kkco's sustainable designs are an ode to nature
See Tallulah Willis model their first collection, inspired by rock climbing and foraging in the forest
Photography Parker Woods
Emerging LA-based brand KkCo creates designs that are an ode to our most precious home — Earth. Founded by East Coast native Kara Jubin, its inaugural collection features imaginative pieces with nature-inspired details, such as hand-pressed flowers set in lucite buttons, turquoise tie-dye, and embroidery inspired by forest foraging. Certain creations also reimagine traditionally masculine tactical gear, such as carabiners, functional vests, and paracords, through a feminine lens, a concept which Jubin describes as “feminine utilitarianism”.
Perhaps most importantly though, KkCo draws our attention back to the outdoors and reminds us of all it has to offer, an exceptionally relevant and important sentiment to keep in mind as our planet is now facing many severe threats. Currently, the world is in a state of crisis with the effects of climate change reaching a fever pitch: For instance, just recently it was announced that a shocking 1 million plant and animal species are living on the brink of extinction.
Armed with sustainable practices, including producing locally in small batches and utilizing deadstock fabrics whenever possible, KkCo is not only making beautiful pieces, but is also creating change in the fashion industry. A welcome plus: this brand may also inspire you to get back outdoors and enjoy nature.
i-D recently spoke to Jubin about drawing inspiration from camping gear, foraging in California, educating consumers on sustainability, and the importance of lessening fashion’s carbon footprint:
What inspired you to start KkCo?
It has honestly been a long time coming. I’ve played many roles in the industry, from designer to running development and production for both small brands and larger corporate brands. It got to a point where I felt prepared enough to do everything I was already doing, but for myself. I’ve always aspired to start a brand that would give me the opportunity to build a creative community. KkCo is an extension of us.
What were your main inspirations for its inaugural collection?
Spring/Summer 2019 was built off of the concept of foraging and the great outdoors. It's an ode to my personal love of camping and the outdoors with the exploration of foraging mixed in.
And what role does nature play in your pieces?
We approached the collection through the concept of ‘feminine utilitarianism’. We were heavily inspired by the utilitarian materials used for camping and the outdoors — we used custom paracords as straps, carabiners for closures, and added functional details and pockets. The art of foraging is heavily carried throughout the collection. Our first concept shoot for SS19 was fully foraged from our own neighborhood in California. Foraging is translated throughout our custom prints, embroideries, and hand pressed flowers in lucite buttons. Some pieces in the collection are actually functional for outdoor and camping purposes. While others are a bit of an ironic approach— such as our climber dress which is a printed satin with a carabiner closure (not recommended for climbing).
Do you have any favorite places to forage or favorite nature spots in California that you visit to draw inspiration from?
California has so many incredible camping locations, I could go on and on. I really love BLM camping which is just land protected by the Bureau of Land Management — there are no amenities or camp hosts typically in the most beautiful and secluded locations. A few years ago, I discovered one of my favorite campgrounds nestled deep in the Sierra National Forest, called Vermillion Campground, on the way to Yosemite. It’s along the Pacific Crest Trail and is surrounded by the John Muir Wilderness and Ansel Adams Wilderness. A five-mile hike and 2,000 ft elevation away is a small lake called the Devil’s Bathtub, which is a secluded lake surrounded by mountains — its so picturesque that I’m awestruck every time I see it. Discovering these hidden untouched parts of nature is a way for me to release and always leaves me feeling refreshed and inspired.
Have you always had a special pull to nature?
I’ve always loved being outside and spent all of my summers down the shore on the east coast but it wasn’t until I was older that I really found a love for camping and hiking. I think after living in New York for so many years, I realized how being in nature did not have to be a novelty — which is why I moved to California.
Why do you think it is so important right now, especially for clothing brands, to prioritize sustainability?
The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the carbon footprint! Crazy! However, unfortunately, I don’t think the average consumer understands this and the most important and first step to prioritizing sustainability as a brand is educating the customer. Educating them as to why a top may cost what it costs — what goes into making a $20 top versus a $150 top. It’s so important for us to all care about the world we live in — as a new brand we can push for sustainable practices all we want but if the customer is unaware and continues to purchase from conglomerates with unsustainable practices then that creates an industry standard and tone. It’s a vicious cycle at this point — the customer buys into mass producing companies that heavily add to our carbon footprint which then produces mass quantities at factories with poor working standards, thus creating a certain expectation within the industry. Something we are focusing on at KkCo is producing locally in small batches and using deadstock fabrics when possible. We’re extremely transparent with our process because we want the customer to understand what went into making their product and why they should care.
Photography Parker Woods
Art Direction Maria Dora
Hair and Makeup Sara Tagaloa
Model Tallulah Willis