Kara Jubin had already built the foundation she needed to start a brand on her own: Years of design experience, her own studio space and sample room, as well as relationships with factories, vendors and mills from previous jobs and freelance gigs. "I got to a point where I was like, 'I'm doing the whole process but for a bunch of different people. I should be doing this for myself and get this going,'" she tells Fashionista during a preview in New York City for her label KkCo (pronounced like "kay-co;" the second "k" is silent), which launches on Monday.
Jubin had impulsively moved from New York City to Los Angeles, where she's currently based, almost eight years ago. Fresh out of college with a degree in fashion design, she cut her teeth at places like Band of Outsiders, Objects Without Meaning and Need Supply, where she helped kickstart the retailer's in-house line Need, until she decided to go freelance around the end of 2017.
"I left because [Need Supply] decided to move stuff out of L.A.," says Jubin. "But I fell in love with this idea of manufacturing and seeing the whole process. That's the beauty of L.A. There are so many factories and a lot of them are small, family-run businesses. It's really intimate. When [Need] decided to start sending things overseas, that's when I was like, 'I don't want to leave that part of the process.'"
Newly Launched Yan Yan Is a Hong Kong-Based Knit Label to Watch
The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again?) of L.A.'s Famed Robertson Boulevard
L.A.-Based Rhode Is Evolving from Resortwear to 'Happy Clothes' for All Seasons
Over the past two years, Jubin had been ideating KkCo, all while freelancing for clients like Brain Dead, John Elliott and Simon Miller, among others. She found a partner, who used to have a factory and comes from the manufacturing side of the industry, to work on a business plan. Together, they've formed what Jubin describes as the perfect symbiotic relationship. "We built somewhat of a vertical system where, in our studio, we have our own little sample room; we do all of our own production, cutting," she says. "We're trying to build something where we can keep it all in-house, or at least maintain it within our building because it's all manufacturers."
Jubin describes the local creative scene as very collaborative, and KkCo's headquarters, based in Downtown L.A., is exemplary of that. The large space also boasts a photo studio, which Jubin offers up to artists and photographers. "We have this communal aspect to it. They can come in and use the space if they want and in exchange, all we ask is to have content contribution," she says. "A friend of mine uses the space for his own shoots and in exchange he shot our lookbook."
The KkCo lookbook features the brand's debut collection, inspired by camping, foraging and the outdoors. These concepts pop up in small-but-delightful details, like printed plants on a T-shirt or real Italian lucite buttons with pressed flowers inside that are sprinkled on a sweatsuit. But what Jubin believes will be KkCo's brand identity throughout the entire line is the idea of juxtaposition, which is already prevalent for Spring 2019, such as a Dickies-style utility pant in a bright, pastel pink; floral dresses with carabiners as clasps; a classic button-up shirt in a trippy tie-dye print. "If you actually go through those styles, you'll notice that balance or irony between some things. That's something we identify with as a brand," she notes. "It's always something a little bit unexpected, making something that's traditional a little modern."
Ahead of KkCo's launch, Jubin had a good sense of what pieces were resonating with followers and potential customers, thanks to the brand's active Instagram account, which she runs herself. "Before we even start sewing, we're re-cutting a little more to increase our units of it," she says. The Nine Twenty-Seven organza dress (available in pink, green or navy) is a huge hit, and the tie-dye pieces — a button-down shirt, shorts, a dress, socks and a bucket hat — are also popular. So much so that Jubin is planning to drop a mini capsule in purple tie-dye come July. "Something I'm so proud of is the flexibility we've built into the business," she says.
KkCo's debut collection will retail between $150 an $325, with some basics coming in under $100. It's a price range that Jubin was aiming for as a direct-to-consumer brand. "We speak to that contemporary market but at the same time, we're approachable for someone who can't normally afford a contemporary price point," she says.
For future collections, Jubin is already plotting her next phase of juxtaposition: The interplay between the natural and artificial, which stems from her recent visit to New York City. She also wants to approach her work more sustainably by exploring deadstock fabrics and producing low units. "Even just cutting in-house, we're able to make sure that we're not wasting too much fabric. Little things like that," she says. "I do think artificial versus natural kind of plays into that world."
As for where Jubin sees KkCo in the long run, she wants to continue to build a community around the brand. Perhaps invite guest designers to her studio for collaborations, whether that's clothes, art objects or even home goods. With early buzz surrounding the brand and a welcoming studio space, we have a feeling that a budding KkCo community has already arrived.
See the rest of KkCo's campaign and the full lookbook in the gallery below.
Homepage image: A look from the KkCo Spring 2019 lookbook. Photo: Jason Renaud/Courtesy of KkCo