Meet the Solid Crafts partner: Kelsey from Bare Knitwear
Hailing from North Vancouver, Canada, Kelsey Adair is the owner of Canadian based women’s knitwear label, Bare Knitwear. Kelsey has partnered with Solid’s workshop Manta in Ayacucho, Peru for the past six years for the production of Bare Knitwear’s signature line of handmade alpaca knits. We caught up with Kelsey to learn more about how she got her start in the fashion industry and where Bare Knitwear is at today.
Who are you, what is your motivation, what are your interests, where do you come from?
My name is Kelsey Adair. I’m 30 years old and I come from North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I’m the owner of the women’s knitwear line Bare Knitwear. I’ve always appreciated fashion and style, although most of the time you can find me in denim and a t-shirt. When it comes to fashion, I’m most passionate about the possibility to create change and impact the industry. Outside of work, I’m happiest climbing mountains on my bike, road tripping around North America with my fiancé and spending time at home with my large, crazy and loving family.
How did you become your brand?
I always knew I would have my own apparel brand however didn’t know how it would manifest. It wasn’t until I was working for a Canadian based clothing company in 2012 that the idea for a knitwear brand started to take shape. I was in charge of the purchasing for the store and bought apparel and accessories from independent designers across North America. Working directly with the store vendors re-sparked my desire to start a business of my own. At the time, more focus was being placed on locally made goods and I saw there was an increase in demand for handmade products. I knew how to knit, therefore after work and on the weekends I began to knit a collection of scarves to sell in the shop.
For the next two years, I experimented with different knits and styles and studied the market. I educated myself on small scale production and gained as much wholesale and retail experience as possible. In 2014, I flew to Peru and met with Solid International. We placed our first order and my weekend hobby turned into a small business.
From a young age, I was keen to develop a well-rounded knowledge of the apparel industry. I started my career in retail at the age of 16, working for a children’s clothing company. I pursued a post-secondary education in Fashion Business at John Casablanca Institute in Vancouver, Canada and have dedicated the last thirteen years to exploring different sales and management roles in the industry. Working for various small businesses over the years helped shape the values that I founded Bare Knitwear on.
What dives you?
We are experiencing an amazing shift in the apparel industry at the moment. Social media has given people the opportunity to communicate directly with brands and stand up to common issues in the industry pertaining to size inclusively, sustainability, and ethical manufacturing. As brands we can receive direct feedback on our fits and fibres each season. We are driven by our customer. They motivate us to continue to challenge ourselves and improve on our weaknesses as a brand.
What convinced you to choose Solid?
After the decision to start Bare Knitwear it was natural to follow my gut on the way I wanted to produce and do business. When I first decided to start the line I knew I wanted our manufacturing process to be ethical. It was difficult sourcing a partner that fell somewhere between an independent maker and mass producer who could execute my vision for handmade knitwear.
Solid was a good fit for us as it fell somewhere in the middle. We could keep our handmade quality, produce on a small scale and there was room to grow with the organization. After travelling to Peru to 2014 before placing our first order, we saw how Solid was committed to not only the growth of our company but to the personal growth of the artisans making our product.
Which Solid Products do you sell the most of?
Our Baby Alpaca Coat has been our best-selling style over the past four years. Each year we work with the team at Manta to improve the finishing techniques and find solutions to problems based on client feedback. It just keeps getting better with age!
How did you come up with your brand name?
Since the tenth grade I knew I wanted to own my own apparel line. I had a journal and wrote the word BARE in it amongst other possible names for my future clothing line or retail concept store. To me it represents minimalism and authenticity. When I hear the word I think of natural, un-fussy beauty. These are the ideas that the shaped the aesthetic of Bare Knitwear.
What is your specific approach?
Less is more. We create our collections based off this philosophy. We offer a narrow assortment of products with high wear ability. Our designs are intended to serve as the backbone of our clients’ closet—timeless, easy to wear and comfortable. Our design is simple and made to serve the wearer for years.
What do you hope to share with those who purchase your garments and bring it intimately into their lives?
When designing each collection we make an effort to use fibres and create shapes that don’t feel commercial. As our business grows, we make a conscious effort to maintain the feel and quality of small batch handmade knitwear. We hope this feeling translates to our customers and we provide pieces that are special and unique. We want our customers to know who made their clothes and know that they are a part of not only the growth of Bare Knitwear, but the growth of Manta and the artisans behind the label.
How do you look at the fashion-textile sector?
I view the current state of the fashion sector as a huge area of opportunity for improvement. Today more than ever consumers are more aware and conscious of who made their clothes and what their clothing is made from. Consumers are putting more pressure on brands to be more transparent when it comes to their manufacturing. We are starting to see more small scale brands set this example and it makes me hopeful for a more sustainable industry in the future.
Glass Half-empty or Half-full?
Both! Half-empty because there’s always room to improve, and to strive for more. Half-full because it’s important to be grateful for what you already have and see the positive in even the toughest of times.
Where do you see your work going in the next couple of years?
Since our start in 2014, Bare Knitwear has been shifting from solely an accessories collection into more apparel. We are currently focused on continuing to bring more variety into our collections. Up until now, we have focused on offering one collection a year for the Fall-Winter fashion season. We are at an exciting stage where we have developed a strong sense of who we are as a brand and who our customers are, which is allowing us to expand our offering with confidence. We are working on introducing our first collection of lighter weight pieces in pima and organic cotton designed to be worn year-round. Our goal is that by 2020 we will have two core collections of essential pieces to offer our clients.
Less pleasant aspects?
I don't mind working long 12 hours day consistently because I love what I do and I'm lucky to be able to do it. The hard parts for me have been learning to deal with all the things that are out of my control as a business owner. Whether that's having a shipment stuck in customs halfway around the world for weeks, dealing with a volatile CAD dollar, or fluctuating lead times from yarn suppliers to name a few.
Daily Working Routine?
It changes all the time! That's part of what we love. In sales season, I'm travelling via car, boat and plane to visit retail stores. During launches and deliveries I'm hauling boxes in and out of storage and packing orders all day. And during design season I'm analysing swatches and skyping with our technical designer in Belgium! Somewhere between all that, I'm overlooking our budget and accounting, and in constant communication with our production facilities on lead times and production planning. A couple Saturdays each month I work on the sales floor at one of the stores we sell Bare Knitwear to in Vancouver. It gives me the opportunity to stay connected to my customers, get first-hand feedback and detect trends and industry direction.
The best day of my life?
When we visited Peru in April we had the privilege of visiting Olga. Olga has been employed at the workshop for six years and has recently started working from home. Upon entering her charming apartment, we heard the sound of the manual knitting loom working away upstairs. It was a Monday morning and Olga was working on her sixteenth fine gauge beanie from our Fall-Winter 2018 collection. We were welcomed into her vibrant home in Ayacucho by her teenage daughter. We spent the next couple hours learning about each other, our families and our life experiences. I never would have imagined I would have the privilege to work with women like Olga in my lifetime. It's easy to sit behind a computer and communicate with the people who are making your garments but when you get chances like this, it changes why you continue to do the work you do. This is why I love Solid.