Now here’s a brand that speaks my language. Australian boutique Kuwaii has the perfect combination of style, simplicity and functionality in all their garments. I interviewed Brunswick-based designer Kristy Barber who, after winning an award as Student Designer of the Year at the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, launched Kuwaii as the owner and designer in 2008. If you’re into flatforms, feminine tomboy styles, minimalism, and pretty pastels, you’re gonna love this brand (I’ve already fallen in love). Get to know the talented designer and owner below!
Where are you guys based?
“Brunswick, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.”
What do you think makes your designs unique?
“The amount of care we put into every piece. We carefully consider every element of a garment – how it will fit, not only fit but flatter and compliment a women’s shape. We take so much time choosing fabrics, trims, and dealing with our manufacturers on a one-on-one basis to ensure the finish of each garment is absolutely perfect. All this means the things we produce resonate with care, love and joy.”
Describe your design aesthetic in three words.
“Refined, detailed and romantic.”
Can you tell us what Kuwaii all about?
“Basically, Kuwaii is a philosophy of dressing and a stand against mass-produced fashion. We make beautiful, classic pieces which are designed to be incorporated into their owner’s wardrobes and be loved from season to season.”
How long have you been in the biz and how did Kuwaii get its start?
“Kuwaii started in 2008 directly after I graduated fashion school. The impetus to start was being the winner of an award for support to start a label.”
Tell us about yourself. What did you do prior to starting your own line?
“Well, I was a fashion student for a good few years, and before that I had a background in business management and accounts, which seems like an absolute millenium away now, but in hindsight I could not have planned it better, as that knowledge has been an amazing help in starting up a business. For a few years I worked for amazing Melbourne design store HUB to assist open their store and helped the owner build that business, which was a great crash course! During my time as a fashion student I also had a regular and actually really successful market stall selling vintage clothing.”
How did you get into fashion design?
“There was no lightbulb moment, I let life dictate my course a little and in time came to realize how much I love creating garments. My grandmother (who is an incredible seamstress) gave me her old singer sewing machine and I began to make simple garments. From there I went on to study, and realized that my personality suited the role too – a love for constant change and newness, and an ability to juggle 1000 things at once!”
What would be your advice to someone looking to start their own line?
“Work very hard and don’t give up! Intern as much as possible and try to absorb all the knowledge you possibly can.”
What are some of the inspirations behind your designs?
“The Kuweaii aesthetic is now a very clear one. Each season we draw a new inspiration – some seasons has been:
Regalia: a play on modern royalty
Near the Light: William Morris textiles
Shadows: the films of Aki Kaurismaki
So usually inspiration comes from a muse – an artist – a director or film – a period in history. We just have to have a radar for inspiration and constantly look for it everyday.”
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of creating your own line?
“Rewarding would be seeing the collection come together more strongly every season. Challenging – the deadlines.”
Who else works with you behind the scenes and what do they do?
“Laura is our brand and sales manager and general all ‘round lady. Lauren is our graphic designer and collaborates with print development. We have four lovely interns as well. There’s our two manufacturers and footwear manufacturing team, photographer Danny Gurton, and many and more various collaborators!”
What do you do outside of Kuwaii?
“Kuwaii is quite a demanding pasttime! In the moments spare I love hanging with my lovely boyfriend Mark and eating the best vegetarian food we can discover all around Melbourne! Also hanging with cool cat Quincey, seeing music – which I try to do at least every fortnight, gardening, and cocktails with the besties.”
Have anything exciting planned with your line?
“Well we would love to open a flagship store – the Kuwaii Universe. We are a small brand, and are totally self funded so for this time, it’s something we plan towards in 2014. We have an exciting collaboration with a really well known blogger coming up too! Our collection for SS13-14 is just finished and it’s absolutely awesome so we look forward to releasing that later in the year.”