In this new series at WGSN, we meet designers in their studio or stores to discuss shop talk, the fashion industry and their new collections.
In this new series for WGSN Insider we are going to where the designers and creatives are, in their studios, their stores and the places where they are most inspired.
To kick off this series we went to Brooklyn to Sincerely, Tommy: a two-year-old concept store started by fashion enthusiast Kai Avent deLeon. Kai previously worked in retail at Chanel and Aritzia, before opening up her own store, in the neighbourhood where she grew up.
Hi Kai, thanks for having us! First up, you started running the store with your mom, how much is she still involved in the day to day running?
She helped me to open the space, and in the beginning it was just she and I who worked here. I was still at my full-time retail job, so she worked during the day and would wait for me to get out of my other gig and hand over. She’s less focused on the day-to-day now that I’m full-time, but she remains my best customer.
You worked in retail before opening the store, what did you learn from your other retail gigs?
I realised what I wanted for my own store, I wanted emerging brands and I wanted a neighbourhood store in Brooklyn, rather than Manhattan. I wanted the shop to be a place for young creatives to hang out and feel comfortable rather than alienated. I also wanted people to come to explore and discover things they’ve never seen before.
What are some of the pros and cons of opening in the Bedstuy area of Brooklyn?
Well it’s not really a retail area, there aren’t lots of stores, there are coffee shops and restaurants but that’s about it. So we are definitely a destination store. I want people from all over the city and beyond to come here, but I also want to be welcoming to the locals, who sometimes don’t quite understand what we are and what a concept store is. Being such a unique retail proposition feels fun, I feel like a pioneer, we have an amazing following from the neighbourhood over to London, Sweden and Japan (especially through our e-commerce). I also love that I do what I want with the style of store. I get to play around and carry vintage next to emerging designers, if I want. I’m not enclosed in a retail or fashion box, I can explore different ideas and that’s really exciting for me.
What labels/designers do you carry?
We carry a vintage line called Nehera, as well as designers C.F Goldman, I Waited For You and Kahle. I find in general the local brands reach out more than we seek them out, and that can be challenging because they are also stocked in other stores and we pride ourselves on not having the same stock as everywhere else, but it’s also really exciting to support local talent.
Tell us a bit more about the store own in-house line:
That’s what is taking up most of my time at the moment, making sure that the line is appealing for other stores too who will stock it, and looking at where it will be positioned in other stores, such as, what lines it will be stocked next to.
Going into the creative process with the in-house line I wanted to create ‘comfortable, classic and stylish’ pieces, but also I’m not a traditionally trained designer so it’s been a learning curve for me.
What’s the inspiration for S/S17?
Mexico City; also the idea of travelling to a place you love and connect with. I wanted to create versatile and lightweight pieces, that take you seamlessly from day into evening. There’s a large area in my kitchen just full of swatches and inspiration pictures. I love Pinterest and have so many albums on my phone. For me it’s about key pieces too, simple cotton pants, wide leg trousers and dresses that are perfect for travelling, elegant and beautiful, definitely no cookie cutter style here. And I feel like my consumer likes that, I’ve had feedback from the women who shop here who like that they can come and discover something that feels fresh, not just off the rack.
The store layout is beautiful too, what’s the inspiration behind that?
As it’s a concept store, everything tells a story, so the coffee counter is there to be inviting to people who want to hang out, and then we have a little of everything from home goods to jewellery to clothes, it’s about the full lifestyle we want to promote. This lifestyle is also often a reflection of what’s going on in my life at the time, so the photography and the artwork are pieces by me. The store is a bit like my canvas it grows with me.
The store turns two this month. How are you celebrating?
Super low key, we’re having a party in the bar down the road, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved, it’s quite surreal.
Follow Kai on Instagram here.
Follow Sincerely, Tommy on Instagram here.
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Photography credit and additional reporting: Richelle Cyrus