing up. We always have. And Kigus have given people another option in this regard. Now people can dress up at home and be ridiculously comfortable, not just dress up for a stag do or Halloween party. Wearing a Kigu is really liberating. You can literally see people’s whole personalities change as soon as they put one on – one minute they’ll be rather reserved, the next they’re leaping about like a kangaroo. The designs are really strong, they’re good quality and they’re not a complete rip-off price-wise. All these things have helped make the product a real success.

How often do you go to Japan to visit your suppliers?

Not that often really. Usually once a year. And they come here. They came to visit last month actually and were incredibly hyped to see Big Ben for the first time! Believe it or not, 99% of our working relationship is done through Google Translate. Our suppliers don’t speak any English and we don’t speak Japanese.

What’s your favourite Kigu?

That’s a tough one. I love them all really. I think my favourite right now would be the Lemur because it’s got by far the best tail of any Kigu we’ve ever done. It’s ridiculously long. So long you can wear it as a scarf!

You can read more about Kigu on their website

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