Only one half of London-based label Ka Wa Key is Asian – co-founder Key Chow is originally from Hong Kong – but it has a distinctive mark on the brand: Each collection is a melding of Chow’s and business/life partner Jarno Leppanen’s (he’s Finnish) markedly different cultural backgrounds. (Its S/S ’22 collection, for example, is based on the Chinese legend of the Butterfly Lovers.)
Having carved out a name for deliriously innovative knitwear designed and crafted in-house using certified sustainable fabrics, the pair also aim to use their work to explore another side to identity: gender and sexuality.
Key Chow and Jarno Leppanen, co-founders of innovative knitwear label Ka Wa Key
Says Chow: “I urged myself to fit into stereotypes when I was younger and that was a painful process, but studying design opened my eyes. Why do I need to tick those boxes and fit into those identities? Why can’t I just identify myself as an individual?”
That would explain its often louche, flattering-for-all silhouettes big on personality – cue Fall/Winter 2021 that’s anchored by slightly stretched-out sweaters and polos, and striped flares inspired by characters such as Willy Wonka and Peter Pan.
Come next season, it raises the bar on its sustainability efforts by teaming up with the material science company Spinnova, which claims to be the only institution that can convert wood and waste into new fibres without using harmful chemicals.
Watch this space.
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