I first met Kee at a party in a friend’s community garden on the Lower East Side, and was immediately struck by her kind demeanor and calm radiance. We chatted about our mutual pasts living in Miami, and found that we had quite a few other common interests. For her clothing line Loup Charmant, Kee creates beautiful, ethereal clothing, made from organic fabrics in the most sustainable way possible. Along with fellow designer Heather Heron, she recently started TRUNKSHOW Luxury Organic, dedicated to the finer organic things in life.
Can you tell me about your background and how you got started in the fashion business?
I spent years as a freelance designer, stylist, fashion editor and art director for various fashion companies, seeing the industry from many angles.
In the late 90s I had my own line, for which my partner and I had collected amazing vibrant old stock fabrics from the 60s and 70s. We sold in boutiques across the states and adopted the Ben & Jerry’s model of 10% of profits going to charity; which was unheard of in fashion at the time. We did all of our production at a women’s co-op in New Mexico, in which all the women shared profits, had on-site child care and helped create college funds for their kids. We billed ourselves as the first conscious fashion company.
After that, I knew I wanted to do another fashion line with all organic fabric and watched what was happening in the quality of materials available very closely.
During that time, I nursed another obsession: gardening. I became the gardener for an established and well known florist, creating rooftop and terrace gardens, interior landscaping, and landscaped large events such as the US Open. I also designed and planted a large scale organic farm outside of the city.
When I finally found an organic fabric I loved, I knew it was time to begin stepping back toward fashion. That was in 2004.
Wow, I love that. Fashion and gardening… you are a true creator. I’m still trying to keep my house plants alive, and the sewing machine is spitefully gathering dust under my desk. So, before you started your first line, did you have a sort of “green epiphany” or what made you decide that you wanted to make yours a conscious company?
I never really had a “green epiphany”, but I did have a nutrition epiphany as a young girl and I devoured all I could find on nutrition and was an amateur nutritionist. It all meshed with the simple idea of cleaning up after yourself, with being taught responsibility, and with my own native American roots; we are natural and what is good for us is natural.
It was a short step from eating healthily to living a holistic healthy lifestyle, to being an organic gardener, to wanting to create my line with the most natural materials and leave as small a footprint as I could. I try to live by the tenet “first do no harm.” Living as much as possible in tune with the intelligence of nature on an individual as well as a global level. I think we all have the natural knowledge inside of us of how to best live for us as individuals and as a planet.
I think so too. I never can grasp why people would carry on doing things they know are harmful to all life as we know it. What’s the story behind the lovely name of your line, Loup Charmant?
Loup Charmant (which means Charming Wolf), is a personal reference to beautiful times and places in my life that affected greatly the person I am today… my talisman animal the Wolf and a special time in my life when I was living in France.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
The most challenging… wearing so many hats is a love/annoy thing (no hate). Sometimes great. Sometimes annoying. The business side of things is often challenging but then can be very rewarding specifically because of those challenges.
I would love to get a business partner as we grow though, because the amount of tasks keep growing quickly!
There’s the business opportunity of a lifetime for the right person! What about rewards, why do you love what you do?
What I love most — the ability to create something imagined is just the best. My hope for the line is to be able to also use it to help with causes close to my heart and make a difference in people’s lives. I love that the line is built on basics. Pieces that you love, that are reliable shape shifters. The pieces you always want to wear.
What motivates you?
I want to be able to — and hopefully am — creating a solid company around which I can live a holistic balanced life. To be able to give women items to wear that make them feel natural and beautiful in their own skin.
Who is your customer?
The woman who wants to feel like she’s on vacation in a moment’s notice, to feel sensual, sexy, feminine, dreamy, at ease… no matter where she is.
Do you have a muse, or someone that inspires your direction, a dream client if you will?
She is a LIVER. She lives life fully and passionately with her own incredible style.
I’m very conflicted about the term eco fashion, because fashion inherently promotes this notion that everything is fleeting, seasonal and should be replaced as soon as “the new thing” comes out. Shouldn’t we try to change that notion if we want to create any significant change in this area?
Life is forever and fleeting at the same time. fashion may promote the fleeting, but people also love vintage. They coexist. I think the best way to make change, is to focus on creating what you want. For Loup Charmant, we are focused on creating pieces of lasting quality. We don’t follow seasons. Our seasonless pieces (we hope) capture an effortless femininity to be worn, layered and cherished for years.
You live in NYC, but I know you have an Upstate weekend escape, tell me about that.
Having a balance of city and nature is a wonderful thing. We have an old farm cottage built in the 1850s. Cocktails on the porch and summer grilling are awesome ways to spend a summer weekend. In the winter we have friends over for big feasts. This time of year, I am obsessed with the garden!
What does the Good Life mean to you?
Time with loved ones. Peace. Feeling useful in the world. Connecting with self, nature and others. Living in and creating beauty. Making the most of your time — life does have its suffering so relish the good times and the people you love!