Remember Generation X? It might seem counterintuitive to create a direct-to-consumer clothing brand in 2018 aimed at someone other than Millennials and Gen Z, but Kiln, the brainchild of former Sequoia Capital managing member Scott Carter, is targeting the 35- to 40-year-old and beyond looking for elegant, high-end everyday wear.
Launching Thursday on kilnapparel.com with a 90-piece spring collection for women and men ranging from $115 T-shirts to a $595 georgette maxidress, the company means to exemplify its name — slowly creating lasting, thoughtful product.
Women’s pieces include woven blouses, outerwear, bottoms, dresses/overalls and T-shirts, while men’s pieces include woven button-downs, pants, shorts and T-shirts. The mostly natural fabrics include Supima jersey, Lyocell canvas, drapey Lyocell, washed silk, rayon georgette, linen, slub cotton and superfine shirting.
Founder and chief executive officer Carter spent nearly 15 years in the VC world, first at Summit Partners and then Sequoia, but Kiln is his first venture into apparel. And just like VCs looking to grow their portfolios or most people who create their own clothing lines, he did it to fulfill a need in the marketplace.
“I have no background in apparel and fashion, though I’ve always had an interest in it. I was looking to do something different with creative and design opportunities,” he said. “My closet had two brands in it, James Perse and Zegna, for casual and work. There was no in-between. I wanted to combine the best of both of these great-fitting brands and expand on it, for other men having the same issue.”
That was two years ago. Enter Sandy Fleming, a former design director at Alternative Apparel and pattern maker for brands ranging from Proenza Schouler to Marciano and Bebe, who is Kiln’s director of design and pattern making. “Sandy laid out a vision for an upscale California contemporary brand,” said Carter. The rest of the executive team includes chief operating officer Krista Weisman, who previously was chief operating officer of Cult Gaia, and merchandising and marketing head Jessica Abbott, who worked with Reformation’s Yael Aflalo in the early days.
Working from Kiln’s headquarters in the blossoming downtown Los Angeles Arts District, Fleming sought to create great-fitting pieces with elements of versatility, such as one of the hero women’s pieces, an adjustable strap linen dress that allows the wearer to vary the waist, hem and neckline. She also incorporated flattering constructions such as elastic that sits slightly above the waist, slanted pockets and side seams brought forward on bottoms, or side pleats at the back yoke of men’s shirts to help ensure a good fit experience — and hopefully fewer returns.
The line ranges in size from 0 to 14 and with production in L.A., Carter said it should be able to respond quickly to demand for other sizes. “We analyzed competing web sites to see what is their bread and butter, what are we wearing every day and what we want to wear more of, but a lot of it is still guesswork until we’re launched,” he said.
“The market is extremely crowded and noisy, and we want to give people what they desire, not just need,” he said, noting that Kiln will market on Facebook and Instagram and has a pop-up shop strategy. “We have a very pragmatic approach to building the brand, knowing that customer awareness doesn’t happen overnight,” said Carter. “In the beginning we’ll have fewer customers, but we hope they will be more happy and loyal customers.”