Interview: Kamperett

Kamperett volume 2

Kamperett Volume 2 (latest collection)

 
I like to keep things simple. Now, as a mother of a one-year-old, even more so – time has a new meaning, and so does a no-nonsense approach to life. Simpleness works for me. And when it comes to my personal style, it really works wonders for me. Be comfortable, be yourself, and wear that shirt dress over pants if you feel like it. Naturally, when I come across a brand that inherently projects the image of an effortless, natural and kind-seeming woman, one who weaves her life around family and passion (instead of a simple job), I am reminded why I still hold an interest in fashion – it’s the kind of fashion that it is made with style and lasting memories in mind, the kind of fashion that still feels relevant to me to write about. It is the kind of brand that encourages a tightly curated wardrobe of beautiful pieces with a story of their own rather than a tight three-month update of your closet. The kind of brand that puts price on the way a woman presents herself and on the way she carries herself. The kind of brand that is all about sustainability, ethics, and quality in garments. San Francisco based label Kamperett embodies all the aforementioned qualities. And it does it with real class and confidence. On top of that, it has me seriously considering ditching my uniform of jeans and t-shirt or shirt (no easy feat by any means!) and go for dresses that convey the same sense of ease and timelessness.

Today I have the great pleasure to introduce you to the amazing duo behind Kamperett, Anna Chiu and Valerie Santillo, who have recently talked to me about their story, their brand, and following one’s dream, about the creative heaven that San Francisco is and the last film they have watched.
 
Interview Kamperett

Kamperett co-founders, Anna Chiu and Valerie Santillo

 
Anna, Valerie, what drew you to the fashion business?
Anna: I’ve been kind of obsessed with fashion since the 7th grade. I had Kate Moss plastered all over my walls and sketched dresses incessantly. My mom bought me a sewing machine when I was 11 and I would make my own clothes.

Valerie: Ultimately, an appreciation for personal style. I think my desire to use fashion as a means of non verbal communication has lead me to this industry. I have always been fascinated with looking at how people dress themselves, I think it informs a lot about how someone sees the world.

What are the core tenets on which the idea behind Kamperett is based?
Anna: We wanted to create a line of clothing that was beautiful, comfortable, effortless, and that would become staples in your wardrobe that you could wear over and over. We really just want to make clothes that we want to wear. Women today are so busy, and we personally love things that you can easily throw on and go from meeting to play date to dinner.

Valerie: I think ease and a kind of naturalness – it’s never fussy. Simple, timeless and feminine in an empowering way. We aim to make beautiful, well crafted pieces while staying as environmentally sound as possible.

I see Kamperett as a perfect marriage between femininity and modern simplicity, between easy elegance and practicality, and the perfect alternative to probably the most modern of classics looks out there, jeans and t-shirt (I am a denim girl through and through). Is there a particular woman you design for?
The woman we design for is comfortable in her own skin. She is confident, sophisticated, and has a deep appreciation for good design, high quality, art, and ethical production.
 
Kamperett Spring 2016

Kamperett Volume 2

 
What is the tagline that would best describe Kamperett?
Effortless and beautiful clothing for the modern day woman.

The name of your brand is a hybrid of your mothers’ maiden names, Pferdekamper and Garrett. Are they your inspiration? Who and what else inspires you?
Anna: Definitely! My grandmother and mother taught me that it’s smarter to invest in one thing that is the best quality and that you love versus a few cheaper things, that life is short and to follow your heart, that you can find unending inspiration and peace in nature, and the importance of being a good person and helping others. These values influence my decisions and how I live my life every day both personally and professionally.

Valerie: So much so. My mom had a big influence on me as far as having an appreciation for history, nostalgia, and quality. I think I am so drawn to vintage and antique things due to her and that really has always been at the core of my style and inspiration- clothing or otherwise. It not only is the details found in the construction and craftsmanship of vintage garments, but it’s beyond that, too – I love thinking about the story, memories and history those objects hold. I am just sentimental at heart, so I tend to hold onto the past a bit and that has always held a strong presence in how I perceive my surroundings, I think.
 
Kamperett volume 2

Kamperett Volume 2

 
What is your background and how did you come to work together?
Anna: I studied biology and was pre-med in college, but switched gears and pursued fashion after I graduated instead of medical school. I worked at an Australian label called Ksubi, ran a high-end children’s clothing line, and most recently was a product development leader for Restoration Hardware. Val studied Visual Arts, and then Fashion Design at the Academy of Art, worked with Cynthia Rowley, designed lingerie, and is also a talented painter. We’ve known each other for years and worked together on a few projects for RH. After having my first son, Kai, I decided to quit and start my own thing. Val and I talked late one night in my car after dinner and decided to do this line together.

How difficult is it to make a fashion business partnership work? What is the secret to a good partnership?
We are lucky in that we both get along really well and have a very aligned aesthetic. I would say good communication and a positive attitude help make a successful partnership.

How much talent, how much hard work and how much luck would you say that is involved in a successful fashion brand?
I would say all three, but mostly talent and hard work. But the hard work comes from a place of love and passion, so it’s not like it’s torturous. Hard work can be fun and fulfilling too.
 
Interview Kamperett founders

Kamperett Volume 2

 
Your collections are locally manufactured in California, using sustainable fabrics. Do you see your brand as socially conscious? What are the perks and challenges of a socially conscious brand?
Definitely! Before we started, we wrote in our manifesto that we wanted to run our business ethically and with as minimal carbon footprint as possible. As a human being sharing this planet with other living beings, it is our duty to live consciously. We manufacture with local, family run factories that provide good working conditions and pay to their employees. We use sustainable or dead-stock fabrics whenever we can. We design our pieces to last, and produce limited quantity styles in small batches to minimize waste. We can sleep soundly at night knowing we are doing our part. A challenge would be the cost, it is much more expensive to produce this way.

How do you get the attention of your customers for long enough to tell your story?
Haha, we’re not too good about telling our story! I think you just try to stay true to yourself and your brand’s identity. I think it’s important to be focused and genuine with what makes you unique, I think people respond to that.
 
Kamperett volume 2

Kamperett Volume 2

 
Do you collect clothes?
Anna: I definitely hold on to certain pieces by designers I love, or vintage pieces I’ve found over the years.

Valerie: I am actually fairly good at constantly editing my wardrobe. I like to live pretty minimally and I find I naturally edit things out of my closet on a regular basis. I however have a bit of a problem when it comes to lingerie! Especially vintage. I used to work in the lingerie industry and naturally it became a bit of an indulgence for me. I have a pretty decent collection of vintage pieces that I mostly don’t even wear, but just love to admire – there is something about the fabrics, colors, construction and stitching found on vintage slips and foundation garments that I just love and draw a lot of inspiration from.

The capsule wardrobe seems to be all the rage these days. Imagine a woman about to embark on a mass edit of her closet. What items would you tell her to keep?
Anna: The pieces you feel the most comfortable and beautiful in.

Valerie: The ones that she actually wears and feels the best in. The pieces that her future daughter will be upset if she gives away.
 
Kamperett volume 2

Kamperett Volume 2

 
What are the pros and cons of starting a fashion company in San Francisco, away from the fashion capital of New York? And how does living in San Francisco influence you creatively?
Launching our collection in San Francisco has been really awesome. We’ve had so much incredible support that we may not have gotten in NY or even LA where there is so much more competition. San Francisco definitely influences our designs. We love living in such a culturally diverse, historically rich, European feeling urban city that is so close to so much beautiful nature. There is no other city like it.

What is your favourite thing to do in San Francisco and which you would miss if you lived anywhere else in the world?
Anna: I love hiking to the top of Bernal Hill and looking over the city, and going to Baker Beach or East Beach where you are always guaranteed a magical view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Valerie:Ah, so hard, I love it here so much! One of my favourite things to do here would have to be walking the streets in North Beach and feeling nostalgic about old SF. To me, that neighborhood really embodies true San Francisco.

What advice would you give someone with their own idea or dream?
Anna: Don’t over think it. Just do it!

Valerie: I would say to keep your dream in mind always and to keep pushing forward. Sometimes you can have several false starts and that’s ok. I also think it can also be important to keep an open mind, you many discover something on your journey to your “dream” that is your true calling, it’s important to listen to that. I think the fear of failing and the unknown can be crippling, but you have to try your hardest not to let it keep you from trying. This is advice I would give myself – today even.
 
Kamperett volume 2

Kamperett Volume 2 (latest collection)

 
What does style mean to you?
Anna: Style is so personal. I think style is being honest and true to yourself and your aesthetic, and being confident and comfortable in your choices.

Valerie: Style to me is a way in which someone does something that just exudes their true self, it’s never forced. It’s innate and ultimately I think it’s a way in which someone carries themselves. I think it’s just a way of communicating who you are without speaking.

I feel my best in:
Anna: Depends on the occasion, but I always feel great in a long flowy dress.

Valerie: Something kind of slouchy yet feminine, maybe a bit oversized. Most likely it’s black and a dress.
 
Kamperett Volume 1
Kamperett volume 1

Kamperett Volume 1

 
Where would we find you when not working?
Anna: On some kind of adventure with my kids and husband. We love to travel and explore new places together.

Valerie: On a day trip down the coast of California with my husband and my pug.

One thing you can’t start your day without:
Anna: Coffee and snuggles from my boys.

Valerie: Coffee!

The last book you’ve read and last film you’ve seen:
Anna: A Wild Sheep Chase, Haruki Murakami and The Piano.

Valerie: The last book I read was a biography about Debbie Harry and the last film I watched was Mermaids.

What makes you happy at the end of the day?
Anna: I am happy at the end of the day if I can be productive with work and be present with my family and friends.

Valerie: Spending time with my family.

photos: Kamperett / second image courtesy of Anna Chiu and Valerie Santillo

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