Fozzie: Can you tell me a little bit about your background?
Kelly: I grew up with a love for fashion. I used to watch the fashion television shows and became obsessed with it. From that point on, I pretty much knew I wanted to study that. I went to school at University Wisconsin, Madison for the textile and apparel design program. I loved that, because I wanted to go to a university and also study a creative field. The cool thing about the program was that you could spend your last year in New York at FIT, and that was the only city I had ever wanted to live in. It (NYC) was the only place I could imagine myself for a long time. I finished school there and got internships at Marc Jacobs and Jill stuart Jeans. It was through those internships that I made my first connections. Every job I’ve ever gotten has been through a connection. Once I graduated, I started working for Eddie Rodriguez in New York and then I freelanced at JCrew – which was a really great experience to see the behind the scenes of how that place works. From there, I started working for John Varvatos, and that was where I spent most of my time in New York. It was an amazing experience.
F: What were some of the things you did for these labels?
K: I was a designer working with the creative director. My job was everything from researching, creating mood boards, hand sketching everything – I feel really blessed that I worked for people who embraced hand sketching, as opposed to putting everything in Illustrator, I think its such an important form of communication of ideas. I would do fittings, detailed tech packs, measurements, sourcing fabrics and trims, creating prints. I could go into archives and find old patterns and prints and redevelop them into new fabrics, and that was always so thrilling, I would love to be able to that for furniture as well, creating original upholstery fabrics. I worked from concept all the way through production, managing fashion show samples and preparing for the shows, working with stylists who come in and re imagine what you’ve been working on for so long.
F: Is there a favorite moment that sticks out for you?
K: There is something to the thrill of the post fashion show, the build up for months and months and months, and in the final weeks – coming to that moment – its full speed ahead to the day of the show up to the moment the model walks out – everyone is still tweaking things and then all of a sudden its DONE. Its out there in the world, and I think that’s always a thrilling moment and it was always something I wanted to experience and was able to.
F: What made you leave New York?
K: After working at John Varatos for a while, I decided to make a change and moved to LA. I had started to realize that New York wasn’t the place I wanted to live forever and LA seemed to be the next logical step. In LA, I got a job working for Splendid & Ella Moss. That was a wonderful experience because I was able to go from working for companies who primarily made their clothing overseas to working for a company that was 90% made domestically. Working with a sample room and local production was an amazing dichotomy to have at that moment.
F: So how did you end up in Portland?
K: My job with Splendid ended and I had found I had become disenchanted with the industry. I really questioned where I wanted to go from there. One day I’m on Venice Beach and I meet Mike Warner, fall in love and six months later I’m moving to Portland.
F: How did you meet Leland, and start working for Revive?
K: I had moved to the St Johns neighborhood, and I spent a few days checking it out. I walked into Kert’s (ed. Kert owns Sabi & Friends in St Johns) and she tells me about this new thing that’s happening called Beam & Anchor, and this guy Leland Duck who I have to meet. I didn’t go right away, but I finally made it in there and I’m totally inspired. It was electric, this feeling in my belly went off, and it was new and exciting. At that time I had been using a friends studio to do a fun project and I was focusing on leather. After meeting Leland, I decided “I’m gonna do a leather chair!”, so I go do my chair, and I have no idea what I’m doing, it was very unconventional upholstery. I went and showed Leland and asked what he thought. The whole process was just so exhilarating for me, like I had tapped into something I had never tapped into before. I asked Leland if I could hang around, apprentice and learn, hopefully do a project together, maybe get hired, and that’s where I find myself now.
F: How was the transition from fashion to furniture?
K: I love that my background and skill set comes into play and it's like I’m making costumes or a wardrobe for furniture instead of people. It’s the same skill set just applied in a different way. I love, that the furniture has longevity where fashion doesn’t. That’s what appeals to me, it’s not just “put it out this season and on to the next” it’s a piece that lives, hopefully, a long life span. I feel like furniture is more of an instant satisfaction. That may be because furniture was one of the first things I was actually making myself. In fashion, I was never doing something where I was actually sitting down at the sewing machine and making the clothes.
F: Do you still find inspiration from fashion?
K: Yes, fashion still inspires me. When I’m in the process of researching, and inspiring myself, I find I’m still always looking to fashion for mood, vibe, and attitude or colors and even details, I suppose. That’s a big point of connection for Leland and I, that discovery of those details and taking them out of their known world and taking them to a new place. I think there is a huge frame of reference from the fashion world that comes into play with furniture.
F: What are your other sources of inspiration?
K: I feel like there are so many places to get inspired from, and it's realizing that you have to always be aware of that, that it’s around every corner. Its also what gets me in trouble sometimes because there are ideas, and excitement everywhere and I feel the burst of energy for an idea and then it goes away and then the next thing comes and it's always moving. I’m also inspired by our ideal way to live, the way you want to feel in your home and what kind of materials you want to be surrounded by. Another source would be traditional craft and how you can improve on them for future designs.
F: Can you give me an example?
K: Right now I have caning on the mind, I keep thinking about caned furniture and how caned or woven chairs can be updated. What’s a modern take on that? Even though I feel like a lot of the patterns still feel fresh, and are timeless, I like the idea of taking things like that, and asking can you add a new twist and make it a new classic.
F: What about music?
K: Music is the background to everything, to my life. I feel like I’m always searching for the song that captures my mood everyday, and how it will set the pace of my day. Mike (Kelly's Fiancee) pulled out the Staple Sisters who have a particular song, that is just so good, that I have been listening to a lot lately and it's been kind of perfect. I do feel like life is, like you're always dancing through life, whether its slow or fast.
F: What music is going to capture your mood today?
K: I’m going to put on Otis Heat’s “ING” because “ING” is a perfect model for this year, its about not thinking to much, but doing. “ING “ is all about the act of doing.
F: If there was one thing you could tell the future creatives of the world...
K: Its important to take risks, and not be afraid to switch paths at any moment, just know that you’re going to be ok. Don’t think that you can’t afford to take that risk, that there are too many unknowns. If you believe in it, if its alignment with your values, and you feel like its where you want this world to be, you have to go for it.
F: What do you love about what you're doing now?
K: The kind of work that we do, the value behind it is so much what I believe and what I want to be a part of. We are creating things that are made here and supporting our community and economy, really supporting our own freedom of creativity. I value that so much, I cant even tell you. It scares me, I don’t want to see our country’s skills sets going to other parts of the world, and I feel like we have this beautiful moment, this renaissance, of American craftsmanship – really refined beautiful craftsmanship and that’s what I want to be a part of, honing in and cultivating it so that we can pass it on and breed a new generation that really have strong foundations here. We have an endless opportunity, the jobs we can create, that are not only creating beautiful things, but things that are sustainable - that are a lifestyle. Its exciting to me. So much of that is what keeps me going, when I do feel shaken, its “but I believe in this”, and there’s so much truth in that, it cant be wrong and I have to trust that.
F: What do you think 2015 hold as far as trends?
K: I think that 2015 is going to be kind of a clean slate. I think the beautiful juxtaposition of black and white will be big. I also think we'll be diving deep into techniques that we’ve overlooked from all over the world and giving them a new unique life.
F: Well, I think we have time for one more question... where is your favorite place to take a walk here in Portland?
K: I love Cathedral Park, because its such a beautiful reflective place. I love walking the neighborhoods, because every street has its own character, with the unique homes, every place just feels special. I love Mt. Tabor to.
F: Really? I don’t think I’ve ever been there…..
K: We will go Fozzie, I will take you there.
F: I will definitely take you up on that.
Next week: Find out what makes our own Carson Brom tick!
Next week: Find out what makes our own Carson Brom tick!