• SumoMe

Kiel James Patrick is perhaps the most famous best-kept secret in American handmade wares. His belts, bracelets, ties, and other accessories are sold worldwide but only in the most discerning of retail stores. What drew my attention was Kiel’s attention to detail–from his accessories to his surroundings–and his love for quality-made and American-inspired products. Wanting to know more, I asked him a few questions about life, business, and passion:

Kiel James Patrick

Electrogent: First of all, introduce yourself and your brand to someone who isn’t privy to either.

Kiel James Patrick: I’m Kiel, pronounced both Keel and Kyle.  I am pretty sure I will eventually be a plundering pirate out at sea having a blast hiding treasure all over the place with my crew… But for now I am tall, skinny guy taking the steps to design fashions, while building the production for them here in Rhode Island.

E: What is the inspiration behind the KJP brand? 

K: I am on a mission to produce original products while sourcing the highest quality fabrics, leathers, nautical cords, and textiles that I can possibly find. Quality inspires me.  I personally feel it is imperative to build a product constructed with integrity, knowledge, and a drive for constant improvement.  I want a line of products that old timers can pick up and truthfully say: “This guy built ‘em better than they used to”.

E: Was there a certain event in your life that sparked your desire to start making your products? 

K: I began selling a lot of well-built, American made products/fashions back in 2002-2006. The biggest obstacle was searching for a constant supply of goods whilst we simultaneously increased demand through our marketing and reach. It was then that I stopped selling what others had once created and began taking the steps necessary to produce an original product myself.  I had a lot of really nice blazers, neckties and belts.  I cut them all up, figured out how to sew on my Grandmas sewing machine and decided that fashion and producing was my future.

E: Your designs and colors are very classic American–is this an aesthetic you sought out, or did it just happen that way? 

K: I know I have been called “Classic American,” “Prep” and even “Lax Bro” (which I still have no clue as to what exactly a “lax bro” is) quite often and can chalk it up to this:  Quality has influenced my style. I do not deem myself “preppy” per se, but instead: a man who seeks quality materials, craftsmanship and well thought out design.  Often times what is recognized as “Classic Preppy” or “Classic American” is simply well-crafted attire and products that can hold up to endure the tests of time.  A wardrobe like this can easily be passed down to the grandkids, and often is.

I feel there is something to be said for a product that is crafted in an environment that is true to the lifestyle aesthetic that a company creates and the consumer adopts. America is full of skilled craftsman.  My dream is to find as many of them as possible, to work alongside them and learn as much as I possibly can to become better at what I do. Bench-made, handcrafted details and quality are hard to find these days. As my line expands I will prove that classic originality, quality and brand integrity will position value to overcome price.

Some materials ready to get turned into bracelets.

E: One of the aspects of your business that I like so much is how you use all kinds of materials to make your bracelets. Where do you find all these materials? 

K: We have sourced from various mills all over the world that are true to their origin. Our silk designs are loomed in England and China, as they should be (there are, to-date, no US made silks).  Our wools/tartans/ and suiting material are sourced from Scotland, England and Oregon. Any fabric sublimation is sourced in Fall River, Massachusetts. Some more basic fabrics such as seersucker, canvas and cotton are obtained from several domestic sources.

E: Your whole company is full of nautical themes. Where does this theme come from in your life?

K: Rhode Island is the “Ocean State.” Our license plate has a giant anchor on it. Our state flag is the word “Hope” under an anchor & nautical rope.  Newport’s nautical “Old New England” charm offered me an array of lifestyle/décor/style I deeply admired.

E: What’s the first thing you do in the morning? 

K: Typically Spend 15 minutes on my iPhone researching how to construct a lightsaber, hoverboard, or Lochness Monster finder.

E: Where do you see your company in 5 years?

K: I would like to take my entire operation out to sea on a pirated British Man -O’- War.

E: How many total bracelets have you made in your life? How old were you when you made your first one?

K: Wow, nobody has ever asked me this before. Well, in the first 3 years, Sarah and myself made every single bracelet. Sarah prepped, cut, and ironed the fabric, while I sewed on the labels, stitched the pieces together and attached the buttons.  To-date we have made over 12,000 bracelets from start to finish. We have worked between 110-120 hours a week for 5 years straight. It was a bit of a nightmare when the production was done 100% by us, but we are now enjoying the fruits of our labors with over 20 people employed and 100% ownership.

E: Where do you find all that great furniture you feature in your photos?

K: Most is custom built by Bob, our full-time carpenter/electrician, who can build practically anything from scratch.  Some pieces I have searched high and low all over the United States for. I recently picked up an all-oak, custom-built, 240-drawer cabinet that had prior use at a California hardware store since 1890.

E: If someone wanted to do what you do, what would you tell them?

K: Come up with a game plan each night in order to execute the next day. Stay on schedule with your long term and quarterly goals.  Keep your overhead low and expect to learn as much as you possibly can in order to run your business efficiently. Write down every mistake you make and how you’ve improved or will improve from it. Reread your mistake journal often. Seek mentors at the top of the field you wish to pursue. You will need guidance and cannot be expected to simply know everything on your own.  You will have to take risks and be prepared to lose big and win big. Even winning big has its own set of obstacles, and can quickly grow into larger failures. Lastly, stay CLEAR of hippies.

Kiel James Patrick and Sarah Vickers.

E: I couldn’t do this interview and fail to mention Sarah Vickers, because my girlfriend has a girl-crush on her. Where does Vickers fit in with regard to your inspiration?

K: Sarah is behind the brand just as much as I am.  Our goal many years ago was to learn the fashion craft/business from all angles and to build the production relationships through Kiel James Patrick in order to one day launch Sarah’s line of original (Made in America) Dresses, Skirts, Oxfords, Bags, etc. We’ve finally met our original goals as of this year and plan on releasing Vickers collection next Spring.  Day to day she updates her progress building her dream on Classy Girls Wear Pearls.

E: Your house is on fire, and you can only take three things. What did you pick?

K: I’d grab 3 Coronas out of the fridge and move the fire down to the ocean.

E: What’s your favorite spot in the world to escape the rigors of life?

K: The Dagobah system.

E: What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t had the opportunity yet?

K: Construct a lightsaber.

E: Anything else you want to add?

K: And a hoverboard.

Thanks to Kiel for this extremely entertaining interview. Check out his work and learn more about Kiel and Sarah over at his website.

Do you have a question or comment for Kiel? Ask yours in the comments below.