Kings Road Life is a fashion brand spanning 3 decades of the Kelly family.
In the 70s and 80s Oliver and Paddy Kelly owned 4 jean shops in England called Kings Road, after the iconic street in London that was the centre for fashion at the time. During this time they were part of a growing accessibility to fashion and freedom of expression. The Kelly’s also started a family that became 5 kids.
Now 20 years later the stores have been sold and Damien and Neve Kelly are bringing back Kings Road with a bag line. The father and daughter team are looking to create bags that reflect the heritage of the Kings Road name. Jeans are the workhorses of clothing and a major fashion icon. The backpack is the same. They make fashionable, quality bags that reflect people’s good taste and love of style.
With such a unique story we decided to catch up with Damien to get a firsthand perspective on their tale. From concept to production we were curious what it’s like to launch into a project like this as a father daughter pair.
In an age of constant reinvention and with tradition seeming to be not just passe but somehow unuseful to us, your story of continued family tradition feels against the norm and quite refreshing. Who’s idea was this originally and where did it come from?
I have been thinking of starting my own brand for the last five years and have struggled to come up with a story and idea that was meaningful to me. I knew I wanted to create something in the broader lifestyle market which is a lot more difficult than designing for a niche market. When designing for a niche market you are solving problems for specific end users. Lifestyle is still solving problems for people, but the story has to be appealing to a broader market. I tried to make up stories, but they all felt wrong. One day I was talking with Neve and it occurred to me that the story was all around me. My family has a history of design, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. Once I realized this it all became really clear. I could just tell our story. From my parents to myself and onto Neve. Its authentic and gives me a connection to my family and the product that is meaningful. I think that the speed at which the world is developing is just going to get faster and faster. So much gets lost in the noise and the volume of content. We need to hold onto tradition as an anchor and make sure to honour the good things from our history.
Why bags? Why not jeans like the Kelly’s did before or something else?
We started with bags because it is what we love and it is also something we can design that is truly uni-sex and can appeal to a broad range of ages and tastes. We use the the saying, “For the Generations”. That said we are looking to the future and jeans are on the list for consideration.
How do you start to design a bag like this? What is that process like?
This one was easy. We wanted to make a bag for us. Totally and unapologetically made to order. After years of designing technical bags for other brands it was time to strip away all the noise. Remove the word mark, no water bottle pocket, every seam had to be necessary. The process was great. For how simple the bag looks it took a long time to get the lines just right. The zipper path that accesses the main body of the pack took 3 samples and a few months to get just right. Neve also really wanted the bag to be fashionable, not just practical. She drove the need for the leather and metal hardware. In the end the combination of our personal tastes created a bag we are both really stoked on.
What is it like to be doing something like this as a father-daughter pair?
Its has been really great creatively and also a challenge. As the one with years of experience Damien “knows” how things should be done. Neve has had to constantly fight to get her option heard and to keep the brand on track so that its not too “hippy” and remains fashionable and hip. It’s been that process of learning to listen to each other and being able to let go that has created something new for both of us. We are finding our way together and it is constantly evolving.
I can’t help but think about how you Damien simply have more years behind you and probably have a more realistic understanding of how certain business decisions will play out. And Neve is perhaps more idealistic and open to what is possible and unafraid to do something less conventional that may or may not fail. Whether these traits are there or not, what ways are the two of y’all different and how do you use these differences to better the product?
As we mentioned before it is the chemistry of our different experiences and tastes that have created a unique brand and product. We take the view that we know there is a lot we don’t know and we are willing to be ok with that and learn. This is the just the beginning of that process and we are working it out as we go. We are embracing is our differences. This gives us both an insight into new ideas and ways to approach the brand and product.
If all goes well with the Little Black Bag what is next? Where do you hope things would be in the next 5 years?
We are so excited for the future. We have ideas for a duffel, larger pack, tote, fanny pack, and of course jeans. We have also be talking to Paddy and Olli about an apron. The brand for us is a conduit for creativity and learning. We love hearing about people’s needs and ideas and riffing of the good energy we feel coming our way. In fives years we would like to be a well loved brand that feels like it has been in people’s lives for a long time. We want to be known for our authenticity and quality product.
Thank you for your time Neve and Damien! Best of luck as everything gears up!
Thanks team. It’s been great to share our project. If you want to support please go to our Kickstarter and buy a Little Black Bag (LBB).