Kit and Ace is a technical cashmere company sourcing the softest wool from Mongolia and bridging the gap between luxury and everyday apparel. Co-founder Shannon Wilson envisioned a sophisticated fabric that met the needs of comfort and functionality. Along with her stepson, JJ, Shannon brought her passion to life with expert design, modern creativity, and approachable pieces.
Kit and Ace is more than a brand; it’s a lifestyle celebrating the unique influencers who wear their label. We recently had the splendid opportunity of connecting with Shannon and hearing snippets of Kit and Ace’s history, successes of the present, and innovation for their future.
1. How did the Kit and Ace brand begin?
Shannon: The concept of Kit and Ace was born in Bondi, Sydney. During our time spent living there, we were inspired by the easy yet constant movement of the Australian lifestyle and decided to put our industry experience and institutional knowledge into a new venture that reflected this effortless way of living. An entirely new category of clothing was created – elevated luxury fabrics and a proprietary interlace known as Technical Cashmere™.
2. Your fabric is described as Technical Cashmere. For those who are unfamiliar with the brand, can you explain what makes this unique?
Shannon: Technical Cashmere™ is our foundational fabric from our proprietary Qemir™ fabric family. It is cashmere that has been interlaced with technical fibres (like elastane and viscose) so that it’s easy to wear and easy to care for. We took what we loved about cashmere and created a fabric that could be put in the washer and dryer, but still had the soft feel of cashmere, with added stretch to keep its shape. This fabric is core to Kit and Ace and it will continue to be the foundation of our product offering.
3. With a company that strongly prioritizes functionality and lasting comfort, how do you stay current in an ever-changing fashion industry?
Shannon: As a design-led company, we strive to be innovative in everything we do – from our shop spaces to the clothing we create. Each of our shops incorporate hyper-local elements – locally designed light fixtures, furniture and artwork – that reflect the market we operate in and make them distinct. We want the shop to be a place that locals come for real conversation, and not just a great place to shop. Our product team works hard to create new technical fabrications and designs – in 2015 we developed 150 proprietary fabrics, 50 of which were commercialized. We also gather design ideas from our Technical Atelier – a workshop for up-and-coming local designers, within the Kit and Ace shop. Part tailor shop, part design-lab, the Technical Atelier is a hub of innovation where designers in residence capture fresh trends and local input to create new styles. We have five Technical Ateliers in shops across North America, including the Newbury Street flagship location in Boston.
4. Your brand puts an emphasis on ‘The Creative Class.’ Who does this describe and how does that enhance the holistic lifestyle approach of Kit and Ace?
Shannon: We design for people living “full-contact” lives – the doers, the innovators and connectors with big ideas – who go from 6AM to 10PM, from work to meetings, cocktails to dinner and beyond, and need clothing that can keep up. They are people who are making an impact and are creative in the way they approach life. At the end of the day, our products are appreciated by anyone in search of effortless luxury.
5. Each store location across the country is tailored to it’s surroundings; how is this accomplished and why do you find that to be important?
Shannon: We never want to come off as a cookie-cutter retailer – whenever we open in a new location, we want it to make sense. We enter each new market in a way that is authentic to the given neighborhood and at least 30 per cent of the shop build-out is a collaborative process with local artisans and contractors. We collaborate with hyper-local partners to create feature lights, Supper Club table and chairs, in-shop photography and artwork featured on the Wall (our in-shop gallery space) that shape the interior of the space.
…whenever we open in a new location, we want it to make sense. We enter each new market in a way that is authentic to the given neighborhood …
6. If someone is building a wardrobe of basics, which Kit and Ace pieces would you first recommend?
Shannon: It’s best to begin with our Technical Cashmere™ t-shirt styles – staple pieces that layer effortlessly and complement our seasonal line. For women, the Kaye Tee offers a tailored standard fit, perfect for underneath a sweater, and Court Tee has a looser boyfriend fit with a bit more length for layering. Men’s favorites include the Mayne Tee and V Tee – you can’t go wrong.
7. If you could describe ‘a day in the life of Kit and Ace,’ what would that look like?
Shannon: ‘Kit’ and ‘Ace’ are full-contact. For them, the day could begin at 6AM with a spin class or physical exercise to break a sweat. From there, they are off to work for back-to-back meetings, but not before stopping for a coffee with a potential business partner to discuss a side project they’re working on. After work, they grab a cocktail (or beer) to wind down before heading to dinner and a networking event, or an art exhibition with friends. They head home re-energized by new experiences and ready to tackle the next day.
8. What sort of growth and expansion do you envision for the brand over the next year?
Shannon: We opened a lot of great shop locations in 2015 across North America, Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom. We plan to expand our presence in current markets and open approximately 10 more doors before the end of 2016.