Design

Here and Now: Kepler London Says Embrace the Mistake

Kat Herriman

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There is something about Kepler London’s silhouettes that recalls fantasy video games. The reason feels two-fold. First, Kepler London designers and founders, Alexandra Hadjikyriacou and Jaimee Mckenna, draw heavily upon historical garments, using the social signals and values embedded in the shapes to build their own alphabets, and often instrumentalizing the same aesthetic tropes illustrators use to assemble virtual characters. The second is less obvious—the lens of cartoon is one of simplification and selected amplification, in order to create character traits. Kepler London’s garments operate the same way, flattening complex layers of materials into fluid ensembles that emphasize individualism. The surprise comes in the discovery that Kepler London finds itself within the tension of two designers creating one line. How does such a distinctive voice arise from the split tongue?

Perhaps the answer is woven into their process. The designers work in tandem from step one, assembling a single cohesive mood board ahead of each capsule that offers an excerpt from an ongoing dialogue: the steady flutter of photos taken from books, articles and online image searches passed between friends. While they preserve their conversations as numbered collections, the duo see these chapter-like outputs as chapters within a larger volume.

The bigger picture includes a heavy emphasis on material experimentation, which means the designers have need to cultivated a sense of forbearance. “When we are working with a new material or technique, there is a lot of trial and error; you have to learn how it behaves and that can be very testing of your patience,” Mckenna writes. “You have to be flexible and organic with it. There are also a lot of mistakes—the knit can fall off, it can snap, it might end up looking terrible or not how you imagined, but, most of the time there’s beauty in the mistakes and that is something that we revel in.”

Hadjikyriacou and Mckenna like to challenge the norms of well-trodden silhouettes. Like other historically-informed brands, corsetry is one of their ongoing preoccupations, and many of their designs are constantly circling the waist and bust and the way these curvaceous forms are hidden and revealed. However, Kepler brings the language of the corset somewhere else by applying it to knitwear, creating garments that hug without constriction. Mckenna: “[Corsetry] always looks hot because it’s very flattering on the female form.”

Their fluted shapes have found an eager audience, who covet Kepler’s erotic armor of dresses and romantically tailored separates. With four years under their belts, the duo, who first linked at Central Saint Martins, are now-well established within the London scene and stocked by established retailers such as Selfridges. Yet despite these milestones, they are still producing everything by hand–working with a network of international artisans; this is a pillar of their business that they plan to maintain even as they take on COVID19. “We are trying to see and flourish from the positives by staying true to our core values, which are craftsmanship and making pieces that stand the test of time,” Mckenna says. “This is what we have set out to do from day one.”