Given fashion's current obsession with over-the-top trends ('90s neon green and X-Games spectator style, we're looking at you), we'll admit that there's something refreshing about seeing timeless silhouettes that aren't designed just for likes. Sensing the need for approachable, wearable pieces that transition beyond one season, Texas-bred venture capitalist Scott Carter decided to take the leap from finance to fashion and create KILN.
To take his slow-fashion vision from concept to cloth, Carter tapped designer and expert pattern maker Sandy Fleming, a former chemistry teacher who also switched over to fashion and sharpened her skills at cult-favorite luxury labels like Narciso Rodriguez and Proenza Schouler and cool basics brand Alternative Apparel. The result? A contemporary women's and men's label (based and made in Downtown LA, no less) crafted from the best fabrics across the globe and that transitions well from board meetings to beachside strolls.
Priced from $115 to $495, The direct-to-consumer brand's latest pre-fall women's collection is comprised of Italian cashmere/silk short-sleeved tops that pair just as well with KILN's high-waisted culotte shorts (made from washed stretch twill from Portugal) as your own well-worn denim, and breezy button-down midi-dresses (made from sheer georgette from Turkey) that can be made casual with ankle boots or elevated with heels for a night out. There's also the equally effortless adjustable dress made with breezy, eco-friendly fabric that's perfect for LA summer and fall, and a statement rooster jacket featuring hand-loomed embroidery made in France.
For men, the cashmere jersey button-down is suited for any day of the week — wear it with the tailored everyday twill pants to the office or drawstring pants on the weekend for a more laid-back look.
If you're looking to see what KILN's all about IRL, you're in luck: The California-inspired brand is popping up at the corner of Melrose Avenue and La Cienega Boulevard. Now through the end of the year, swing by and shop their luxe pieces alongside locally made hand-poured candles and raw and refined accoutrements from jewelry designer Blair Lauren Brown.
Want to get to know the label? Read on to find out what inspired Carter and what he learned from the world of venture capitalism, how he knew he found the right designer in Fleming, and more, then scroll down to find the brand's LA pop-up shop address and hours.
How has your experience in venture capital firms helped shape the creation of KILN? What were you most unprepared for in switching to fashion?
I was fortunate to see many company succeed and regrettably watch others fail. Collectively, these experiences helped me develop a framework for how to launch the company that included finding exceptional design talent and strong operational expertise from the outset. Our team is also geared towards thriving in a startup culture versus coming from corporate background. We were able to invest in infrastructure that we knew one day we would need such as some reasonable office space in the Arts District and an ERP system. Hopefully these things will give us a bit of an unfair advantage in becoming a larger brand more quickly.
I had a good sense for what to expect but there are always surprises. In fashion, since we are dealing with everything from raw materials to manufacturing to logistics to consumer preferences, there are many things that can go wrong. For example, some vendors are more committed to deadlines than others. The quality of manufacturing can very greatly among companies.
When you first envisioned the label, what style details came to mind that you knew KILN had to have?
I wanted KILN to have an upscale but approachable aesthetic. I wasn't interested in couture or runway but I wanted our customer to appreciate the finer details of our style and design. I didn't want out clothes to be limited to work or casual, either. They had to embody and elegant casualness that embraced current trends but had timeless elements.
What did you love about Sandy's background and how did you know that she was the right designer for KILN?
Sandy's story is a unique one. A former high school chemistry teacher who decided to pursue who passion for fashion and design. It's not an easy thing to do — to give up a conventional path for a riskier one. I had seen this countless times in venture capital. It was usually the most successful companies that had a founder or group of founders that were willing to quit college or leave safer grounds to try something different. They tended to have the drive and commitment that would ultimately lead to success. I saw these same characteristics in Sandy.
Sandy is also an extremely talented designer. Her ideas and vision were very consistent with my own, which was as much serendipity as anything. In our first meeting, Sandy gave me a Powerpoint presentation, which was someone humorous since venture capital tends to live in PowerPoint. I wasn't expecting it but it was clear that she had a strong view of her design aspirations.
What void were you seeing the fashion market that you wanted to fill?
I honestly didn't start KILN to fill much of void other than I thought the gap between casual and work clothes was too large. I assumed there was some segment of the market that was unserved but what I really believed was that if we offered an exceptional product, we'd have customers who would stay with us for a long time.
Where do you hope to take KILN in the next few years?
Going forward, I think KILN will offer a great online customer experience complemented by retail locations. Thus far, we've noticed that when people touch and feel our clothes, they buy more of them. We will need a multi-channel strategy to ensure we have a loyal group of customers who've come to depend on KILN for their elevated fashion needs.
KILN is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 7pm and Sunday from 11am to 7pm;
KILN Pop-Up Shop
611 North La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069