The creative duo behind London-based innovative fashion label KA WA KEY, Jarno Leppanen and Key Chow, talk about inspiration, sustainability and biggest challenges in working and creating during these uncertain times.
How did you two meet and how did you decide to launch Ka Wa Key?
Key launched the brand after his graduation and while working for J.W. Anderson.
Jarno and Key met during Fashion project in London. The collaboration between the two designers worked well and they ended up working together since then.
What is it like working together?
Working together is very rewarding. You always have someone to reflect your ideas to. It’s good to have a shoulder to lean on. It is fun to explore and experiment creative ideas together, although it of course comes with its own challenges as well.
How do you start your work on a new collection?
It really depends, but usually we start with an idea and we develop it into a story, with our own characters totally in our own version. And the colours, textures will depend on those.
How did you choose knitwear?
We love the fact that knitwear designs all begin with yarns so we can create our own textures, color combinations and fabrics – to express our story. Knitting is such a limitless and amazing craft that we like to explore and promote.
What was the biggest challenge in creating the new collections during these uncertain times?
For us the biggest challenge is to be stuck at your own studio, as we very often get inspirations from the surrounding world, travelling and cultural events such as exhibitions, theatre, concerts, museums etc. Luckily there are lots of creative and entertaining content online and streaming services. We truly want to thank all the creators who have made our pandemic lock-down life so much more manageable and inspirational.
The pandemic forced us to completely change our lifestyles. Do you feel that this has forced us to reconnect to our inner selves?
Yes, and in many cases to rethink what is essential. So many people have suffered and so many lives have completely changed in many different ways because of the pandemic. The pandemic has really made us to rethink and re-evaluate our values.
What have been some of the biggest challenges for you in trying to be sustainable?
The biggest challenge is the way how we, people, consume, the pace is so fast and the amounts are so huge that all this makes our heads dizzy. Trying to tackle with ensuring what we produce are as sustainable as possible, good for the planet.
How would you explain the importance of brands like yours making steps to become more ethical and sustainable?
It is extremely important. It is important that we, together are making this world a better place from both sustainable and ethical points of views. Smaller brand and businesses are the ones showing the way and hopefully bigger companies follow. Governments all over the world should take braver steps toward more sustainable practices. At the end of the day, it is all about respect – to nature and the society.
Was sustainability a goal from the start?
Rather than a goal from the start, we would say sustainability is essential for designers, especially in this and the future generations, to consider when we make decisions. It should be part of the design.
If you had to sum up KA WA KEY in three words, what would they be?
Dream, magic and love.
What’s next for you?
We have a few interesting projects coming up. One of them is collaborating with some very talented people to create a hybrid of fashion and opera.
Keep up with KA WA KEY on Instagram – @kawakey