Photography Undine Markus
After refining her skills at corporate jobs and freelancing for brands like NEED and Brain Dead, Kara Jubin founded her own LA-based fashion brand KkCo (the second k is silent). Community-driven and with sustainable practices in mind, the brand has become an empowering hub in LA’s diverse creative scene, supporting collaborations across various industries. From a young age, Jubin’s been invested in the passion and process of creating clothing. Now, her main focus goes past the garment and into the individual and community. Most recently, Jubin’s made it her mission to “physically get out there and help,” handing out masks at Black Lives Matter protests across LA.
This interview took place over email between Anastasia Solovieva and Kara Jubin in Los Angeles.
Let’s start from the beginning, where are you from, and how did KkCo come about?
I grew up in North Jersey, just outside of NYC, and then moved into the city for university, where I studied Fashion Design. Growing up, my mom always made my clothing.
I had vivid memories of her sewing at our dining room table when I was a child. I would go with her to fabric stores and watch her make patterns. It was more of a hobby for her, but the love for it was ingrained in me.
After school, I worked with a local designer in Brooklyn before moving to Los Angeles for pure spontaneity reasons. I actually had never visited LA before moving here. Here in Los Angeles, I worked with several different independent brands from Brain Dead to Need Supply’s in-house brand, NEED, most of which produced locally. My experience with domestic production is what prepared me to start KkCo. My friends and all of the creative people that surround me are who inspired me to start KkCo.
The idea behind KkCo is to build something that we can all be a part of. That’s really why we value collaborations so much because it brings in so many different exciting perspectives. My goal is for KkCo to be a collective and community rather than just a brand with a face behind it. KkCo is simply our uniform.
As a mastermind behind the brand, balancing creative and business sides of it, what does your day to day look like?
Yikes! My days involve waking up at 6, chugging coffee, settling into the studio, and then running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I’m pretty hectic and usually always on the run, but I work well on adrenaline!
And you have a small team who’s got your back!
Yes! We have a full-time sample sewer and part-time design studio assistant, Caitlin—she pretty much does it all. We also have friends and creatives that come by the studio for personal use or to help contribute to KkCo. Everything KkCo is, was built from all of our creative friends, becoming a part of the brand’s story.
So KkCO Studio is essentially a community project with open doors for creatives?
Exactly. We have a photo studio, drafting table, and work desks. There is nothing more inspiring than working amongst other creatives. We also believe in the power of sharing services—we’ve collaborated with so many other creatives that have come by to utilize the space.
I imagine you are incredibly hands-on from the inception of an idea to the final product?
Very hands-on. I do all of the design and sketching and try to do as many of the patterns myself as time (and knowledge) allows. Honestly, I personally want to be better at the individual skills involved, so that’s half the reason I do it. The other half is because I’m a control freak. I will admit, I am a terrible seamstress, so that is why we have an in-house sample sewer, Isaias. He’s so talented—he used to make custom costumes for Ricky Martin! After sampling is done, I get my hands dirty in production. Between myself and Caitlin, everything is managed, packed, then shipped from our studio.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Learning to let go of control. Not everything happens the way that you expected or planned, and sometimes that's for the better.
You develop and produce locally in LA, ensuring limited quantities and minimal waste. Each piece feels special, unique, and individual. Talk about the philosophy behind this decision.
I’ve had experience with both overseas and domestic production and found that domestic production felt more authentic. I enjoy being in the factories, knowing the sewers, and seeing the process. It also just simply means that we can control a lot more, too. We decided to limit our production quantities as I’ve seen and experienced a lot of wastage at other brands. While this may mean some things may be more expensive along the way, we won’t be left with excess inventory at the end of the season. Our goal is to approach all steps of development and production mindfully. What is our impact on sewers, factories, the earth? We want to be proud of the end result as well as the process.
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All of our masks are made using deadstock fabrics that were leftover from previous productions or from local deadstock suppliers. The mask is double layered with a nose wire for contouring and an opening to insert a filter. We designed the scrunchie part of the mask with extra room for you to push excess fabric forward in the case that you feel like there is too much fabric behind your ear. PATENT PENDING
This summer, you’ve distributed free reusable cotton masks at the protests around LA in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19 and show your allyship in the fight for justice. Is there an ultimate impact that you wish to have on the industry and this generation?
I want to challenge ourselves before challenging others. We have donated profits in the past to different organizations, but up until recently, that was all we were doing for our community. I realized that that isn’t enough. I want to do more and consistently. We’ve made it a goal to physically get out there and help. It’s unfortunate that it took us this long to realize how important that is, but I’m proud and excited about what we’ve done, are doing, and all the things we can do! As a business in the community, we need to make sure that we are looking out for those that are around us and support one another within our resources. I hope this can inspire other businesses to do the same.
Having interned, freelanced, worked at large corporations and small independent businesses, is there any advice you’d give to someone starting out?
Working a full-time job at a company is great for in-depth learning and stability. If you are working at a small brand, you will most likely wear many hats, meaning you learn a lot faster. Working at a larger corporate company is great for honing in skills. I think everyone should work a corporate position at one point in their careers to appreciate systems. However, leave before it sucks the life out of you. Then go back to working with a small independent business where you dream about the days where all you did was sketch then clock out. The grass is always greener, haha.
I took on freelance when I took a leap of faith and left my full-time job to start KkCo. I was lucky to have built connections and relationships with brands and factories over the years, so I was willing and able to take on any freelance job I could to keep myself afloat and start KkCo at the same time. I did everything from design, to tech packs, to development and production management. Whatever anyone needed. It was stressful because the industry works in seasons, so most brands need the same things at the same time, and also don’t need anything at the same time. However, it’s what has allowed me to create something I’ve always dreamed of.
So, take the risk and don’t be afraid to fail. Not everything will be perfect, but you’ll learn and grow along the way.
Has the quarantine and uncertain time we are living through changed you in anyways?
It’s funny because although we’ve been socially distancing, I’ve never felt closer to my community. Quarantine has really given me the time to reflect and think about my neighbors. It started out with supporting local businesses during the lockdown and now blossomed into physically lending a hand to my community. The biggest lesson I’ve taken from all of this is that I need and can do more.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
Images Courtesy of Undine Markus