It definitely feels like the fashion industry has taken more notice of Los Angeles in the past year than ever before; but for the past 14 years, designer Jenni Kayne has been steadily building a business that perfectly encapsulates the laid-back-yet-luxurious lifestyle people associate with LA. Clothes and accessories — especially knits and shoes — have always been her bread and butter, and led to her opening five stores across California — and her first outside of the sunshine state set to open next month in New York City.
Of course, it's rare to see a brand that's existed for that long without undergoing some shifts and changes, and for Kayne that has meant focusing on her core apparel and accessories products and diversifying into new categories and activations: She partnered with a Palo Alto hotel in July, launched a quietly chic line of handbags in August and, just last week, debuted her own home line. She's also become increasingly focused on her blog, Rip & Tan, and doing in-store activations like panel discussions and workshops.
"I've always wanted my brand to be a lifestyle brand," explained Kayne at a launch party for the home line on the Malibu Pier last week, noting that much of the third-party merchandise she's been selling in her stores has been home products. "We did really well with them in the stores, but never had the bandwidth to start designing our own, and last year felt like the perfect timing for where we were with our business and our team." The line of chic, cozy blankets, pillows, slippers and the like of course debuts just in time for the holidays, and the brand is spreading the word using an increasingly popular retail format: the mobile pop-up. That is, a small shop set up in an actual vehicle — in this case a refurbished airstream. (Jewelry brand Miansai has also gone down this road, so to speak.) Kayne says she got the idea from the Instagram account The Modern Caravan.
Outside of LA, it's making stops in Austin, Nashville, Charleston, Brooklyn and San Francisco over the next two months. Kayne saw this as an alternative to opening real stores, the benefit of the airstream being that she can test the waters in these new markets — and "bring the Jenni Kayne lifestyle" to these cities with a space that has its own experiential draw.
Kayne is also thinking outside the box when it comes to her first New York store, set to open in November. The concept will be, in her words, "less about fashion and more about lifestyle," featuring only those bread-and-butter pieces like sweaters and shoes, as well as the new home line: "pieces you just have to have," as she puts it.
Jenni Kayne has never really been the capital-F Fashion brand: Her designs have always been easy, practical and wearable, so her latest moves seem to be about honing in on that while applying it to different categories. "What I'm wearing and what I'm eating and the environment I'm living in and setting the table — that's all equally as important," said Kayne.
"I think we've been really focusing our business on what we'e really selling and for me it's, like, clothes people want to live in and that fit with their lifestyle," she added. "I feel like I'm approaching home in the same way. I want to make pieces that people are looking for."
Of course, if "lifestyle brand" is what Kayne is after, beauty and wellness are presumably the next categories she'll tackle, and fellow LA-based company Goop already has that down pat, with the California-chic branding to boot. Of course, Kayne, who has sold her goods on Goop, has her own loyal followers as well, and given that there are plenty of New York-based lifestyle brands, why can't there be more than one in LA? Especially at a time when the LA lifestyle has never looked more appealing.