Sunday, July 30, 2017

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My off-white carryall with touches of skin complete with signature remains a treasured one-of-a-kind Kyu By Kesi item. The designer's obsession with leather and creating beautiful pieces has not waned. The bag, stuffed to capacity but looking brand-new, speaks to her workmanship. It's been too long...

Style Observer (SO:) What have you been up to since our last têtê à têtê?

Kesi Gibson (KG): After showing at New York Fashion Week( NYFW) in September 2016, (in our first full-scale NYFW presentation since beta hosted by LRL Group), I participated in presenting The Future of Ethical Luxury at the Clinton Global Initiative with Hult Prize (where I had been an Entrepreneur-in-Residence guiding highly motivated younger entrepreneurs toward their goals). I then went on to open a pop-up store in the beautiful and prestigious Boston Design Center from October 2016 to June 2017. This was fantastic, both from the perspective of client acquisition and new market development. At the same time, in November 2016 we opened a pop-up showroom in Miami, a few steps from the SLS on Biscayne Blvd, in preparation for Art Basel in December. At Basel, we presented a capsule collection fusing fashion and art, building on our NYFW SS17 presentation. We also collaborated on Miami Beach pop-up with the lovely and inspiring Alexandra Gold. Recently, we introduced the Summer '17 wearable art collection, “Colors in Motion” in Miami at a private trunk show and press event curated by Branding/Marketing agency (no)TheName in collaboration with Fernando Pettineroli and sponsored by Dezer Group. The event was held in the Sky Villa at The Chateau. We are thrilled and excited. We are experiencing a lot of momentum in all directions, and are floating on the energy created by all the excitement, demands, travel, events, growing team and generally growing pains. I can honestly say I have never been happier to be #OnTheKyu.


SO: Who's carrying you?

KG: Since our beta, we have moved from a made-to-order model, to stock model for items that make sense to stock. That said, one of the defining characteristics of Kyu By Kesi is exclusivity. By design, we have never made more than 100 units of any product in a season, and several items, for example the items in the Color in Motion collection, only exist in quantities of exactly 1 or 3 or 10 or 25 pieces as the abstract impression is actually hand-painted all at the same time and some materials are so rare in nature that the piece created is exactly like nothing else. Once these items are sold, future orders become custom orders.

Kyu By Kesi has been spotted in the streets, in the closets of and on the red carpet on the likes of:

Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, Elle King, Jackson Browne, Randy Newman, Lucinda Williams, Regina Spektor, Norah Jones, Don Henley, Jeff Lynne, Gary Clark Jr, George Strait, Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, Scott Thurston, Ron Blair, Steve Ferrone, Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Pat Smear, Rami Jaffee, Chris Shiflett, Nate Mendel, Chris Hilman, Herb Pedersen, Taj Mahal, Charity Rose Thielen, Kenny Hensley, Mikey Gervais, Matty Gervais, Jonathan Russell, Tyler Williams, Vicki Peterson, Debbi Peterson, The Bangles, Susanna Hoffs, Dhani Harrison, Jakob Dylan, Wesley Schultz, Jeremiah Fraites, Neyla Pekarek, Steith Ulvang, Bryan Isaacs, Chase Simpson, Josh Jove, Sebastian Harris, Jacob Pillot, Transparent directorSilas Howard, Lauren Rae Levy, Toni Trucks, and the list goes on.


SO: Where are your pieces acquired?

KG: Clients are welcome to shop the collection at For custom orders, e-mail Pop-up and destination trunk show locations kick off after Labour Day (September 4th) in the US.


SO: What of the Melting Pot Movement?

KG: The Melting Pot Movement, which is a Kyu By Kesi social impact initiative across Fashion, Beauty, Music and Comtemporary Art, has been very active over the last year, albeit offline. This in addition to raw material curation for Kyu By Kesi has kept me busy. Over the last 18 months alone, I've been to Colombia seven times, Peru, India, Singapore, Dubai /Abu Dhabi, St Marteen, and across the US, primarily New York, Los Angeles, San Fransciso, Boston, Atlanta, DC and Miami. Upcoming travels include: Colombia at least three more times before the year ends, London, Paris, Jamaica, and possibly Guyana. Come January 2018, I'll be heading back to Africa, starting in Ethiopia. I've always been a private person, so I don't really share consistently on social media, but for the sake of Kyu By Kesi and in this new age of marketing, I plan to work on that…. @KyuByKesi / @iamkesikesi :-).


SO: You constantly speak to owning the means of production. Tell us more...

KG: One of the things I learned very early is the importance of owning the means of production. Kyu By Kesi is very strong on production infrastructure. I've invested heavily in this aspect of the business, and it's paying dividends in terms of my ability to control every aspect of input and output, and beyond that to ensure that we never lose sight of our brand values and overarching mission to put humanity back into fashion, while exceeding clients' expectations. All our manufacturing is done in Colombia. We currently curate raw materials from 14 countries.


SO: And your preferred material is...

KG: Raw materials in our current collection include: exotic leather, embossed leather, rich calf leather, suede leather and distressed leather. Our leathers are curated from Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Turkey and Colombia. From prints we are working hand-woven inclusions from Senegal, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, India, and Jamaica. Our hardware comes from Austria, with some inclusions from Switzerland and Japan.


SO: Kyu By Kesi versus the rest of the world...

KG: It's extremely difficult and I've never actually felt like I have enough internal support or the right support system. All that I have achieved, I have from mostly self-reliance, my work ethic and my persistent expectation that things will always work out. Maybe my own self-determination, pure talent and business acumen will be enough… maybe. Regardless, I do believe in destiny and I'm going all the way. One thing is for sure, I will never settle for a lesser version of what I visualise for Kyu By Kesi or a lesser version of who I am meant to be in this world.


SO: Take our readers back to the beginning of your love affair with fashion.

KG: I developed a passion for art and fashion pretty early, working by the side of my mother who was also a private label designer/exporter and a true artist. I actually started with special occasion ready-to-wear clothing, professional dresses and casual attire. The majority of the clothing that I wore during my Wall Street years were designed by me and custom tailored by a colleague in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. That said, bags and shoes made up about 60 per cent of my mother's business, so I had a lot of experience in this realm during my formative years. When I realised how extensive and costly the prototyping process for clothing was, I decided that it would be more prudent to enter the market with accessories and gradually enter ready-to-wear after establishing a top-notch infrastructure.


SO: Why bags?

KG: Most people in their day-to-day life wear a combination of black, white, blue, grey and maybe one other colour 99% of the time. Most people rarely take “fashion risks” when it comes to clothing. For these people, a bold, stylish, perhaps even colourful bag goes a long way to enhance an otherwise dull appearance. On the other hand, the people who care deeply about their fashion choices like to curate each detail to perfection. We wanted to make sure these clients have unique options for every occasion and every look they imagine or create. So whether it is for function or fashion, choosing the right bag (and by extension jewellery and shoes) has major impact on your overall appearance and how people respond to you.


SO: Where did you study?

KG: I was born and raised in Jamaica. After completing high school at The Queen's School, I attended Mount Holyoke College for undergraduate studies (Bachelor of Arts in Economics, Bachelor of Arts in International Relations) and The Wharton School for graduate studies (Master's in Business Administration — MBA).


SO: Any tips for up-and-coming designers?

KG: Designing is only about 30% of the business. The remaining 70% is about business and financial management, sourcing logistics and supply chain, manufacturing, marketing and branding, collaborations and partnerships, and human capital management. It's a tough business and people keep reminding you of this without fail. However, if you have the right elements of the above, some luck and a whole lot of determination and resolve you too will achieve success. For your sanity and to manage your emotional health, if you have any ideas or expectations about how much support you will get from people around you, remove those now. Expect nothing. Be grateful for everything. Be ready to be surprised by the kindness of strangers. Be open to the universe. Create your own bubble — a resting place (mental and/or physical ) to retreat to when the noise from the world starts obscuring your inner voice. Above all, when the going gets rough, try to remember that everything starts with your consciousness. For the most part, it is all up to you.


SO: How are you putting humanity back into fashion?

KG: Kyu By Kesi is putting humanity back into fashion simply by aligning our operations to our brand values. Kyu By Kesi is a human-centred, high-fashion brand dedicated to creating a new ethical age of luxury. At the core of Kyu By Kesi are the artisans with whom we work. We express fashion with a global soul that highlights and repurposes historic traditions for today's context. We believe in high fashion with a human touch. This is not just a tagline. It is a call to action and a mission inspired by my heritage and my deep-rooted belief that fashion should support, not harm, everyone along the value and production chain; that it should elevate entrepreneurs the world over; and that it can make a positive dent in the universe - one artisan, one artifact at a time. Through the Melting Pot Movement, we make the invisible hands of fashion visible to the world. From concept to consumption we focus on the artist, the artisan, the wearer. This is Kyu By Kesi. This is progress.




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