While travelling abroad and living internationally, JJ and Shannon Wilson recognized a gap in the luxury apparel industry. After spending years dressed in stretchy performance wear (Lululemon founder Chip Wilson is JJ’s father and Shannon’s husband) they were looking for clothing that offered the same functionality but made out of luxury fabrics. Since they couldn’t find what they were looking for, they created it.
We chatted with JJ to learn more about the fast expanding brand and to learn more about what makes Kit and Ace apparel so unique.
Tell us about the idea behind the Kit and Ace brand
It started with the fabric. Shannon had spent 2 years developing and perfecting Technical Cashmere™. From there we decided to open our first T-shirt shop in Gastown, Vancouver and we’ve been in beta over the last 9 months launching 7 studios (pop-up type spaces) across Canada and US.
How did you come up with the name ‘Kit and Ace’?
When we opened our first door we still didn’t have a name for our company but we did have a clear picture as to whom we were making Technical Cashmere™ for. We described two fictional characters and how they lived their lives. We named her Kit, and him Ace. They help us guide our decisions around brand and design.
How do you divide the work with your business partner, Shannon? Can you tell us about the roles you each play in the company?
Shannon runs product and I run brand. We’ve hired a CEO to guide the company so that Shannon and I can focus on what we love.
The pieces in the collection are made with Technical Cashmere™. What makes this fabric so unique?
It’s essentially a machine washable cashmere interlace. The fabric was designed to consider how people move. We’ve added stretch so that our t-shirt won’t bag and will keep its shape throughout the day.
It also won’t shrink. We pre-shrink everything so that you can wash and dry Technical Cashmere™ without having to worry about it changing size. We believe time is precious and the less time you spend taking care of the clothes, the more time you have to go do things that matter more to you.
The Kit and Ace stores are beautiful. Can you tell us about the design concept?
Shannon and I both share the same aesthetic. The design and build out of our shops is an honest reflection of what that aesthetic is. It stems from our love of the West Coast and our attraction to simple but quality fixtures.
You are opening a lot of new stores in the next year. What are your key locations?
To date we have 13 new shops confirmed for 2015. We have plans to open anywhere from 30 to 55 over the next year in North America, UK, Australia, and Japan.
There is a tailoring workshop area with a seamstress altering items in the stores. What is the idea behind having this on the sales floor?
It’s not every shop, just ones that have enough space. The tailorshop concept is about having a design presence within our shops. We hire new or student designers as apart of an evolving work experience program. It’s an opportunity for our locals within each market to give product feedback directly to a designer who can then in turn, share that learning with our Vancouver-based design team.
We also offer in house hemming and t-shirt monograming in our tailor shops, something I’m very excited about.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
It’s two fold: working with Shannon – we have so much fun; and, building out an amazing team based in Vancouver, that is taking what we’ve created global.
What has been the most memorable moment in your career so far?
I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of different experiences in my career, but conceptualizing and launching Kit and Ace with Shannon has definitely been a highlight.
What was the best advice your Dad gave you when launching Kit and Ace?
Hire bigger and smarter than you. Have no ego – and know when to go with your gut.
What advice would you give to an aspiring fashion designer?
Start working retail first. A good designer needs to know how customers think, act, and respond to good design.
What’s next for the Kit and Ace brand?
We’re almost wrapping up our ‘beta’ phase. We’ve been testing everything for the last year including real estate locations, shop build-outs, fixtures, etc. in preparation for our flagship launch. Fall 2015 is what we see as our true launch.
Way to relax and unwind
RIDE Cycle Club, getting in a good workout
Currently listening to
Hidden Gem in Vancouver
Matchstick Coffee Roasters
Images courtesy of Kit & Ace