September 8, 2009

Interview with KajaDesign

I really love that your designs are created with functionality for the children wearing them - so many children's apparel designers create clothing that is tight fitting, impossible to wrangle over their heads and squirmy arms. What was the driving force to inspire you to make your clothing different?
As you pointed out. I have have had my share of clothes that aren’t fitting or that you are afraid to hurt the poor kid just to get them dressed. Some things might look pretty, but a hoodie for a baby can’t possibly be comfortable. Imagine having to lie down on a pile of cotton fabric!

When my daughter was born I bought a lot of dresses, most of which was pulled over the head. My daughter didn’t like that, so I came up with my pinafore pattern. As she grew I realized that this model actually is very practical for older kids as well.

I sometimes refer to myself as a “crafter by force”. I get an idea of something I want, and it is sometimes impossible to find, and if I am able to find anything that is close to what I am looking for, then it has an insane price tag attached to it. Even my kids have realized that they can make requests for special clothes. Last winter my son came to me and was asking for “a beanie with an angler fish on it!”. You can’t find that in a shop, but he has loved his beanie and thinks he is so cool. And right now I have a request from my daughter on a penguin top. I am not sure of how to pull that off, but I will do my very best!

Each garment seems to have successfully merged traditional elements with modern styling. What is the source of inspiration for finding this "sweet spot" in the design?
I look a lot at old pattern and I am always looking for new models. Also, my mum and grandma always made clothes for me when I was a child, and I find a lot of inspiration from photos of my childhood. Usually I avoid using a vintage pattern combined with vintage fabric, since then you can just go to any second hand store and buy it there. But, a vintage pattern and new fabric or vice versa, that’s what I call creative!

Here in Sweden a lot of the designs right now aim to be timeless, so that a piece of furniture could be used for decades, and still never run out of style. I like this idea, since it really reduces the impact on the environment to buy quality products. When I design my clothes I usually try to make them wearable for a long time. The peasant style dresses can be worn as dresses this year; but will still be wearable for one or two more seasons, and then as tunics or blouses. Jeans will have a fold that can be removed as the child grow or made in a model that will allow them to be used as crops next year.

Some pieces are listed as being inspired by folklore - that has me VERY intrigued. What folklore are you inspired by?
Our Swedish folklore of course. We have these traditional costumes here in Sweden that are really pretty. Each parish actually has their own, and since the beginning of the 20th century there is also a special costume for Sweden. My husband was born in Slovenia and each year we go there to visit his relatives, so I think I get some of my inspiration from the Alp-region too.

How long have you been designing/making apparel?
I think I have always have been designing. I remember that I broke my mums sewing machine when I was about 12 years old and trying to force the machine through 5-6 layers of denim fabric in order to add a lot of patches to my jeans (oh, glorious fashion of the 80’s).

I have been sewing ever since, but mostly interior design items as curtains and pillows. When my kids were born I started making clothes for them, and after a while people were asking me to make clothes for their kids as well.

Two years ago I started blogging and a couple of months later an art&design shop found my things on the internet and asked me to make a collection for them. I’ve been on Etsy since April and I really enjoy it, since it gives me the opportunity to come closer to my customers again.

Tell us about your creative process? How do you get into the groove?

Pretty much anything can get me started, but most of the time it is a fabric. I just love going into fabric shops and pet the fabrics to see what structure they are, and thinking of which fabrics that would look good together. Not that I really need to buy any fabrics, since my stash would probably be able to keep me occupied for at least a couple of years…

Right now I have had a green fabric with flowers lying on the table for a while. It is a curtain from the 70’s, complete with polyester tassels. I wanted to make a skirt of it, but with those bright colors it would be absolutely impossible to coordinate with anything but a white top. Yesterday I saw a kid in the playground who had a big patch on his knee in the shape of a bright red heart. And, then it hit me. I will make a skirt out of it, but only use the green fabric as an appliqué.

I have a pretty clear picture of how I want it to look when it is finished, I think I know which pattern to use, and I definitely know what kind of feeling I will have when I am looking at the finished item. So, some of the details as if to have any pockets or use seam binding for hemming I will probably have to decide during the process. When it feels right, then I’m finished!

Tell us more about your organic line being sold in brick and mortar shops. Can we expect to see an organic line on your Etsy shop?
I have actually always recycled material. When my husbands Dockers were worn out as work pants, there were still a lot of good fabric in them, so I recycled them for "sand pit pants". It's great, soft against the skin, absolutely free from production chemicals and you don't have to worry about ripping them, since it only took me an hour or so by the sewing machine.

Today I have a lot of things that are made from recycled material. Some are curtains or sheets that are so soft and still have bright colors. I even got a couple of dresses that are made from old table cloths.

When I got a question this spring to make a collection of organic pinafore dresses in the mixed style, I was thrilled. Since I make all my clothes only in one piece each, I had a great time combining the different patterns together and trying to make the most of it.

After I made this collection I have found other lovely organic fabric and I have bought a little here and there, so yes, there will be organic clothes in my Etsy shop. I am not sure of when though…

Kids sizes:

Baby sizes:

Kaja Design:


Thongbai Tatong said...

It is lovely to get to know you and your work better, Kaja. Thank you for the inspiration and for sharing. Best wishes +++.

ingermaaike said...

How wonderful to read a little more of Kaja and how she works!