It's easy to fall in love with Kit and Ace; the concept? Washable, durable cashmere (technically). Brought to you by entrepreneurial duo JJ Wilson (son of lululemon Founder, Chip Wilson) and Shannon Wilson (wife of Chip Wilson), the unfathomably soft, machine-washable material is the perfect fit for any casual closet. After taking a tour of the young company's Gastown location in Vancouver, B.C., we decided to catch up with the label's founders to get the inside scoop on their technical tees.
1. Tell our readers about ‘technical cashmere’; what is it?SHANNON: Technical Cashmere™ is the foundational fabric from our proprietary Qemir™ (“come here”) family. It is cashmere that’s been enhanced with technical fibres (like elastane and viscose) so that it’s easy to wear, easy to care for and retains its shape throughout the day.
2. What was it that made you decide to start Kit and Ace together?JJ: We took a look at our friends and family and saw a group of people living full contact lives who needed clothing that could keep up, but was still functional, stylish and luxurious. We used our industry experience and institutional knowledge to produce a new kind of product – Technical Luxury™.
People will always affiliate our family with lululemon given our longstanding history, but people are starting to recognize that Kit and Ace clothing is not performance wear and we offer a very different product.
SHANNON: We also really love being in business together. We have a shared history in technical apparel, understand the culture and are aligned with where we see the business going. We’re able to move the business faster because we are so strongly aligned.
3. It’s public knowledge that both of you are linked to the wildly successful founding of athletics company lululemon; do you find it difficult to separate the vision you have for Kit and Ace from the strong relationship that people already have with lululemon?
SHANNON: People will always affiliate our family with lululemon given our longstanding history, but people are starting to recognize that Kit and Ace clothing is not performance wear and we offer a very different product. We are street wear trending to technical – made for movement, but not for sweating. We are elevating luxury fabrics by applying technical and functional attributes such as the ability to wash cashmere blends, or for luxury clothing to have added stretch. We have a tradition of innovation, anticipation of trends, high-quality products and care for the customer – we will continue to apply this to what we do here at Kit and Ace.
4. Describe the individual that Kit and Ace was created for.
JJ: “Kit and Ace” are our muses. They are fictional characters with traits of individuals that we design experiences for, with the belief that time is precious. Ultimately they embody attributes of the creative class – people like artists, architects and other creatives who are driven by the impact they have on the world around them. They lead full contact lives and need clothing that keeps up. In reality, we believe that our product can be admired and appreciated by anyone in search of effortless luxury.
5. Everything about the Kit and Ace flagship “experience” speaks to a modern shopper; bright, open concept, sparkling water served in square, recyclable cups, garment tags that boast boy-band references (the T fit for the mentioned N’SYNC throwback now hangs in my own closet); who designed this location, and what’s your favourite thing about the way it showcases your brand?
JJ: The Gastown Shop was our first shop, but the Kitsilano Shop, opening on July 1st, will be our flagship location. The shop design and creation of each location integrates ideas flowing from our shop development team, brand department, architectural partners, local creatives, local contractors and global suppliers. For the Gastown Shop we worked with various local artisans to develop the hyper-local elements – custom quality pieces created by local artists and contractors – that reflect the Vancouver market (listed below). The best thing about the hyper-local pieces is that they speak to the brand and the way we engage with the local creative class. For example, each shop has an 8X8 Supper Club table where we host our Supper Club events. The size and shape allow 12 people to engage in one conversation, and the placement in the shop encourages locals to gather, sit and connect. It is the anchor of our shops.
6. Finish this sentence: the best thing about working with family is…
SHANNON AND JJ: communication. We can be at work, we can be at home, and we’re all having the same conversation.
7. Finish this sentence: the most difficult thing about working with family is…
SHANNON AND JJ: being at the same place at the same time.
8. Many would argue that $80 (or more) is a steep investment for a t-shirt (despite its luxury properties). What is it about your product and your price point that separates you from other producers of “casual luxury” claiming to be washer/dryer friendly?
SHANNON: Our prices are reflective of a meticulous design process and resources required to create each piece. We test every product before it hits the floor to make sure it is up to our quality standards – we do a lot of laundry at HQ to test the product and make sure it passes the washer/dryer test.
9. Which city will be the next to get a Kit and Ace location?
JJ: This week alone we opened four shops in Muskoka, Victoria, Denver and St. Louis. Next up are Winnipeg and the Kitsilano flagship location in Vancouver on July 1st, and then Seattle on July 2nd.
10. Which Kit and Ace product is your current favourite (this question was inevitable)?
SHANNON: The Court Tee.
JJ: The Layer Mayne Tee.