At Ånde, we are constantly inspired by people who are actively working to help change the way we consume and who encourage us to cherish the items in our closet for years and years. In July, we were lucky enough to host a marble dye workshop led by Kim Krempien from Other Lives Studio. Kim has worked in the fashion industry for well over a decade and has worked as an intern, stylist and as fashion director for fashion weeks in Vancouver and LA. Kim is now working in operations and recently has started a redesign studio, Other Lives Studio with her business partner Betsy Flores. Kim and Betsy started Other Lives Studio as a response to the toll their beloved industry was taking on the environment and have created workshops to inspire creativity with the mission of reducing textile and apparel waste. I was so happy to catch up with Kim, a very dear and life long friend, to talk to her about her inspirations and the importance of sustainability in the fashion industry. You can read our conversation below.
Kim! I’m so happy to chat with you today. Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself!
Yes! I live, work, and study in Los Angeles. My job entails managing operations for a Chinese garment manufacturer with offices in LA and Jiangyin, China. I'm currently studying sustainability and business best practices at the University of Southern California.
Ever since I’ve known you (35+ years now) you’ve been interested in fashion and textiles- I even remember you making your own dress for the grade 8 graduation! Do you even remember how you became interested in the fashion industry? When did your love affair with fashion start?
I think I was five years old when I first developed some idea about what clothing meant. I was really fortunate to have a parent who knew how to sew and make clothing; my mum would take me to the fabric store and let me choose fabrics and buttons for pieces she would make. I loved that process, fabric was exciting to me because it held all kinds of possibilities. When I was seven, I made my first dress for my sister and that was that- my fate was sealed. There was nothing else that would make me happier than creating something from nothing, that allowed me to express myself in precisely the way I wanted to be seen. Magic.
So inspiring!! Can you tell us how your vision of the fashion industry has changed over the years? Or has it?
This is a tough question, because I think my perception of the industry has been degraded by working in it for so long. When I first started working in fashion (at a boutique in Montreal called Stacey Zhang), I learned how difficult the job of designer really is. Stacey was SO hard working, and it never stopped. She was responsible for running the boutique, designing new collections every quarter, shooting marketing material...everything! Running a business is difficult enough, but then you layer on the pressure of designing new, fresh collections every three months and it begins to look like a Sisephyean task. I gained so much respect and admiration for Stacey in that job, but it is what prompted me to pivot from wanting to be a designer to other areas of the industry.
We were so fortunate to have you in the store in July to teach a marble dye workshop you created for Other Lives Studio. Can you talk a bit about what inspired you to launch Other Lives Studio?
My business partner Betsy and I both work in the fashion industry and witnessed firsthand the incredible waste that the industry generates. At every stage, there is a percentage of product that isn't bought or sold, so it just sits in boxes somewhere for....ever. There is no current system where unused clothing can be re-integrated into the market without losing some of its value, and this frustrated us. Other Lives was a way for us to change consumer behaviour downstream to impact the industry upstream later on; if people held on to their clothing for longer by learning how to repair or re-make it, they would buy less new clothing.
We are really trying to do our part as a small business to promote and encourage sustainable and ethical buying practices, and only work with brands who share that ethos and value system. Can you tell our readers why you think sustainable and ethical practices are so important in fashion today?
We are facing an existential crisis in the form of global climate change. Every industry emits CO2 in some capacity, and the fashion industry is no exception. On top of that, the industry is notorious for unsavory ethical and unsustainable practices like sub-minimum wage workers, toxic chemical use, overproduction, etc. It's a mess! We need brands to take accountability for the process by which their clothing is made, from the fibres they choose all the way down to the packaging. It's never been more important for brands to take ownership of their production practices and be transparent with their customers about their journey. It's not just the end consumer that cares where and how a t-shirt is made; governments around the world are starting to realize that legislation can help reign in some of the worst effects of the industry. So right now many 'sustainability' actions are voluntary, but in the near future it will be a requirement.
It is apparent that so many things need to change in this industry but I'm curious if there is anything that still excites you about fashion today?
I am excited about the emergence of accountability and ownership over the supply chain that I'm seeing across the industry right now. It feels like we are moving towards a future for the industry that balances the needs of the market with the resource constraints of our earth, and that is a necessary re-alignment.
You have always been such a style icon. Ever since we were wee ones I remember thinking you always knew how to put the best outfits together! Can you describe your personal style? Do you think you’ve reached your style persona or is it still evolving?
As I get older, I really see the value in a uniform. My grandfather wore the same thing every single day, and I am beginning to have more respect for that way of thinking. I love suiting, and all I want to do is dress like the men in the Godfather; it looks so put-together and effortless.
Do you have any advice for people starting to sew/mend/up cycle their clothing?
Start with one thing - just to explore the options and techniques available to you. Take one piece that you really love but don't wear much any more, and try to mend the hole or apply a tie-dye effect. You will be surprised by how much you love it after it has been transformed. If you need ideas, check out the Other Lives YouTube channel
Kim, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today, I really appreciate it. Before I let you go, can you share with our readers your top 3 favourite items from Ånde?
Kim will be back this spring/summer to teach another Other Lives Studio workshop! Make sure to sign up for our newsletter so you can have first access to the registration!