Chatting with Kendall for the first time was like having wine with a best girlfriend. She’s warm, charming and funny. We laughed about our aspirations to have a smaller, more capsule-like closet and bonded over true crime podcasts.
Kendall always had her sights on a career in fashion. Before launching Vesta in 2017, she studied at Parson’s School of Design in New York city where she was told over and over again that young graduates right out of school should not expect to launch their own brand. Instead, they should look forward to one horrible internship after another and assume a miserable decade, at least, of working for someone else.
That is not Kendall’s story. It’s my pleasure to introduce to you, Kendall Wilson, Founder and Designer of Vesta.
Kendall: I graduated believing that I wouldn’t be ready to start my own brand even though that’s what I wanted, but there were very few companies I wanted to work for. I didn’t want to work for a company that made leather or used animal products. At the same time, I was getting more into sustainable fashion and got lucky to find Vaute. They are a vegan brand and had the same ethics and morals as me. Eventually, I felt like sustainable fashion was getting more popular, yet there was big hole in the market for sustainable fashion. I thought that the time was right.
Heidi: When you decided to launch your own brand, did you already have an idea what Vesta might look like, or did you just know there was a hole in the market and went from there?
Kendall: I had some ideas to start, but of course, my original ideas were way, way different than what ended up happening. I initially wanted to do a capsule wardrobe or just one garment. Something very small, but I didn’t really know. At the time I didn’t know what cupro was, which is the fabric I ended up using a lot. I kind of just started and hoped something would take shape.
Heidi: Which it did!
Kendall: Yeah! If you give it time, and you keep learning, eventually it works itself out, which, is why I didn’t want to rush it.
Heidi: I know firsthand how hard it is to find vegan and sustainable materials. What was your sourcing process like, and how did you settle on the fabrics that you did?
Kendall: It was really hard at first. My first idea for fabric was cotton poplin, which is something I didn’t end up using AT ALL! But I was on the hunt for organic cotton poplin, and it’s really hard to find organic fabrics.
I ordered a swatch of cupro not really knowing what it was. It said it was a lining, but when I got it, I thought, “Oh my God, this could be a perfect silk replacement!” When I felt the fabric, I knew I had use it, and that ended up inspiring some of the pieces. After that, I was able to identify some suppliers that I really liked and [those suppliers] have become my go-to for sustainable fabrics.
Heidi: Your designs are so clean and versatile. What is your creative inspiration? Was it the fabric or something else?
Kendall: I like to make versatile things that can be worn in different ways because I love the idea of less is more. I also think people are more willing to invest in pieces they can wear more than one way. Like my Eclipse Dress, you can wrap it 4 different ways. That’s the inspiration, and every time I’m designing something, I ask myself, ‘what can I add to this to make it a completely different outfit?”
Heidi: Like you, I’m trying to buy less, key word “trying”. I think a lot of women appreciate the idea of a capsule wardrobe, but the thought of only having few items in their closet feels intimidating, so I love fact that one dress can be tied in several ways to give it a new look and feel. And, as a customer I don’t feel like I’m buying a dress, but 3 or 4. It’s a nice way to ease into a capsule wardrobe.
Kendall: I really love high-quality things, but I am really, really cheap, so if I invest in something, I want to get a lot of use out of it. I hardly ever buy something expensive that has a pattern, or a crazy color I’m not going to wear a lot, or a momentary trend. I like classics and colors that I know I’m going to like for a long time.
Heidi: Or those pieces that make you feel really good wearing, so you know you’ll wear them a lot.
Heidi: I was impressed to learn that all your garments are also produced right here in the United States? Why was that important to you?
Kendall: I love producing in the United States because you can have a relationship with the factory, get to know the people and oversee the quality. My factory is so important to me. I email with them almost every day. In fact, they are probably really annoyed by me! But they are so helpful and so amazing. I couldn’t imagine having a factory overseas. I would never get to communicate with them so closely. Of course, there are also the laws in place here, so I know the workers are being paid fairly.
Heidi: I think it’s really cool that you have collaboration with your factory. I don’t think you’d have that overseas. You’d have a lot of things being lost in translation or trying to communicate over a 12-hour time difference, which would be really hard. I think it’s an admirable choice, especially as a startup. I think manufacturing overseas is a easy way to keep costs down, but not the most ethical.
Kendall: Yeah, I don’t know what it costs, but I’m sure it’s so much cheaper compared to what I pay to produce here. It would be so hard to start producing overseas and then more it to the United States.
Heidi: That’s also what makes your brand sustainable. Like you said, at least here you know the people putting your garments together are getting paid a fair wage and being treated properly.
Kendall: I couldn’t have it any other way!
Heidi: What’s been your greatest challenging in launching Vesta?
Kendall: Definitely, money! I didn’t start out with a lot. I had a tiny bit of savings but not a lot to put into [the business].
Heidi: Did you do a Kickstarter?
Kendall: No, I didn’t! I didn’t want to do a Kickstarter. I didn’t want to spend the money to do a Kickstarter. I felt like the money required to make a video for the Kickstarter could be used towards a production run. Money has been a challenge, because I’ve always had to move slow and produce little by little, but that’s good because I’m not getting myself in debt and slow-fashion is on brand.
Also, taking it slow allows you to work so much out over time. If I had dropped thousands of dollars to produce my first set of ideas, I think that would have been wasted money. Ideas work themselves out over time, so it’s not a bad thing to take it slow.
Heidi: What has been your greatest joy?
Kendall: I am just so happy I started this! My favorite thing to do is work from at in my “studio”, which is my dining room table. I love having a podcast going and working on my patterns, sewing, and working out problems creatively while I’m developing new styles. That brings me so much joy. I’m so happy I get to do this as a business.
Heidi: I have a big smile on my face. I love that.
Kendall: I’m also really happy the hardest part is over, which was just starting it. Just launching it and putting it out there. Everything that has come after has been, not easy, but more joyful.
Heidi: I have to ask, what’s your favorite Podcast?
Kendall: Oh, I am so into true crime podcasts!
Heidi: Me too!
Kendall: My favorite one is “Last Podcast on the Left” is my all-time favorite. It’s true crime, but also comedy. It’s so funny!
Heidi: Where do you see Vesta in 5 or 10 years? Do you want to expand the brand’s offering into accessories, possibly shoes (haha)?
Kendall: Yeah, I wish! I don’t think I’m going to tackle shoes! Although, I do have some ideas for shoes. I’m open to inspiration and what’s going to happen that maybe I can’t imagine yet. One thing I would like is a physical space; either a studio or maybe even a retail space.
Heidi: What advice do you have for people interested in sustainable or ethical fashion, but don’t know where to start?
Kendall: Look at the materials, educate yourself about the materials, and try to buy less. And buy second-hand; that’s a huge one for me. It’s easy, it’s cheap and it’s sustainable.
Heidi: Speaking of cost, you must hear it all the time, “buying sustainable is expensive.”
Kendall: People’s expectations of what things should cost are a little off, and I don’t say that in an accusatory way, because I was like that too. People expect clothes to be cheap, so it’s just a matter of shifting perspective on what clothing should cost and why, and what determines quality.
Heidi: Final question, and I realize it’s like asking a parent to name their favorite child, but people checking out Vesta for the first time, do you have a favorite piece?
Kendall: My favorite, and the best-seller, is the wrap dress. It’s called the Eclipse Dress. That’s always the one that people put on and are really into it because it’s so flattering, and you can wear it several different ways. People are always really obsessed with the cupro fabric. They are like, “Wait! It’s machine washable!!” It’s a great fabric.
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