Local designer, Kaci Head, is the kind of artist who exudes creativity, from her signature, modern style to her expertly made handbags. Her unique interpretation of fashion invites those she meets to see it as a life force rather than a daily decision we make about the clothing we wear.
“Fashion as an art form and as a business has been at the forefront of every decision I have made about how to live and how to work for nearly two decades,” she explained. “Fashion to me is less about what I’m wearing and more about how I’m living. I find fashion inspiration all around me, from art and architecture to music and nature. Fashion is not just about trends but self-expression and functionality of the clothes we wear.”
After a decade in New York City, Head decided to pack up her growing family and move to Denver to start her own eponymously named brand of accessories — KACIHEAD — and is set to launch a new line tonight. We recently visited Head’s studio to get a glimpse of her new designs and learn more about her process.
303 Magazine: Tell us about yourself.
Kaci Head: Born in New Mexico, I spent my early childhood split between New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. Much of my time was spent playing outside and working on family farms and ranches. My grandmother in Texas taught me to sew when I was very young. She and I were always making something together which started my love for design and handcrafts.
As a child I loved being creative, I liked to paint and draw, I would make jewelry and tie-dye t-shirts and usually spent my allowance at the arts and craft store. I also took dance classes and at eight years old I began playing the cello. Once I reached high school, I was taking photography classes learning darkroom techniques, playing cello in a youth symphony and taking ballet classes at a college level. My entire life has been filled with creative projects and focused on making art in one form or another.
KH: The decade I spent living and working in New York was incredible. Not only did New York influence my design aesthetic, but also my work ethic and design process. There is so much competition and a plethora of amazing designers. I was constantly striving to do my best, continually learning to improve my craft and always looking for my next opportunity.
I received a world-renowned education from the Fashion Institute of Technology and was able to work in the design field for many years utilizing my fashion degree. New York also gave me incredible exposure to art, culture, architecture and the luxury lifestyle. I was blessed with many influential opportunities and worked with clients such as The North Carolina Museum of Art, Calvin Klein, Carnegie, Knoll and Edelman Leather.
303: When did you start designing? Why handbags?
KH: I have been designing and making art in some form most of my life. Professionally, I started my first business making handbags in 2002. Since then I have had multiple design business and have explored many design avenues such as upholstery, interior design, custom evening wear, women’s ready to wear and of course jewelry, handbags and accessories. I consider handbags and accessories to be my niche. I keep coming back to these products because that is where my passion lies. I am a jeans and t-shirt kind of person but a killer bag, amazing shoe or beautiful jewelry can make any outfit look incredible.
303: Tell us more about the incubator you created, Brooklyn Fashion League.
KH: Brooklyn Fashion League was a fashion incubator I founded in 2012. The mission was to support growth, education and collaboration for independent fashion designers, photographers and stylists. I had a 2000-square-foot space in Brooklyn equipped with sewing machines, cutting tables, dress forms, an area for photoshoots, desks and meeting spaces for clients. I worked with dozens of startup and independent fashion brands, designers, and photographers, many of whom showed their work in numerous fashion publications and on the runways of New York Fashion Week.
303: What is the most challenging aspect of being a young fashion brand?
KH: I appreciate being considered a “young fashion brand” because I am often in denial about working in fashion for nearly two decades. The first bag I designed is old enough to vote and almost old enough to buy a stiff drink. With all of this time and experience in the industry, I have learned A LOT. Some through my success but even more through my failures.
The biggest challenge I see for young designers is three-fold: start-up funding, sourcing materials and finding affordable production. Often times young designers struggle to meet the minimum order requirements for wholesale fabric vendors and for production facilities. It is very rare, if not impossible, for an independent or young designer to offer a product they designed and produced for less than $100.
303: What are the three most important rules for becoming a designer?
- Learn how to sew! It is my opinion that in order to be a truly talented and successful designer you must know how to sew. If you are not knowledgeable in how your product is made you will never make a quality product.
- Be unique. Stop looking at fashion magazines or Instagram for inspiration. Stop following trends, a successful designer sets the trends. Find inspiration in music, art and culture.
- Have integrity. Do not call yourself a designer if you are just buying something from a wholesaler and slapping your own label on it.
303: Describe the Kaci Head brand in a short phrase or motto.
KH: High fashion leather accessories for men, women and the home.
303: Where do you source your materials?
KH: All of my materials are ethically sourced and carefully selected. I only use the highest quality European leathers and organic hemp linings. I make small batch or custom items and everything is sewn by me, Kaci Head.
303: How long does it take you to create a bag?
KH: That’s hard to say exactly, there are many variables from bag-to-bag. It’s really more of a process done for each collection or small batch of bags.
- I create a mood board and inspiration for the collection. Sometimes this idea stems from an image and other times it’s just a leather I fell in love with.
- I begin sketching my ideas, letting my imagination go wild. Later I come back and edit the sketches down to the best five or six ideas.
- I spend a day or so making all the patterns for each bag idea. Some bags only have two or three pattern pieces while others may have as many as 15 [or more] pieces.
- Once the patterns are completed I begin cutting out the bags. Usually cutting multiples in each style and creating stacks for assembly.
- When I begin sewing, I work like an assembly line making it as efficient as possible.
303: What inspired this new line?
KH: This collection was inspired by pointillism, polka dots and texture. I was drawn toward these leathers with polka dot texture or pattern and I had fun playing with them in my designs.
303: What else can we expect from you in 2019?
KH: I will be releasing a new small batch collection of accessories every couple of months throughout the year. I’m also planning on adding leather outerwear. I am very excited to have custom leather jackets available this fall.