Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about where fashion sits within our lives as a whole. I recently read an article that described fashion as frivolous consumption, and I understand why someone would think this. When we get sucked into the trap of mindless consumerism and throwaway culture it can go this way; buying in the hope of feeling satisfied and throwing away when the high ends moments later, it all seems pretty silly in the grand scheme of things. But at the same time, fashion isn’t frivolous. On the most basic level we do literally need clothes in order to not be naked after all (and also freezing if you live in the UK). But for many fashion exists as much more than pure function. Fashion is a mode of self exploration, showing our identity, and connecting with the creative world in a wholly unique way. If we step out of the consumerist bubble, fashion can still be an important tool both to explore and express ourselves, without overtaking our lives.
This is why I like European brand KEMP GADEGÅRD so much, as they effortlessly fuse fashion, art and expression, whilst still keeping their designs seasonless and their fashion slow. Their inspirations come from pioneers in the modern art world, with their most recent collection drawing inspiration from artist Yves Klein’s claiming of the infinite, immaterial space around the planet when dividing the universe between himself and his friends. Their aesthetics are timeless, transcending trends in favour of a more conscious, minimal approach to life, and their process prioritises everything natural, sustainable and ethical. They produce everything in Europe (in a small city on the coast of the Mediterranean to be exact), with the highest labour standards and considering their environmental impacts. KG believe in moving away from the disposable, instead proclaiming:
“All of us are activists and investors in the present and future we want to build. By buying slowly, for the long haul, and wearing slowly and meaningfully, we are actively questioning the current system of disposable objects with built-in obsolescence and creating awareness about the environment, global labour standards, the political implications of consumption and with this, addressing issues of global inequality”
I interviewed the masterminds behind this beautiful brand, Maya and Eilis, as well as styling a pair of trousers from their new collection for myself (post coming soon) as I’ve been a long time fan of Yves Klein’s work. Let’s not forget, I am a working artist after all.
What’s your story and how did you get into sustainable fashion?
I [Maya] am Danish but grew up in southern Spain, in a small village on the coast where I met Eilis in primary school – she is Basque/Irish.
I studied International Relations and development studies in Copenhagen because I thought, at the time, that that would enable me to work in the non-profit sector or for a governmental body to improve the situation of the world. I ended up writing my thesis on alternative currency mechanisms and resistance to neoliberal economic systems.
Eilis, meanwhile, studied textile design in Ireland and, after working in the industry for years, was appalled at the practices and pace of the fashion system. At some point we decided to address some of the structural inadequacies of the fashion system together by making clothes in a way that didn’t compromise labour relations, the environment or aesthetics.
What made you decide to start KEMP GADEGÅRD?
It was a mix of the above, alongside our clear goal of wanting to balance the structural problems of the way products are made nowadays (with built in obsolescence and no holistic understanding of the consequences of production and the materials used) and style.
What were your main goals when starting?
To be able to design a garment that people would want to own and take care of for a long time, while participating in the development of the Spanish economy, which has taken a beating after the financial crisis. We are really proud and happy to collaborate with a wonderful atelier in the Spanish city of Granada, where we both grew up.
What are the steps of your design process?
Our design process starts with an overall conceptual idea and 4 or 5 organic materials. We then start brainstorming in two directions: one which will be the pillar of the surface design, that is, the prints, which is typically where we can have a lot of fun and be very bold in our artistic development. The second direction, thinks about which garments we feel are needed, and which materials will form the core of the styles.
In the case of our autumn winter collection, we knew that we wanted to work around the anecdote about Yves Klein dividing up the universe. It was poetic and playful while at the same time, giving us visual ideas for prints.
All of your pieces are made in Europe, what does the manufacturing process look like for you?
The initial sketches and fabric sampling takes place in our studio in Berlin, from where we move to Granada to work on the prototypes and sampling at the atelier. Once we are happy with the samples, we produce, also in Granada.
How do you decide on the materials you use, and how does this influence design?
The selection of materials is central to the design process. Designing the garments happens in unison with the fabrics, which we find through various European suppliers. Organic and other sustainable fabrics are more difficult to source so we visit lots of trade fairs to find suitable options.
What are your main creative inspirations?
Eilis and I are both avid readers, art lovers and listen to music a lot. Our inspiration comes sometimes from a poem that we love, or from a story, or a certain feeling.
How has the response been so far, and what are your hopes for the future?
it has been overwhelmingly positive, it’s very rewarding to hear from customers how good the fabrics feel on their skin or that they love the fit of a garment!
We would love to continue to design and promote clothes that look and feel amazing as well as take care of the people and the planet!
I love companies that embrace the kind of ethos KEMP GADEGÅRD swear by. On a personal level I love their fusion of artistic expression, moving beyond fashion trends and into the realm when fashion works best as a creative form. When you add their ethical and environmental credentials, it’s hard not to love brands like these.
Until next time, stay magic y’all.
Post created in collaboration with KEMP GADEGÅRD