Everybody loves the creative side of fashion, but there's no way that any brand could survive without the business side as well. Kestan is currently a two-person team that consists of my business partner and myself. While I manage design and branding, Kevin comes in with his expertise in finance and manufacturing to make sure that our enterprise is running smoothly. His background begins at Purdue University where he graduated with a background in economics. He also holds a Masters degree in supply chain management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (ZLOG) and has extensive overseas experience in manufacturing. We sat down over some coffee to talk about our experience working together, and what he does for Kestan.
Stephanie : What made you interested in switching to fashion, despite a background in management and manufacturing?
Kevin: The fashion industry is so dynamic and exciting. There's always a changing trend and new things to learn. When Stephanie asked me to join her in creating Kestan, I thought that it would be an incredible opportunity to use my experience, passion, and enthusiasm in creating a new enterprise. There's also that whole bit where you're my younger sister! Being able to work with Stephanie to make her designs and creativity into tangible products is so rewarding. Simply put, the process of creating new product is something that excites me.
S : So what's it like working with your younger sister then?
K: A pain in the butt.
S : I see that we're being honest with each other right now.
K: I'm just teasing. I think I'm lucky. I'm lucky that we're close, and that we both have backgrounds and professional experience that compliment each other. Being able to create beautiful product with my best friend is something that I value and appreciate. I guess the only difficult thing is that we have such different personalities. I'm a lot more by the book, and number oriented. You're...eccentric and whimsical. Sometimes I'll go into the office and find you making origami while simultaneously eating candy off your sketchbook and blasting metal music. It used to stress me out, but I think that it's important to compromise and learn to embrace each other's work habits (and thank goodness for noise canceling headphones...).
S : So, how is your transition into working on a womenswear brand?
K: It's been incredible with so many new experiences and I've been learning a lot these past few months - things like tech-packs, fittings, fabric composition, etc. There have been many sleepless nights going over different crazy ideas, but my excitement just confirms that I'm in the right industry with the right person. This passion will be here for a very long time!
S : What's a struggle during this process of starting a business that people might not be aware of?
K: If you're new to the business, there's a huge learning curve if you don't already have a network to rely on. Every step includes a different group of people, whether it be a pattern maker, manufacture, or a marketing team. It's important to find the right people willing to work with a startup that are not only supportive, but can bring the quality you seek. This has been hard for us because we're pushing for the best quality to give to our customers, and it's hard to find people with the same ideals.
S : How have you overcome this then?
K: Just being gutsy. Cold-calling different people and knowing every aspect of our product and brand. If people see that you're passionate, serious, and know what you're talking about...they'll take you seriously and want to work with you. You have to believe that what you're creating is something worth supporting.
S : Do you have any advice for people looking to get into the business side of fashion then?
K: Prepare yourself with experience and knowledge. If you're on the creative side, your creativity is your asset and that's something that can't be taught. But on the business side, you can be taught numbers, processes, and etc. The more awareness you have, the more confidence you'll have. If you're a grandpa like me, I recommend reading a lot!
S : Lastly, what are you hopes and dreams for Kestan?
K: I really want to build a brand that truly brings affordable luxury. It would be incredible to see women wearing our clothes, and truly integrating our garments into their lifestyle. I also hope that this series on your blog sheds some light on starting a brand, and hopefully it'll help others interested in jumping into their own enterprises. Our first fitting is in October, and I'm excited to see Stephanie's vision come to life. If anybody has any questions, feel free to e-mail me here. I'm always happy to answer more questions!
Check out Kestan online here - website / @hellokestan and be sure to follow Kevin @thisiskevinlin