Local Creative: Jesse Kamm
A woman as naturally at ease as her clothing conveys, Jesse Kamm is influencing us not only in our style but ways to live a more simple, fulfilling life. Her collection is classic and lasting with shapes that are clean, minimal and handsome, a word she so brilliantly uses to describe the consistency in her designs. Even though you may find strong traces of ‘homme’ throughout her line, the soft touches of ladylike details is what truly makes her collection so coveted.
A true uniform for smart, informed and stylish women, Kamm is constantly referencing a montage of great Hollywood and literary works to draw inspiration for her collections. If you are fortunate enough to spend a moment with Jesse, her cinematic style of creativity is captivating and will leave you mesmerized with not only her latest collection but the women behind it.
Creating “strong clothes for strong women” is not only a tagline but a mantra in all her endeavors. Jesse’s support, admiration and gratitude towards all the exceptional women in her life is something we could all see a little more of in our own friendships.
Poetic and straightforward, Jesse shares with us her most creative time of the day, what beauty means to her and valuable lessons in shaping a life you love.
What is your most creative time of day?
The time of the day I am most creative is dead in the dark of night. It is a sad sad tale, but it gets the job done. I wake up because I hear the little voice from the room next door... "mamma!", it calls. Nothing more. All is quiet. But my heart, my heart is now racing. I can not fall back to sleep. I roll over, and pull up my socks. I adjust the pillow. I sigh deeply again and again. I press my eyelids tighter. It is no use. I am wide awake. I let my mind slowly fall over the to do list that is unrolling for the day to come. Then I think about random things. When I lay there long enough, something starts to happen. Ideas come. Sometimes great explosions of ideas. On special nights this goes on for hours. When I finally wake in the morning, I am manic. I yell to husband, "it hit me!" The next 5 days are dedicated to whatever the spark was. Fabrics, shapes, researching a particular time, or place or person. And then, like that, a new concept is born. Whatever it is, it happens in the dark. It hurts when it is over, because I am so very tired. But then I sleep. And I am happy.
We love that you create “strong clothes for strong women”. Please share 3 words that describe how you hope a Kamm girl feels in your clothing?
Handsome. Relaxed. Ready
What does beauty mean to you? What captivates your attention?
I love an individual. Something unique, out of the ordinary. I also am really drawn to the individual that is confident enough to cultivate their own style, and really dedicate themselves to it. A uniform, a hairstyle, something that says, I am me, get used to it. I dress the same nearly every day, and have done so for years. I think about my heroes, and they are all the same. Different shades and textures of the of the exact same thing, year in and year out. I heard something hilarious once.... It was an interview of Karl Lagerfeld, (one of my favorites). He was talking about how he hates when there is consistency in a collection, and if it is not fresh every season he is bored. Yet every time I see him, I know EXACTLY how he will look. He gets to wear a uniform. Why should women have be different characters in the circus every passing season. I love consistency. I love the dedication to one's own declaration of who you are.
Since creating your line in 2005, what are some valuable lessons you’ve learned throughout the years?
Oh heavens. The list is so long. The overarching sentiment is included here in my daily mantra:
Only work with people you respect.
Trust your gut.
If something feels off, that is because it is.
Grow slow, so that you do not grow out of business.
Do not take on more than you know you can handle.
...And as William Burroughs taught Patti Smith, and what I know to be very true but Patti says it best... Keep your name clean. Don't make compromises, don't worry about making a bunch of money or being successful. Be concerned about doing good work. Protect your work and if you build a good name, eventually it will be its own currency. I know this to be true. It is how I have run my business from the start, and that will never change.
Background and upbringing play such a significant role in shaping us for who we are today. Can you share a significant memories that helped shape you?
I had a very picturesque childhood. I grew up in the country, in a home that my parents built. They are amazing human beings, and they taught my brothers and I to trust ourselves and to go where our hearts wanted to take us. My parents are very talented artists. My dad came home from work every day at 5:15pm, and never worked on the weekends. He gave up great job opportunities, so that he could be home to experience life. We built rooms and furniture, painted, fished, camped, chopped firewood, and spent all of our time in nature. Everything they did shaped me. Watching their relationship taught me how to be a great partner, and a great parent. Watching their work ethic taught me how to shape mine. Knowing that if they wanted something, they could just build it, taught me to be a doer not a consumer. I hope to pass on the same gifts to my young person, and to those who are close to me. The gift of simple living.
After a long day, what is your remedy to feeling re-energized for the next day?
As soon as the sun starts to set, I light all of the candles. I keep some classical playing in some room of the house. I put on long johns and soft socks. We do the whole homework, dinner bath time routine, and then we watch an episode of The Cosby Show or Fresh Price of Bel Air. When junior is finally in bed, I read or watch old films. And then I make lists. Lots and lots of lists.
How do you style your Kamm Pants to go?
I wear them everyday with everything. I hike in them with my dorky trail shoes and wool socks. I wear them with ballet slippers, or ankle boots, Vans, or sandals. For the SS16 lookbook I paired them with 70's style strappy heels, and that looked hot. Oversized sweaters, or slim fitting tops that are tucked in, it all looks good... that is why they are so wonderful.
Each season we look forward to your thoughtful lookbooks and campaigns. Who are some of your collaborators on these and how does the concept come about?
Well thank you! I have a lot of fun with the lookbooks. Because I do not have to answer to a showroom, I can make the books a little more editorial. Because the shapes are consistent, and my stores have all carried my collection for so long, they understand the shapes, and I do not have to shoot every single angle and detail. That really bores me. My dear friend Katrina Dickson and I have collaborated on the past 8 lookbooks. She and I shot the band Haim for a campaign early on, and we fell in love with how our styles jived. I am super organized from the get go. We discuss ideas and inspiration, as I always have this long elaborate story about where the collection came from and what it means. She takes all that information and puts it in her own percolator. When the day comes and we have the collection, the girl, and the location, then I let go of the reigns, and Katrina works her magic. I just hang back in the shadows, and shout out a casual idea for the model... some kind of reference point or another. When the day is complete, we edit together, and then I design all of the layouts for the book. I get to be an art director and graphic designer one week each season, and that is really fun for me. It is good to exercise that part of my brain. It requires a completely different skill set from designing the collection.
Favorite neighborhood spot to grab a coffee or tea?
Cafe de Leche in Highland Park is our local hang. We bring coffee home from Panama every summer, and stock the freezer. I really get my fix at home.
We are thrilled for the launch of your SS ‘16 collection, #theanniversaryparty. What are you feeling most inspired by for this collection?
I love this collection so much. When I designed the SS16 pieces, I wanted to do something that bookmarked the past decade of my work. I went back to my roots, which were far more ladylike silhouettes. I was very inspired by Halston, Jean Muir, and Zandra Rhodes back then. Going back to those original shapes has affected the way that I am dressing myself. For many years I have been dressing very "homme", but all of the sudden I am channeling my inner Lauren Hutton... and it drives me to bust out the curling iron and put on a lady shoe. It is a nice change, but don't get me wrong... My uniform hasn't changed... just the accessories. I promise.