Meet the Maker: Kit and Ace

18 Sep 2015

After time spent traveling the world, Kit and Ace founders, Shannon and JJ Wilson saw the holes in luxury clothing as an opportunity to stitch their mark into the thread of the fashion world. With a focus on the balance between functionality and style, they set to work designing a fashion line made from their self-created Technical Cashmere. Their wealth of industry knowledge, teamed with their future focused attitude has allowed them to stay ahead of the crowd. With a desire to go further than other brands in both their innovation and ambition, they have opened an array of pop-up’s, collaborating with local vendors to incorporate a sense of locality and authenticity. Kit and Ace’s next adventure saw them launch their UK flagship store on Redchurch Street, Shoreditch. We caught up with the pair to hear about their journey so far.

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Why did you decide to create Kit and Ace? What inspired you?

We were inspired to create Kit and Ace because we looked at our lives, and the lives of our friends around us, and saw a void in the luxury apparel market. We wanted to create a new category of clothing that offers comfort and functionality without sacrificing style and luxury. By enhancing luxury fibres like cashmere with technical attributes, we’ve developed clothing that is the perfect balance of softness and ease of care.

What is technical cashmere? How does it differ from other products on the market?

Technical Cashmere™ is Kit and Ace’s foundational fabric. It is cashmere that’s been enhanced with technical fibres like elastane and viscose so that it’s easy to wear, easy to care for, and retains its shape throughout the day. Unlike traditional cashmere, Technical Cashmere can be thrown in both the washing machine and drier. It took us three years of meticulous trials and testing to develop.

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Do you feel that the era of handmade garments is coming to an end to make way for more technically advanced methods of manufacturing?

There is value in tradition – in fact, all our cashmere is hand-combed by farmers in Mongolia. That being said, we’re proud of the technical aspects of our clothing and we’re excited by advances in technical clothing like wearables.

How important is locality in terms of your manufacturing?

We’re highly locally-focused. Each of our shops incorporates hyper-local elements – custom, quality pieces created for us by local artists and contractors – which reflect the local market it operates in. These pieces make up a 30 percent of our shop buildout. In terms of product, we’re proud to design all of our products right here in Vancouver. Our cashmere is sourced from Mongolia, our fabrics are milled in Italy, and we work with trusted partners in Southeast Asia and China to manufacture certain pieces.

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Why did you pick the space on Redchurch Street for your flagship store?

We’ve had our eyes on London for a while and had the chance to test the market this summer with our pop-up – The Space Shoreditch. The response was fantastic and cemented our belief that the Shoreditch area is the perfect fit for Kit and Ace. Its vibrant, creative feel is exactly what we seek when we enter a new market.

How have you tailored the shop experience to the environment in Shoreditch?

As mentioned above, we include hyper-local elements in each shop. In Shoreditch, these include a Supper Club Table and Benches by furniture designer Sebastian Cox, an Iconic Photograph by Raphaelle Bob Garcia, and a light piece by industrial designer George Bevan. Shoreditch is the perfect location for us and so we’ve also selected it as the place to introduce our new café concept, Sorry Coffee Co. We’re excited about this new aspect of our brand and are thrilled with the reaction from locals so far.

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How will you maintain a similar vibe to your flagship store in your future pop-ups?

While Kit and Ace has certain branded elements that appear in each shop space, we never want any two locations to feel the same. Our intention is to represent the unique aspects of each market in our pop-ups.

How do pop-ups play a part in Kit and Ace's retail strategy and how are you using them to expand your business?

We’re a new company and we’re expanding to new markets very rapidly. Pop-up spaces are a way for us to test different neighbourhoods and to make connections locally prior to setting down permanent roots.

What’s been your biggest challenge so far since you launched?

We have big plans and keeping pace with everything we want to do can sometimes be challenging. Fortunately, we’ve assembled an amazing global team that is up to the task.

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What advice would you give to someone looking to launch their own retail pop-up store?

Integrity is key – set intentions and stick to them.

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