Raised in a town by the sea in the countryside of southwest England, Fiona Kempton spent her time surrounded by equestrianism and the jouissance of life on the water. She lived aboard a boat during the warmer months of the year and soaked up every bit of her surroundings—the Kempton family’s scuba diving business, time spent with her grandmother (a court dressmaker) and the craftwork of her father, a racehorse trainer and champion jockey who won England’s famous Grand National in 1967.
“When my parents got into diving in the ’70s, you couldn’t buy wet suits, so they would glue and stitch their own,” Kempton shares. “I remember my dad making them on our old Singer sewing machine with the handle on the side. And when he was little he used to make canvas fly-fishing bags.” The apple doesn’t fall far given that as a young girl she became obsessed with sewing fabric remnants and vintage clothing zippers into makeup bags and pencil cases, products she often gave away as gifts or sold to teachers at school. This concept of utilizing reclaimed textiles transferred into her life’s work as an adult. The equestrian and aquatic influences she’d inherited are present in the hardware, soft leather and overall architecture of each handbag and accessory she designs.
Kempton begins by creating necessities for her own life: “When I had a baby,” she says, “I didn’t take time for maternity leave, so traveling with the baby and computer, I ended up doing a whole diaper bag collection.” Other useful collections include beach, gym and travel bags, all of which consumers love for being stylish and lightweight. Despite spending so many years amid the fast-paced, urban environment of NYC—home to the Kempton & Co. brick-and-mortar—Kempton has stayed true to her roots, as she remains an avid water woman participating in kiteboarding, surfing and sailing. Her family has relocated to the North Shore of Long Island, close to the Hamptons sites where she hosts pop-up shops out of a Land Rover. (While out east, you may catch the Kempton-filled Rover parked at spots like Sunset Beach and Navy Beach.) As a successful woman juggling many roles including mother, wife and business owner, Kempton provides sound advice: “You get wiser on the journey and learn as you go. And you have to because otherwise there’s no longevity. You have to react to what suddenly shows up.”