‘If you’re designing your own label, then know yourself.’ – Tom Ford.
This was a quote designer Kumi Xu shared with us when we asked her to describe her eponymous label which launched at the end of last year. For such a nascent project it is evident that Kumi has taken this advice to heart. We caught up with the Sydney based designer to find out more about her experience in fashion and what it takes to get a new label off the ground.
Leiden: Tell us about your ethos.
Kumi Xu: kumi xu is a focus on minimal everyday wear pieces with an athletic feel that can easily be transitioned from day to night. I wanted an outfit I could walk my French Bulldog Mila in, wear to a nice brunch, and then go do some shopping in: outfits that look chic with minimal styling. I wanted versatile pieces that could be mixed and matched, worn during the day with sneakers and at night with heels, pieces that transcend trends that come and go. This is what I wanted, this is kumi xu.
L: What is your background in fashion and design? What made you decide to launch a label?
KX: My love for fashion design started whilst studying Fashion and Textiles design as an elective in Years 11 and 12. I went on to study at the University of Sydney- graduating with a Bachelor in Socio-Legal Studies in 2012. I enjoyed the course and was fascinated by the studies but at the end of 3 years, I still wanted to do something in fashion.
In 2011 I applied for an internship at an Australian designer label so I could immerse myself in the fashion industry while still studying. It was a great experience as I had the opportunity to participate hands-on, alongside designers, pattern makers, manufacturers and their dispatch team. It gave me insight on how the industry worked and the processes that came with creating a collection. Prior to this internship I had no knowledge of fashion design, pattern making or anything really regarding to how the fashion industry operated besides what I learnt at school- this internship reignited my desire to continue with fashion so I made the decision to study further.
In 2013 I attended UTS and studied fashion and textile design, graduating with a Bachelor in Fashion and Textiles Design in 2015. I definitely enjoyed my time here more, took part in another internship at an Australian Designer Label for 8 months and knew I wanted to have my own label one day.
In 2017, I was ready to start my label! With all the experience I had under my arm, I was eager to try my own hand at building my own brand. And this is officially when kumi xu began.
L: How do you approach design? Who or what do you draw inspiration from?
KX: Sketching is always the first step for my process. Looking at both high end and mid range fashion labels, alongside what’s being worn ‘street style’ helps me with some inspiration. I like to look at the details; my pieces are minimalistic so it’s the small details that make it special! Always being aware of what is out there in the market is vital- seeing what people are responding to and then putting a kumi xu twist on it!
L: How important are the materials you use? Where are your pieces made?
KX: The fabrics I choose are mainly based on what will match the design- seeing the versatility, durability and drape. It all begins though with an array of fabric swatches at my desk. It’s important to get a touch and feel of each fabric to get an idea of handle and quality.
kumi xu is designed in Sydney, manufactured in China. With the fashion industry being so fast in nature, I made sure the factories I am working with have a mindful work ethic. I went to visit the factories to see their process- it was an insightful experience.
L: Do you design with sustainability in mind?
KX: There are continuously new ways of approaching sustainability in design. Concepts of sustainability are evolving and patterns of consumption are changing.
Having a minimal and versatile approach to design, a kumi xu item can be worn in many possible styling combinations- the wearer can have it as a basic in their wardrobe and personalize it a bit differently every time they wear it. A versatile piece of clothing is more likely to be worn more than any other item in the wardrobe. It’s about creating pieces of clothing that can be worn over many seasons and adapt to any fashion trend. They are perennial by virtue of its quality and adaptability, lengthening its lifecycle and pushing away the ‘throwaway mentality’.
L: How do you hope to see your label expand?
KX: The second season of kumi xu went live last month, which I’m really excited about. And I’m currently working on the third installment which is hopefully coming soon. With the label being less than a year old, I’m focusing on getting kumi xu out there and increasing brand awareness!
At the moment, kumi xu is only available online via our website www.kumixu.com.au. Having launched at the end of 2017, it’s still a one man show. But opening a flagship boutique is definitely something I would like to do in the future!
Follow kumi xu on instagram @kumi.xu