By Kempton & Co. Guest Blogger, Susan Gregory Thomas
From the start, Fiona clearly shared her father's same creative, entrepreneurial DNA, as well as a yen for agile, precise workmanship. Such skills were critical to life on an ocean expedition boat: her childhood home. Fiona and her parents spent from May to September living onboard, peak season for the Kemptons' deep-sea diving business, the first of its kind in England.
Watching her father's laser focus on hand-stitching custom wet suits, sails and equestrian gear--and the bags to transport them efficiently--impressed her early deeply."There is something ruggedly precise and elegant about high-quality, hand-sewn gear that's always obsessed me," says the 40 year-old Kempton. "My father taught me that every stitch counts on the water, every feature has a unique, important purpose." Her M.O. was thus born: to create bags that passed her dad's ocean-faring test as unimpeachably constructed, practical and packable. "But they also had to look beautiful, appealing, feminine," she notes. "I didn't think it was fair that 'guy bags' got all rugged efficiency and durability!"
After working for major labels in the U.S. for more than a decade, Kempton was ready to hatch the vision she'd been incubating: rugged leather and canvas bags for surf, turf and city, with a signature luxe touch. Her father was right behind her. Kempton & Co.'s philosophy and product continuously hone the father-daughter vision.
Just as the elder Kempton's boating bags and gear were created with utility and efficiency in mind, so the younger creates her bags to handle women's many needs and roles. "Just like the women who wear them, these bags must be durable, organized, switch roles from work to entertaining in or out of the home, to motherhood and beyond," explains Kempton. "Women must perform in so many milieus--and want to look good and feel glam doing it--and their bags should be their personal assistants at every step."
Kempton & Co. was born in 2010, from Kempton's apartment in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and has grown into an international business--that is still, nonetheless, based and handmade in New York. All, of course, by the sea. And still "backseat-driven" by her father. Kempton the elder, nearly 80 now, visits regularly from England to help his daughter run the business by building-out custom showroom displays to specifications the two of them create, to inspect her handiwork for quality control.