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As consumer culture continues to expand, with buying habits perpetually swayed by the notion of “hot now, not later,” the growing emphasis on sustainable clothing practices these days has become something many companies are enforcing rather than considering. While the tag “eco-friendly” where clothing is concerned is commonly written off as “unfashionable”, apparel and footwear companies are making ample strides in applying ethical production techniques to create pieces which will appeal to its trend-obsessed consumers.

Drawn by a mutual concern for sustainable textile practices, Kaile Teramoto and Jami Ordiz met while studying Fashion Merchandising at San Francisco State University. After relocating to Los Angeles and discovering the city’s bountiful vintage retail landscape, the two started KAEMI – an online company that curates and sells rare thrifted and up-cycled goods with an attention placed on the styling of its pieces, achieved via its series of striking in-house editorials.

By knowing its consumer and the ever-changing trend climate, Teramoto and Ordiz have created a buzzy name for themselves in LA’s expansive thrifting scene, making KAEMI a heavy influencer in this current wave of “cool” sustainable clothing companies.

We caught up with KAEMI’s founders to find out more about their buying practices, style influences and how they’re changing LA’s burgeoning fashion scene.

When/how did you start the company?

KAEMI started in February 2015. Jami and I had happened to be at a dive bar in San Francisco and we were complaining about our current retail jobs. We began the discussion of beginning a styling company, set a date to quit our jobs and created KAEMI.

What did you want to bring to LA’s fashion landscape that wasn’t being addressed before?

Sustainability practices! It is important for us to promote that you can have style while recycling or reconstructing looks. We stray away from a lot of trends that LA has to offer. We feel that everyone should have individual style.

What are the biggest difficulties with vintage shopping in general?

It’s really hit or miss and you really have to hit up a lot of different places to find a good variety. Some shopping trips you find amazing jackets and another trip we’ll find like only one T-shirt.

How do you curate what you buy/resell?

We pick items solely based on what we think is cool. We aren’t concerned with brands because so many other resellers are. We aren’t attracted to the hype around certain brands. We frequent thrift store outlets a lot; while we dig through the bins we pay attention to condition, silhouette, fabric, and “is this cute or not”!

What type of customer does KAEMI attract?

Our customer is confident! Our customers aren’t scared to try something new. Usually we have the cute younger girls who love our pieces. Our clothes are meant to be dressed up or dressed down so our customers are very versatile with their style.

Who/what are your biggest style influences?

We pull inspiration from many different outlets like architecture and life experiences. Moods and feelings also go hand in hand into what we create visually. We want viewers to feel a story with every look with the photo shoots that we style.

Tokyo style is killing it right now and we follow many creatives from there, like Yoon. The past decades will always influence our style; taking trends from the ’70s and ’90s and mixing them with today’s style is what makes us cool. It’s never just one thing. Oh and you can’t forget RiRi! She is our favorite.

What’s been your biggest achievement so far?

Moving to Los Angeles in the beginning of 2016 was one of the smartest things we’ve done so far. LA can be a tough city when you’re trying to stand out in the fashion industry, but this past year we were able to create and produce more content than ever. We are nowhere near the end, but we are glad we have found a nice groove here.

In the realm of sustainable clothing, what needs to change in order for it to be embraced by larger crowd?

We sustain the textile supply chain because we work with second hand clothing. America is not aware of how crowded our landfills are or how poorly treated overseas factory workers are treated. A lot of these problems stem from fast fashion and big box retailers. There needs to be more of an awareness about the garment Industry, since it’s huge and its global.

LA’s fashion scene seems to be a big vibe lately. What sets it apart from places like NYC/Paris/London/Milan etc?

Los Angeles is the epitome of the California lifestyle and I think that plays a huge roll in style choices. It is simple, edgy, cool and effortless. Everyone wants to have fun in LA and the fashion here matches that.

What ambitions do you have for the company in the future?

Jami and I would love to have a showroom for our clients and KAEMI archives. Being bi-coastal and reaching customers on a global level would be another ambition of ours.

While you’re at it, find out if adidas can make sustainable clothing cool

Words by Nico Amarca
Fashion Editor, North America