Kilometre Paris | Clothing Without Limits

Location: Harlem, New York. Muse: Atenea

Location: Harlem, New York. Muse: Atenea

Would you believe it if I told you there was a brand that encouraged traveling, empowered women on a global scale, is entirely ethical throughout it's supply chain, has deep seated roots to a philanthropic organization, AND is the ultimate chic? Meet Kilometre Paris. Created by the sensational Alexandra Senes, whom, like her brand, is literally from everywhere. Born in Senegal, raised in New York City, and relocated yet again to Paris at the age of 17 to begin her impressive editorial career in fashion. Senes' career, much like her life, took her all over the world eventually she becoming the founder and chief editor of Jalouse Magazine. In 2016, she founded Kilometre Paris.

Kilometre has a distinct presence, initially I was captivated by the brand's uniquely embroidered tunics that could easily double as men's shirts. Each collection of Kilometre's perfect-for-summer-light-and-breezy-linen-tunics celebrates cities around the world such as: Karimabad, Pakistan; Niesko, Japan; Costa Careyes, Mexico; Jericacoara, Brazil. Subtly reminding us that we are all global citizens.

I had the unequivocal pleasure of connecting with Alexandra, and immediately, I admired her. Alexandra is a brave, multicultural female force that the world never seems to have enough of. A champion of women's rights by using a diverse portfolio of cultures for inspiration, Senes makes sure to always give credit where credit is due. In addition, Kilometre works closely with the philanthropic Zellidja Foundation, which is discussed in more detail via our interview below. Individually these achievements are impressive, but combined they are extraordinary. The traditional fashion industry hardly ever acknowledges the people that are the most in need of recognition.

This being said, Kilometre is not without attention from the most prevalent voices in the fashion industry, such as: the world renowned  Vogue and the exclusive luxury clothing destination, Barney's New York

INTERVIEW

Alexandra Senes, Founder of Kilometre Paris

Alexandra Senes, Founder of Kilometre Paris

GIVING BACK IS THE ULTIMATE CHIC + WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT

Kelly Madera: Kilometre appears to have a team comprised of mostly women from all over the world! What do you look for when hiring, is international location a need to have or a nice to have?

Alexandra Senes: It’s not a must but I believe that it enriches the company - every person in my team has a different cultural background, different taste and different life views. This is what makes the brand so strong - everyone chips in, shares their opinion. They all bring in their ‘spice’. I always says that Kilometre is chameleon and my international team is a big reason behind that.

Kilometre unites a community of curious, adventurous, fashionable travellers. We are in the process of knitting together a global network of world explorers who have similar values: an appreciation of artisanal know-how and fair trade, discovery, and style.

KM: Talk to me more about the philanthropic efforts Kilometre is involved in. It looks like the Zellidja Foundation is the primary focus - tell me more about how you selected that organization and why it matters to the brand?

AS: I wanted to give back immediately even before the company had even earned a cent. I say that I wanted Kilometre to give back kilometres to kids. What about making a senegalese kid (since I was born there) travel to Paris ? And i thought but how am i going to pick him. Then I though a sick kid. And same question came. How am I going to pick one kid: sick, sicker then the other … Horrible choices. I looked for an association for at least 6 months.  I even thought of doing my own association. I was already learning a new job as a fashion designer or conductor of a fashion company, i was not going to spend my nights to create an association. When I discovered Zellidja it was a miracle. Zellidja has been sending a hundred kids- between 17 and 20- all over the world since more then 50 years. This association is part of Fondation de France, a government acknowledge. The kids need to have a project to defend. It can be either calligraphy in Algeria, the horse in Mongolia or coffee in venezuela. We sent 4 kids abroad since we exist. One of them was from Bordeaux and left to Tokyo to study "what graphism changes in the life of a Tokyo inhabitant ». Zellidja changed his autonomy, his point of view on the world and maybe his life.  

Location: Brittany, France. Muse: Alice

Location: Brittany, France. Muse: Alice

WE ARE ALL GLOBAL CITIZENS

KM: Kilometre, quite literally encourages its patrons to travel - what a fascinating concept - how did you come up with that? What inspired the brand?

AS: I was born in Dakar, and I spent my teens in Manhattan. I arrived in Paris aged 17. As a journalist for Parisian magazines, I continued to travel around the world to report on places from Beirut to Johannesburg, by way of the Siwa desert in Egypt. For me, travel is truly a way of life. In that way, Kilometre resembles me and is an extension of my personality. I could even say that Kilometre’s stories are my life stories. As a result, Kilometre was born out of my taste for adventure.

In addition, I realised that there was an emerging market for brands that mix travel and fashion. With the exception of Hermès and the brand’s distinctive universe, or Louis Vuitton’s campaigns that celebrate the wonders of travel…the fashion world doesn’t know how to talk about travel. The tourism, hospitality and airline industries are simply not fashionable, which is the opposite of what’s happening in the worlds of gastronomy or contemporary art. This gave me the extra push that I needed to start Kilometre.

Location: Brittany, France. Muse: Alice

Location: Brittany, France. Muse: Alice

COMPETITION? DOES IT EVEN MATTER?

KM: Who do you see as Kilometre’s competition in the retail market?

AS: The brand has a foot in embroidery, travel, lux and ethic segments so we have a bit of competitors everywhere. In terms of retail, I’d say Vita Kin, Mira Mikati, Astier de Villatte, Gucci, Re / Done, L’Uniform to name a few… But don’t take it too literally - I don’t think at all that we do the same thing and are selling to the same customer.

KM: Many of your quite frankly resemble priceless pieces of art in a very Elsa Schiaparelli way, how do you decide which cities to explore and utilize for design creation?

AS: My creative process is directly influenced by that which I see and feel during my travels, and when I meet new people. For inspiration, I visit the Venice and Sao Paulo biennales, or a contemporary art centre on an island in Japan. There, one finds artists from all around the world who know how to celebrate the destinations of tomorrow. I don’t keep a moodboard with clippings of images from cinema, or contemporary dance and art, because it’s the locations themselves that inspire me. There’s something about discovering those unexpected spots that lie off the beaten path. For instance, I prefer New York state’s Hudson Valley to the Hamptons - I find it to be much more up-to-date. Most of all, I love the differences between destinations, and adapting myself to very different surroundings. I feel equally at ease boating whilst drinking cheap rosé on the Canal de l’Ourcq in Pantin as I do on the private beaches of Costa Careyes rubbing shoulders with the jet-set. I embroider all of these experiences on Kilometre’s items. Typically, these embroideries are not literal representations, but a condensed version of my discoveries; like memories that I’ve held of these places. For our Hudson Valley shirt, illustrator Apolline Riser and I decided to use images of kale to represent the area. On the Pantin shirt, you’ll find the buildings that house advertising agency BETC, the 104 cultural centre, Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery, and the Cité des Métiers where Chanel and Hermès have their special order ateliers. On another shirt is an abandoned shack in Kolmanskop, a ghost town that was engulfed by the sands of the Namibian desert. And, the Niseko shirt displays the ski slopes there.

Location: AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS; Muse: Fazeelat

Location: AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS; Muse: Fazeelat

IMPACT + SOCIAL AWARENESS

KM: Does Kilometre have any certifications, or any special impact measure tools to track their environmental or social impact?

AS: We work only with fair-trade companies and small embroidery ateliers. We always continue to stick by our eco and ethic main values. Our main fabric is khadi - which is hand-woven cotton made in India. It’s really a universal fabric - it can be very sexy when transparent and not layered and very modest - when doubled. In our collection we represent both options for different kind of woman.

KM: No clothing brand can ever be perfect, but are there any improvements you have intentions of cultivating?

AS: The fact that the fashion world functions in seasons - it’s a never ending cycle, and all parties involved end up getting caught in it: designers with the necessity to produce at least 4 collections a year, and consumers with the constant need to buy-buy-buy… I want my brand to be out of “seasons”. It’s tough to carve your own way in the established system but I am trying my best to impose it, at least on my clients. And I think it’s working! Starting from July, for example, MatchesFashion will be carrying a range of our Piece Unique models that have been designed over the past 1.5 years.

Capsule Wardrobing - You're Probably Doing It Wrong

Praying that my readers learn the definition of capsule wardrobing after consuming this post #BlessUp  

Praying that my readers learn the definition of capsule wardrobing after consuming this post #BlessUp

 

Dearest Internet Friends, listen up: enough with your bloated versions of the “capsule” wardrobe. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the word capsule is trending. Everyone seems to have created their own definition as to what it actually means. So, what does it mean, then?

Credit for coining the term “capsule wardrobe” goes to London boutique owner Susie Faux in the 1970s. +1 for the Brits. However,  it really caught on in 1980s America thanks to former Parsons alumni, designer Donna Karan and her “Seven Easy Pieces” collection. +2 for Parsons the Americans. Which side am I on? At the time, a capsule wardrobe was defined as a compact wardrobe made up of staple pieces in coordinating colours–usually in the realm of 30 items or fewer, including shoes and sometimes even accessories. Faux suggested fewer than a dozen items for an ideal capsule wardrobe. One might update the wardrobe with a couple of new trendy or seasonal items two or three times a year, but that's it. The goal was to have a streamlined wardrobe of high-quality pieces that could be worn often and interchangeably, thereby saving money, closet space, and time. The ultimate challenge for ethical fashionistas, or really anyone who cares about Mother Earth.

Fast forward to the 2010s and the capsule wardrobe appears to have taken on a new meaning. It has sneakily been repackaged as the new vessel for our society’s capitalistic obsession with consumerism. Welcome to America. A country that can sell you things based on not selling anything, yet the end result ends the same - YOU KEEP BUYING! Perhaps this is a harsh proclamation, but it’s true. So many blogs and articles have pushed the capsule wardrobe idea because it’s currently trendy, without actually committing to the actual tenets behind the concept. Capsule wardrobing should not involve purchasing new pieces, but in trimming down what you already have.

One “minimal” style blog, Un-Fancy, offers up these suggestions for curating a capsule wardrobe: “If picking a number doesn’t jive with you, listen to your intuition—it’ll tell you when you have enough.” The blogger, Caroline, used her intuition to choose 37 items for her capsule wardrobe–but rather than those 37 items being worn year-round, they are meant to be seasonal items for a three-month period. After those three months, she “typically end[s] up getting between 4-8 new pieces for each new season.” Caroline calls this wardrobe approach “generous yet minimal.” I’m sure that  people with much larger wardrobes [like myself, if I'm being honest,] would not call this generous, but at the same time I’m not so sure it can be considered minimal either. Especially, when this is contrasted with Susie Faux’s original capsule wardrobe concept of around a dozen items meant to be worn year-round, every year.

Another misguided approach to the capsule wardrobe has been spreading around Pinterest a lot since it was published on Who What Wear last year: “How to Create a 5-Piece French Wardrobe.” Intrigued, I clicked on the pinned article to find out how French women manage to be so stylish with only a five-piece wardrobe! Of course, the title was wildly misleading. The actual wardrobe is a fairly pared-down collection of 33 classic staples. The key, apparently, is to add five new items of trendy clothing every season. (This season, we are advised to purchase items such as a romper, culottes, and flatforms. Those are certainly trendy.) Of course, this is to be done after cleaning out your closet and then purchasing “new basics to fill any gaps” that opened up after getting rid of your old clothes. WTF?

Wait a minute, I thought to myself after reading these blog posts (and many more like them). Why is the capsule wardrobe suddenly all about shopping? The whole point of a capsule wardrobe is for people who are on a budget or dealing with minimal closet space (or even people who simply aren’t interested in spending a lot of time and money on fashion) to be able to stop making multiple purchases every two to three months and still have a serviceable wardrobe.

Dress: Recycled from a friend's roommate [my only long-sleeve LBD] Belt: Re-used from Theory dress I no longer own [my only black belt] Jeans: Rag & Bone [1 of 2 pairs of sandblasted jeans that I alternate in] Booties: Sam & Libby [only pair of black heeled booties]

Dress: Recycled from a friend's roommate [my only long-sleeve LBD]

Belt: Re-used from Theory dress I no longer own [my only black belt]

Jeans: Rag & Bone [1 of 2 pairs of sandblasted jeans that I alternate in]

Booties: Sam & Libby [only pair of black heeled booties]

If you are someone who is intrigued by the capsule wardrobe idea but can’t possibly imagine trimming your entire wardrobe down to fewer than 50 items, then you may find blogs such as Project 333 helpful as a starting point. Please note that not everyone has to have a capsule wardrobe, even I don't! Just because the minimal trend is popular right now doesn’t mean it will work for your lifestyle or tastes, and that’s fine.

Still, you may find that you actually have a good reason to switch to a capsule wardrobe. Perhaps you’re on a tight budget or trying to save money. Perhaps you don’t have enough closet space anymore or your home is becoming cluttered with clothing and shoes you don’t wear. And then, of course, there’s also the environmental and ethical backlash caused by our love affair with fast fashion.

So if you do decide to try out the capsule wardrobe for yourself, great! Just try to be mindful of how you go about it, lest you fall into the trap of using your capsule wardrobe as an excuse to buy more things that you “need” to make your wardrobe “perfect.” I could not be more over this illusion of perfection. Nobody’s wardrobe is perfect, whether it’s minimal and streamlined or chock-full with trends. There will always be another item that you need to make your wardrobe complete; it’s human nature to want something more, something new. That's capitalism working at it's finest. My issue isn’t with the number of items in anyone’s capsule wardrobe, but rather the focus being put on the constant shopping required to update one’s capsule wardrobe every season. What do you think?

 

Being Sexy Is Being Ethical SS17

At long last, spring has arrived here in New York! What does this mean? A fresh new wardrobe for an entirely new season. This being said, I advocate if you are going to shop, please do so ethically. It is incredibly easy to shop ethically and remain on par with trends. Are trends even a thing anymore? 

Check out this palette I put together. My favorite colors for this S/S 2017, a mix of bright grapefruit/lime with darker,  natural hues.

Check out this palette I put together. My favorite colors for this S/S 2017, a mix of bright grapefruit/lime with darker,  natural hues.

Nomad Short by Bonobos

Nomad Short by Bonobos

The LA Henley by Bonobos

The LA Henley by Bonobos

Have you heard of Bonobos yet? Bonobos is an ethically minded menswear company similar to the stylings of American mega brands like J.Crew or Banana Republic. But with one big difference: an ethically minded sensibility. Like most ethical fashion brands, Bonobos is online only. Additionally, Bonobos manages a blog in which they utilize to tell the stories of the men that wear their clothing. If you're new to the ethical fashion industry, creating a story around a product allows for the consumer to connect with the product more, care for it better, and therefore enabling it to last longer. This extends the entire life of a single clothing garment.

Another totally underrated ethical menswear brand? Onychek. Made entirely in Africa from ethically sourced materials. PS: How fun is this shirt? You know you need it.

To level with you, Bonobos totally rocks menswear, but have yet to launch a womenswear line. Still want to be ethical? Totally possible. Check out the above Parisian LES inspired linen dress. Made entirely by ethical standards in Paris. The perfect look and way to stay cool during the sweltering summer.

Trace Jumpsuit by Reformation

Trace Jumpsuit by Reformation

There's no other way to say it - LINEN IS IN, IN A BIG WAY. Check out this ethical jumpsuit from Reformation, vertical stripes in all the right places. Could you do better? Probably not.

The Suede Heel Boot by Everlane

Booties? Check. The ethical Everlane has these on lockdown. What's the best thing about lightly colored suede Chelsea booties? You can finally wear them in the summer with no fear of rain ruining them. Go on, purchase some and get on with yo bad self!

Sonia's Sustainable AF!

When it comes to sustainable clothing and products I get asked all the time, "But Kelly, where can I shop? How do I know it's ethical?" I have grown so passionate about this issue as it intertwines three of the things I feel most compassionate about: environmentalism, feminism and ethical fashion. My inspiring friend, Sonia, originally from Greece, has created a fabulous line of sustainable jewelry for men and women. The best part? It's completely hand-made and the options are absolutely endless. Just check it out! Delicate GR Wear !!!

Into color? Into purple as much as me? You are in luck! Delicate GR Wear

Into color? Into purple as much as me? You are in luck! Delicate GR Wear

Sonia's line is not only ethically sound, but extremely powerful in bringing awareness to an economic situation in Greece that is in grave disarray. Delicate GR Wear looks to alleviate the current status of Greece, in her own words, 

"My ultimate goal is to teach these techniques to unemployed people in Greece and hopefully offer some jobs in the future or even transform unemployed to self-employed entrepreneurs. I will be able to give jobs to people or refugees that are in need of a way to make a living. Hopefully, this will serve in creating a sustainable business for the people of Greece and give them hope that things will improve. My company is based on ethics, the Ancient Greek "pneuma" and fellowship. We need to first change ourselves before we change our environment and ultimately the world around us. This handmade craftsmanship is something that I do beyond my full-time job as an engineer is because I feel a calling to make a difference in this world. We are all one and each one of us needs to contribute to the change world as we know it." 

After hearing the words of such an empowering woman, how could anyone not want to work with her in making a difference? For my friends and readers Sonia is offering an incredible 20% off for a very limited time! Please contact me for details. BE ENVIRONMENTALLY CHIC + SHOP Delicate GR Wear!

 

 

MY WCW: PROJECTJUST, DO YOU KNOW THE STORY BEHIND YOUR CLOTHES?

If you are satisfied with the status quo, then stop reading this post will be of no interest to you. However, if you want to change the world in a meaningful, positive and actual way by all means read on. Your clothes speak before you do? Maybe not. Being a student at Parsons I have the fantastic ability to be exposed to many wonderful things. Perhaps one my favorites is the amount of seminars/talks I am invited to about the fashion industry and ways that we as consumers can improve it and make it better. Most do not realize that clothing choice and environmental awareness go hand in hand. Where are the clothes you wear coming from? How are they being produced? By whom? For how much? That's why when attending a talk on sustainable fashion I was immediately captivated by listening to Natalie Grillon speak about her company, PROJECTJUST

Natalie created PROJECTJUST with friend Shahd AlShehail after being inspired working at a cotton company in Uganda. The livelihoods of those working with cotton were increasing, but their story was not being shared and Natalie saw enormous opportunity and potential in being able to share them. JUST was created with the mindset that by being an informed consumer, you have the ability to make more thoughtful choices in clothing and therefore directly have an influence in stopping the abuses and exploitation of workers in third world countries. Without being informed, consumers will continue to buy fast fashion aka: Forever 21, H&M, Zara, etc. The prices at these stores are extremely low for a reason, and it's not a good one. Prior to listening to Natalie, I had no idea how abhorrent these fast fashion companies were.

Natalie and Shadh believe that the beauty of clothing does not only come in the form of aesthetics, but also the story behind it's creation. Given that we live in such a visually stimulating culture, it does take effort to think one step past, "Oh this looks awesome on me. I'm getting it." That sort of thinking, though second nature, is not effectively helping yourself or the industry.

Make a difference. UP YOUR GAME. Change the status quo. Choose to be informed. If you're buying clothing, which is probably everyone reading this post, I hope you take away that with companies like PROJECTJUST we can make a difference as consumers and global citizens. You, yes you, have the power!

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