Prior even to last year’s sonic drop from Solange, the @saintrecords handle has been a place of good taste, its cast part of a distinct Instagram elite. For a twentysomething Londoner to have her MA graduate collection make a cameo – and then to be picked up again in full some months later, the entire line-up stealing screen time in one of 2016’s most culturally significant music videos – is pretty major by anyone’s standards.
“It was an honour,” confirms Jaimee Mckenna, the designer behind that pleated moment in the church pews halfway through Don’t Touch My Hair. “The visuals for A Seat at The Table were EVERYTHING. It was quite funny actually, my dad was in cc (with Solange collaborator, Shiona Turini) as half my collection was in storage back home – the pieces are big and blue and don’t fit into a London sized flat.”
The garments in question were a strong showcase for Mckenna’s knitwear skills and initially saw her name added to the line-up for the Central Saint Martins’ MA show at London Fashion Week in 2013 alongside Nicomede Talavera and NEWGEN designer Sadie Williams, the latter with whom she became friends while at college, later working on Williams’ AW16 collection: “she needed a jumper for her collection so I knitted her up a little ski inspired piece,” she explains modestly.
It’s with another classmate, Alexandra Hadjikryiacou – formerly of the knitwear label House of Had (displaying Missoni like qualities, the AW14 collection was previously featured in Clash) – that new brand Kepler was born. “We met back in 2007 and studied together at CSM and have been friends ever since,” they tell us over email. “We came together in June 2016 to combine creative ideals and start Kepler.”
The name was inspired by Kepler 186f, a planet discovered by NASA in April 2014, the first in the habitable zone of another star with a radius similar to Earth’s, and acquired as an alternative to the eponymous route. “We didn’t want to use our names for the brand and since this was a new beginning for both of us, we thought the planet Kepler 186f, with the ethos of another new world, fitted well with the idea of a new beginning and the amalgamation of the two of us,” the pair clarify.
Rejecting the traditional fashion calendar, in November the first of Kepler’s output was debuted in east London at an informal presentation amongst friends and industry: “We thought it would be a great platform for people to see our collection up close and personal,” they state, adding of the benefits open to them from working outside of the framework of fashion week, “we don’t have to worry as much about people’s schedules. Everything (during fashion week) is so compact and busy and as a new brand it’s hard to capture people’s time and attention. Also there’s more time to observe and absorb the actual clothes.”
Cast in a palette that focuses on subtle tones – navy, cream, black and brown all feature – the pieces themselves nest on the side of abstract, with uneven hemlines, visible seams and frayed edges all present; in contrast several garments boast branding, with shout out loud letters in full caps. Still, they’re the kind of clothes one can imagine throwing on at a moment’s notice while holidaying in southern Europe. Similarly, they wouldn’t look out of place pieced together with a contemporary T-shirt and some oversized leather boots, perhaps hanging around outside fashion week. Likewise they possess both qualities of ease and something more complex, like the dress with the metal ring.
Ultimately the brand is for the woman who is aware of her attire beyond aesthetics instruct Alexandra and Jaimee. “The Kepler girl is aware of the materials and the craftsmanship,” they offer, “She’s an amalgamation of the best of both of us, soft and sensitive with a dash of romanticism but also androgynous and aware of her sexuality.”
Words: Zoe Whitfield