How Kempton and Co. Became “American Made”
We here at Kempton and Co. are excited and incredibly humbled to have been selected as style finalists for Martha Stewart’s “American Made” competition. It is great to see all the hard work and long hours be acknowledged. It was created to help put a spotlight on businesses and crafts that have been honed in America so I thought I would use this as a chance to tell you how I got to where I am now and how Kempton and Co. came to be.
I was born and raised in rural England and had what you would call an unorthodox upbringing. My parents made their living taking people out on scuba excursions off the coast of England. There I would witness my father mending wetsuits and thus my love of sewing began!
As a young girl I would sew anything I got my hands on and I eventually began creating my own handbags. My father was also a well-known racehorse trainer and jockey who engineered leather saddlery (that is another story I will save for another post!) and he was the one who sparked my fascination with leather bags in particular. I have used my heritage as one of my main inspirations and I design bags with soft leathers and textiles juxtaposed with the utility of equestrian hardware.
I studied fashion in London and then moved to New York where I worked for a number of years with some amazing American brands. However I decided to follow my real passion and go back to designing handbags especially since I saw there was a market to have stylish bags that were tech friendly.
At first I went the way most brands do and tried manufacturing overseas. I was very disappointed with the quality I was receiving, as I am first and foremost a perfectionist when it comes to any product I put my name on. When I opened my store in Red Hook, Brooklyn I had room in the back of the store to produce my samples. With the immediate feedback of my customers I was able to hone my product to not only be stylish but also more functional. It was then that I came to the realization that the best thing I can do for my business is create the bags right here in America and get feedback directly from my customers. Little did I know how satisfying it would be to bring commerce to my neighborhood and set up shop in Red Hook. My customers love being a part of my growing and supporting artisan businesses.
Its been a long journey and I am excited about what is yet to come.