Clothes only have as much meaning as we give them, outside of their practical functions like hiding our nakedness and keeping us warm. You don’t need particular clothes to be a good person, or work hard, or to help others. But if you find joy in dressing yourself, whether you think of your ensemble as a shield, a sword, or a disco ball, there’s lots to be said for the art of clothing.
It’s only recently that I’ve found this joy. While it may be exploring the more dramatic that has led me there – Charles James, Madeleine Vionnet and Rei Kawakubo – it’s designers such as Jesse Kamm that create the pieces I want to wear.
I should restate that, more directly. I want to wear all of Jesse Kamm’s clothing. All of it. The designs are minimalist but not simple. Beautiful but not ostentatious. Most importantly, they take their shape from the wearer and not the other way around.
When we spoke over the phone, it was night in Copenhagen and Kamm was just starting her day in Los Angeles. She told me, “I love that my clothes don’t necessarily look special on the hanger. It’s when you put them on that you notice the cut, the draping. It just falls right.”
That’s no accident. Each garment is hand-trimmed by Kamm herself. Made from either deadstock fabric she buys from a jobber in LA, or textiles she imports from Japan, which use a lot of wood pulp and other natural fibers. It’s sturdy but falls on the body beautifully. That’s also why (sorry, guys) her pieces are pricey.
“I know they’re expensive,” Kamm says. “But everything is handmade from high-quality materials and will last for years and years. ” Okay, so maybe exchanging my whole wardrobe for Kamm’s collection will take some time. But these are the kinds of pieces that are worth saving for. With classic colors, cuts and durable material, they won’t go out of style.
I ask if her pieces have always had this minimalist look. “Oh no,” she laughs, ” Although the structure of the pieces has always been similar, when I started nearly ten years ago, I was working with a lot of prints. I was illustrating prints and then silk screening by hand!”
When she had her son six years ago, however, the time to do that was no longer available. “It was like coming out of a cave. I had the freedom to focus on the shapes beneath the prints. I enjoyed my work before, but I enjoy it so much more now. I design based on what I need as a woman.”
Kamm only sells to 20 stores around the globe and in her online shop, meaning that the amount of fabric she uses isn’t enormous. “I love the idea of repurposing something, so the deadstock fabric is great for me. It’s not about using the eco label though, it’s just about being thoughtful in how you create new things.”
This kind of thinking, along with her clean lines, is what attracted me to Jesse’s line. I ask if she’s ever been inspired by Scandinavia.
“Absolutely! My family and I spent part of our year in Panama, and we built a house there based on Norwegian architect Wenche Selmer’s work. My home in Los Angeles is filled with Danish Modern furniture. Those designs are hugely influential for me for their timelessness and durability.”
When I ask if there’s any thought she wants to leave me with, Kamm replies, “I want people to know that when they buy a piece of my collection, they’re bringing home a new friend.”
It’s indicative of how close she feels to her designs and to those who wear them. And who doesn’t want more friends?
See more on Jesse Kamm here.
Photos by Katrina Dickson