Kuwaii is a clothing brand that has learned that sustainability means staying true to its values – honest, fair and kind – ever since Kristy Barber sold her first pair of pants on a Melburnian dancefloor to the beats of dance music.
That’s right, her very first sale happened while she was dancing. “I like your pants!” someone said, “I can make you a pair” Kristy responded. Using an old sewing machine that she got from her grandmother and inspired by her mum’s English cottage garden, Kristy Barber started sewing her own and her friends’ clothes when she was only nineteen.
“I was really interested in music and going out to events so I would sew outfits for my friends and myself every weekend because at that point in Melbourne if you wanted something different you made it”.
After loving the art and craft of making amazing clothes, she decided this was meant to be her career. Having been rejected from RMIT, Kristy studied Fashion Design & Garment Construction at Box Hill TAFE and in hindsight, she found her degree to be perfect because she wanted to improve her craft making process, she wasn’t too concerned about conceptual design back then.
With her technical skills polished, she decided to start a new line of clothes. It was the mid-2000s and her idea was far from a retail store. It just so happened that the one space she found was a shopfront on 37-39 Glenlyon Road in the far far away suburb of Brunswick.
“… the space informed the journey of Kuwaii, if I hadn’t moved into that shop, if I had moved into a warehouse who knows if it would’ve been a retail business now.”
We can only imagine what that would have been. What we do know is that Kuwaii has become an iconic brand with a deep connection to nature, a nostalgic feminine touch, and a pastel-coloured equilibrium that enamours.
When I ask Kristy how she and her team have been able to build such a strong relationship with their clients, she tells me that it has to do with consistency.
“I look back on videos of me on early interviews and I’m saying the same thing… literally the same thing I’m saying right now, that we want to be an alternative to fast fashion, we want to produce beautiful well-made timeless clothes to last the customer”
And those things that were the essence of the business in its very beginning have never changed, they’ve probably got stronger.
Here are three quotes I loved from our interview with Kristy that weren’t included in the article but I think are worth sharing with you: