Introducing The 5 Questions Series.
From time to time I meet women who I admire and find inspiring, who are following their dreams and that is something I have been wanting to share with you. I envision this as a glimpse into their stories, their creative lives or their businesses. For us to be able to share a little bit in their journey and be inspired by their thoughts around meaningful and slower ways of living.
These stories will be called ‘5 Questions’ and Zoe Deleuil who is a writer living in Berlin (and about to release her first book!) has edited the series for me. She began by asking me 5 Questions, so in this way, I get to share a little bit more of KM with you.
The talented Perth Artist and mother of four, Sarana Haeata is next in this series, you may have seen some of the wonderful images Jing Song took of her in her train carriage studio sprinkled through my socials….but now we begin with me…
Why did you decide to start your own slow fashion brand?
After a lengthy break from the industry, and a lot of thought, I decided that I did want to go back to the art of creating clothes, but I wanted to try and do it differently, in a way that felt right to me.
My purpose in designing clothing and the joy for me lies in pouring my heart into creating beautiful, interesting and high-quality garments that will make women feel like their best self. The ‘making’ is integral to that too, I am very involved in the making, and producing ethically is very important to me. I achieve this by working locally with a close-knit group of makers who have become friends. I only like to use what I term ‘healthy’ fabrics – Natural fibres without a harmful chemical load, our clothes are worn next to our skin every day, they should be comfortable, they should breathe, and I want to know that the dyes and other processing chemicals are not hazardous substances and are not causing us, or our environment harm. Natural fibres are long-lasting when looked after properly but decompose completely. I am quite obsessed with the concept; ‘Leave no Trace’ my goal is to produce garments that will compost completely and not leave waste. Creating thoughtful clothing is not a fast process, which is why the term slow fashion is used.
Clothing is such a powerful form of self-expression, and for me what goes on behind the finished garment is what gives it meaning and a story.
It’s perhaps a cliché, but ‘fewer but better things’ is what I strive to offer women. I didn’t set out to create a slow fashion brand but when you are thoughtful about what you bring into your life you can think more about the why, and also the quality, the how and by whom it was made, it all resonates with the slow movement.
Every decision I make during the design and manufacturing process has an impact, and that is something I am very aware of. I am continually learning and striving to offer the best that I can – Essentially, beautiful and truly useful pieces created sustainably and made ethically – while always being gentle on the planet and kind to people every step of the way.
What was your first piece you designed and why?
Well, it’s no secret that I love the ‘slow’ crafts, and particularly knitting is close to my heart, Knitwear was my major when I was studying design. Knitwear is truly slow fashion, it cannot be rushed, and it all begins at the earliest possible stage of the manufacturing process, with the fibre. Wool is my absolute favourite fibre to work with and wear – it is sustainable, renewable and, at the end of its life cycle, fully biodegradable.
The first piece I began working on was a knitted garment that would later become the Funnel Knit, one of my KM staple pieces. At first, I looked into knitting in Melbourne, but then the opportunity came up to use the whole garment machine at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand.
It is called a whole garment machine because it knits the entire garment at once, essentially as a series of tubes. It is a fascinating process that requires no sewing of the garment afterwards and virtually eliminates waste as the garment is knitted in its entirety.
I now work with a lighter gauge machine that is more suited to the Australian winter, but I hope to still produce that whole garment one day. I would like to work with a sheep farmer, a wool spinner and a knitter here in Australia to create a completely local and traceable garment.
What helps your creative process?
I feel like designing is about capturing that elusive image that flits across your mind. To hold onto it long enough to give it proper contour and detail.
Designing to me is a happy thing, and my mood definitely impacts my designing energy. Although I am not sure whether it’s that feeling creative and inspired makes me happy or the other way around!
If I am tired, anxious or sad I find it difficult to come up with ideas – the process feels harder and the joy is lacking. After my parents died I tried to escape into creativity, but the ideas would not come.
Being well-rested, spending time in nature, to breathe and observe and having that extra energy to notice the tiny details around me, alongside the quiet and solitude to develop those fragments of ideas, all help my creative process.
Who inspires you and why?
I’m inspired by all the small independent businesses and brands out there, all these women doing amazing things. It’s constantly inspiring to see what we can achieve and changes we can make when we forge our own path.
Slow living and slow fashion are becoming widely known, and that is so positive. Independent designers no longer need to conform to or emulate how big brands do things. The communities we form give us the support to do things differently, to follow our values and to be able to offer meaningful alternatives. I believe these alternative offerings are important to drive change.
My mum is another inspiration for me – she was very beautiful and she was Norwegian. Culture and tradition were very important to her in her daily life, and that ‘sense of place ‘ has had a big influence on my designing.
Growing up in New Zealand she seemed very different from the other Mum’s. She sent my brother and I to a Steiner school when that movement was in its infancy – it meant a very alternative and creative start to my education!
She valued a simpler way of living and, looking back, my parents created this idyllic childhood for us. We would spend entire summers away sailing, exploring islands and deserted beaches, swimming, fishing, collecting shellfish and cooking meals in the sand on the beach. This was a time of simple joys, and I often reference this feeling of nostalgia in my designing.
She always had a piece of knitting or embroidery she was working on, and she only ever worked with natural fibres – she favoured things that were slow and required patience. The love of natural fibres and respect for the handmade definitely started with her. Also, Dad was always making something, he built so much of what we needed or used. I always felt there were creative, yet practical things happening around me.
I had a creative childhood full of possibilities, and I am so grateful to her for that.
How do you think women can empower and help each other in business?
I like to seek out women to work alongside or as support for my business. One of the things I love about creating KM is the opportunity it gives me to collaborate with women and support the growth of their businesses as they support mine.
We can empower each other through solidarity, by being supportive and communicating what we love about their business, service or products. It’s wonderful to buy from other women, but support can come in simpler forms such as recommending their business, writing good reviews, spreading the word on social media and liking/commenting on social media posts. It’s often these smaller conversations that empower us to keep going.
Kristin wears: Very Useful Blouse, Elastic Waist Raised Trouser