Interview with fashion designer Ani Kiramichyan
Today our guest is Ani Kiramichyan from Los Angeles, CA. She is a designer of kaj.ani, high quality fashion-apparel, and also an advocate for conscious commerce. She designs (makes) clothing of high quality, using beautiful materials, and ethical manufacturing. She focuses on adding value, beauty, sustainability to the way women dress, by providing what she calls 'Fashion-for-Keeps'. Most of her designs are made-to-order for each individual customer. We have conducted an interview with her.
kajanistudio website: http://www.kajanistudio.com/
How do you maintain this edge in your clothes with a polished sophistication and youthful exuberance that enhance each personal style?
I would not call it maintaining an edge necessarily, it is more like a feeling, because I believe you can have both, it is not either or. Polished sophistication need not be rigid (or boring) or terribly ‘grown’up’ — it can be fun, too! — It can be youthful, and vise versa, youthful exuberance can be sophisticated. And I’m not talking about the societal obsession with looking younger, (youth culture, etc), no. What I mean is a youthful state of mind. There’s no reason why sophisticated apparel cannot be fun, no reason why a sophisticated person cannot feel youthful — It’s a state of mind, coupled with some really good clothes that are fun to wear, as well as functional and sophisticated. Why not? I like to offer a feeling in the clothes I design, but ultimately it is up to the wearer how they feel in these clothes.
When did you first begin to focus on adding value, beauty, sustainability to the way women dress?
I have always thought in these terms, but before, when I first began designing clothes, it was a more abstract idea which needed to be honed in, or better defined. I really comes from the following state of mind: Wanting more bang for your buck and choosing quality over quantity, at the same time. And if one is interested in sustainability as well, this is a trifecta that makes perfect sense. (After all, how much stuff do people really need/want?) So I began to focus on this idea more over the course of the last few years — buy quality stuff that lasts, buy less, don’t buy a lot of crap. It may be a tall order and it may not suit everyone, but I want to give the wearer all of the above — valuable, beautiful, sustainable clothes. When you purchase beautiful, good quality pieces that you can wear year after year, then you get more bang for your buck. These items are not cheap, but they're worth it as they pay for themselves in wears, because they serve you for a long time, beautifully. This is also more sustainable, less stuff ends up being trashed, and people’s labor has more value.
Each season you can add a few quality pieces to your wardrobe and wear those things for many years, because they’re not cheap and trendy they will last and that is a more modern way to shop. Clothes can be contemporary and exciting without being trendy, trends are fleeting, personal style is forever.
Which materials are you using that are ethically manufactured?
It’s not so much about the manufacturing of materials, but more about the manufacturing of apparel. I love beautiful, quality materials, and even use already existing fabrics in many of my pieces and collections, giving the fabrics new life and purpose. (I cannot abide cheap fabrications, they are like nails on a chalkboard.) I cannot always vouch for how all the materials are made, because I have no way of knowing all that. But I can tell you that what I make is ethical in labor. The independent contractors I work with all set their own time and set their own living wages. No sweatshops, no slave-labor, no mass-production. And that goes for everyone I work with. That’s what I mean by ethical in this case.
Is every single item you sold only one of its kind?
No, what I sell is a combination of made-to-order styles and one of a kind apparel, two different things. Most of what I make and sell is primarily made-to-order for each customer, in their size and in fabric selections that I offer. The customer chooses pieces from the styles that I offer from my collections, and they order it. It’s kind of like old-school atelier style shopping. I don’t really make stock, because I don’t know what people will end up selecting to purchase. So they choose the styles, select the size and the fabric, and I make their order and ship it to them when ready, or they pick it up in person. I also (sell) offer one of a kind (archive) pieces, many of which cannot be duplicated. In this case there’s only one item, sometimes it’s a prototype that does not get produced, there’s only 1-piece, and if they love it and it’s in their size, they buy it. Example: You see a dress on the website or in one of my Etsy shops, it comes in certain sizes and fabrics to choose from, you make your selection and I make it for you, or you pick a one-of-a-kind item, you buy it, and I send it to you. That’s pretty much how it works.
How important is 'Fashion-for-Keeps' for today's modern women?
I hope it’s very important, but only they (women) can answer that question for themselves. I’m just encouraging the idea, I want to plant the seed and see it take root and transform the way we buy things. We can all be better, more thoughtful consumers, so I advocate conscious commerce as often as I can. People can apply this in large part or in small part to their lives, depending on what works for them. ‘Fashion-for-Keeps’ and conscious commerce go hand in hand. It is a way of shopping, really a way of living, that can be beneficial to most. You buy things you need and love that serve you well, things that are beautiful and useful, thus adding value to your life, and that’s one way to become a more conscious consumer. With each purchase you are casting a vote. You buy ‘fashion-for-keeps’ because you appreciate quality fashion (clothes) that lasts, that isn’t throw-away, that isn’t cheap or so trendy that you get sick of things quickly. Things, clothes, that hold their value, that you can wear for a long time, that look good and feel good is fashion-for-keeps.
It can be beautiful and practical. It’s rarely cheap, but that’s okay, because we don’t need that much stuff, just good stuff that works well for us. You’re consuming less stuff due to discernment, so you’re shopping more wisely and saving money in the long run.
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