Kit and Ace is poised to become the “next big thing” thanks to their innovative Technical Cashmere™ fabric designed to move from day to night. We recently caught up with JJ Wilson, one half of the duo behind the brand, to discuss why the clothes you buy should be equipped for whatever life throws your way.
Vancouver-based brand Kit and Ace combines technical and functional details with the luxe properties of cashmere. With a family embedded in performance wear, JJ Wilson (son of Lululemon founder Chip Wilson) cut his teeth with Vancouver’s Wings + Horns and Reigning Champ before launching Kit and Ace with his stepmom, Shannon Wilson. The brand aims to provide luxurious products that keep pace with the daily rigors of life, for people who want their clothes to perform as well in the boardroom as they do in off-the-clock hours. We recently spoke to JJ Wilson on the eve of a whirlwind trip across the globe as he prepares for a vital growth period for the brand.
Tell us about your vision behind Kit and Ace and how it came to be.
Shannon and I saw a gap in the market for clothing that was both functional and luxurious. Together we came up with the concept of Technical Luxury™ – adding technical attributes to seemingly precious fabrics like cashmere and silk. This is the basis and foundation for what we’re doing. Based on how the technology is moving, the opportunities for adding functional properties to a variety of fabrications in the future feel limitless at this point.
You mentioned this is the brainchild of you and your stepmother. How special has it been to be on this journey with a family member, and has that aspect of the business presented any challenges?
We’ve done it as a family before. Growing up, I spent every day in a retail shop watching my family develop a business. Our family dynamic and our family conversations have always been about the business of retail and fashion. I think Shannon and I probably have one of the better stepson/stepmom relationships. We’re both in it together. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its challenges. We’re growing at a rapid rate, and things obviously come up where we don’t have all the answers.
There may not always be alignment, but that’s just a part of growing a business in general – whether we are related or not. Going into something with Shannon felt right and there isn’t another person that I would want to go into business with. Where I am in my own life, learning from Shannon is a good way for me to gain a really strong entrepreneurial and business background so I’m able to execute on what I need to.
What are the origins of the name Kit and Ace? What is it influenced by?
We actually didn’t have a name for Kit and Ace in the beginning, but we had written out who we were making this brand for. We love the West Coast. We’ve always lived in Vancouver in this little area called Kitsilano, which is on the water. If I could compare it to anything in Los Angeles, it would be like Santa Monica or Venice. There are five boys in my family and we always used to joke that if there was ever a girl, we would name her “Kit.” She embodies what it means to live a West Coast lifestyle.
I’m also passionate about menswear and I wanted to make sure that there was an equivalent male counterpart. I chose to name him “Ace.” As archetypes, both of them influence what our shops look and feel like, and guide our decisions around the brand. We use them as check-ins. They are our inspiration.
What does living a “full-contact lifestyle” mean to you?
A full-contact life means each day has purpose and possibility. I look at my friends around me and see how the global world is changing. People are living their lives [in a] “go, go, go” kind of way. Shannon and I really are moving from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Not that it exhausts me – I actually find that it energizes me – and that’s really what we wanted our product to show up like and who we wanted it to be for. For me it was, “How can the clothes that I actually want to wear keep up with my lifestyle?”
So we created our foundational fabric Technical Cashmere™ that has all the benefits of pure cashmere without any of the hassle. It’s enhanced with stretch for ease of movement and it’s machine washable to save you time. I wanted to make sure that whatever I was creating with Kit and Ace was 100 percent reliable [and] no matter what happens, Technical Cashmere™ keeps its shape and does not bag out or shrink. It is a supplement to a full-contact lifestyle – adding technical functionality to luxurious cashmere.
How important are seemingly invisible details like your “smooth seams” to your brand?
Without sounding too cliché, luxury is in the details. Shannon is a technical designer and she knows how people move in what they wear. Features like smooth seams, breathable grommets, articulated knees and hidden cell phone pockets are the subtle details that make Kit and Ace designs so special. We don’t want all of these details exposed. The subtle, luxurious element is something you might not discover right away.
We have an ambitious expansion plan for a large global presence, with 50 shops open by the end of 2015 and 25 more projected to open in early 2016. Kit and Ace is constantly evolving and innovating – look out for lifestyle products, luxury accessories and new technical fabrications.
See Kit and Ace’s Winter 2015 collection in full here.
- Photography: Header Image by The Collective You