The idea of Kappuke-Ki-Kidswear was created by Sophie Jonas-Hill when she was trying to dress her wiggly little daughter. What she wanted was something she could wrap round, fasten and dressing her kid was done. As an experienced pattern cutter, she combined her passion with the traditional Eastern costume…the lightbulb went on…Sophie had a vision of the Kimonii (‘Kimono’ with ‘Dungaree’)…which means blending wrap around pants with a Kimono to create an outfit which wrapped round a toddler.
Kappuke-Ki-Kidswear (http://www.kappuke-ki-kidswear.co.uk) is about fusing the elements of traditional Eastern costume with simple shapes and fabrics, with the goal of creating cute, and easy-to-wear clothing for kids made with 100% Fair Trade Cotton.
1) Pink Leaf Designs: When did you first know you wanted to be a designer,and what are your inspirations?
Kappuke-Ki: I think it was when I had my daughter, the heart of my kidswear collection is the kimonii which I invented while struggling to get her dressed; it’s a wrap around garment which looks like trousers and a top
when on, but wraps on and off and fastens with only two press studs and a button. I realise I have always been inspired by Japanese and Chinese costume, the simplicity that they create from complexity is what I aspire to with all my designs.
2) PLD: If the sky’s the limit, what new piece of kids’ clothing would you create?
KK: I’ve already invented it! I would love to make a sheepskin version of my Kimonii design to wear in the winter, it would be great as you could wrap it on over whatever your child was wearing and take it on and off without having to get the boots off first, all of it would be great when dealing with snow babies! I’d love to design my own prints as well, I find it hard to source prints that I really like, especially for boys clothes.
3) PLD: You have the designer’s block today, what do you do to get unstuck?
KK: Go for a walk and think about something else, then the ideas will work themselves free and start coming; or I’ll keep myself away all night until 4, then pass out and dream the answer!
4) PLD: What LIVE celebrity would you like to send your creation for FREE and why?
KK: It would probably be Victoria Beckham just because her daughter is soon going to be the perfect age to start wearing Kimonii. I think she’d like one with a beautiful vintage Japanese print, in shades of peacock blue and pink, girly but sophisticated.
5) PLD: What obstacles did you face when starting up your own business? Any new challenges when creating your product lines? What advice would you give to those who wants to start their business in this difficult economic climate?
KK: Money – I don’t have any and no one was interested in lending it to me. My big problem aside from that was finding anyone would make small orders for me at a price that would make my product competitive. Once I
had got a little way with that and found the Bishopston trading company who would make my designs in their fabric, I then have found it impossible to speak to buyers, so have decided to retail myself – in the teeth
of the worst rescission since the war …. ah well, like a challenge!
6) PLD: If you want to branch out your business, which stores / venue would you like to carry your products?
KK: Everyone tells me that ‘John Lewis’ would be ideal, but so far that have ignored all my attempt to get an interview with them – still happy to talk if they are listening!
7) PLD: What would you do differently for your products to stand apart from your competitions? Would you create new marketing & promotional strategies? What type of process you had to go through in order to sell at ‘Covent Garden‘ ?
KK: I would be the first to admit that I am not great at marketing, it’s a hard job to do along with everything else. I have set up a club through my website which offer people a 10% discount for life, and I would like to make a Youtube film of kids in my Kimonii, I was thinking of pitching films and film characters, but it’s very hard to organise all that and do the day to day stuff. I’d love to make a range of super hero inspired Kimonii. Covent Garden has proved to be a real problem, and I have had closed my stall already. If I am honest, the problem is that they want new people to come there and improve the look and feel of the products on offer there, but are too caught up in internal politics, which meant I could never gotten the same space each week, and they offered me no storage space, meaning I had to push all my stock in an old pram frame from Kings Cross to the market, and it proved to be too physically draining.
Alas, no one’s spending either, so I was barely covering my costs each week. However, I have been excepted on the website Not on the High Street, and my products will hopefully be live on there in a few days, and what they offer is marketing expertise, which is what I lack.
(8) PLD: Which music CD are you listening now?
KK: Confession – I don’t listen to music in my home at all – unless I am dancing round my sitting room (There’s a confession!!) I either listen to radio four or audio books, as I find the narrative shuts of my negative brain and lets my positive, thinking brain work away. I am also working on three novels, and as I have no time to read, listening to books helps me expand my literary mind at the same time.
9) PLD: What’s in your tool box?
KK: This is a waistcoat on my sewing machine, I love this part when you’re bagging out because it looks nothing like the finished thing, but then you turn it out again and it’s all done, like magic! (This bit also means you’re nearly done!)
10) PLD: What else would you like the readers know about your work and future business plans?
KK: Well, I’m hoping to scrape together enough cash for some mother and baby shows next year, most are way too expensive (another gripe – if they want new companies to take part, a bit of help would be nice!) but I have my eyes on a few in the Autumn 2012. I’ll have my new No on the High Street shop up by then and I hope to have a new collection on there in time for the summer – and am especially pleased with my Union Jack collection, ready in time for the Olympics and the Jubilee.
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