Interview: Kloke Designers, Amy and Adam Coombes
There’s a warmth to Amy and Adam Coombes that resonates through their designs. An initial phone conversation with Adam and a visit to meet Amy at the Kloke boutique culminates in a sunny Saturday morning meeting where the Makers team is welcomed into the couple’s Fitzro studio.
Launching their Kloke label in 2011, both Amy and Adam have a deep connection to the Melbourne fashion scene. Between the pair, the Coombes’ have worked with some of this city’s most lauded designers. An important pedigree when it came to establishing their own range of men’s and women’s clothing.
Kloke: “The initial intent of the brand was to produce considered products that are loved season after season. Over the years we have been able to combine our differing ideas and bring together what is now Kloke. The brand continues to evolve and being able to work together to create something that is a part of who we both are is a continuous motivation.”
We’re sitting around a wooden worktable in the centre of the Kloke studio. It’s a small space, shared with a local artist, whose stunning macramé wall hangings fight for attention next to bulging racks of Japanese fabric, sewing patterns and current season samples. With son Remi sitting happily nearby, soft music playing and dappled sunlight falling through a nearby window, the open plan room is comfortable with an air of creative energy.
Sipping takeaway coffee from a nearby deli, the Coombes' begin explaining the ethos behind their growing brand. There’s talk of fluidity, not only in shape and fit, but also a growing sense of ease in their design aesthetic. Over the past few seasons they have taken the steps to develop their range with experimentation in both pattern, fabrications and knitwear, which has been added to both winter and summer collections.
Kloke: “Our intention is to create strong lines and classic silhouettes that have an effortless feel but considered approach. The longevity of a piece starts from the initial idea, the fabric choice and the shape of the garment, we ask ourselves how each piece will wear and make sure it fits with Kloke.
We have been really driven to create collections that work back with each season, in some ways it is like building on a wardrobe. The collections evolve but previous pieces still remain relevant and each collection does still see us standing true [to] who we are and what we believe and want the business to be.”
With business sustainability at the forefront of their minds, the design duo has been careful to build the brand at their own pace. Although they launched three years ago and have been stocked in numerous high-end stores around Melbourne, it wasn’t until late last year that the couple opened their own retail space on Fitzroy’s bustling Brunswick street. Although they casually mention plans to expand at some point in the future, at this stage the busy pair is more than comfortable managing one boutique and a successful online store.
It’s a business plan that works well around their frequent trips to Japan, where they source fabric and sell their designs. The Japanese market has been very receptive to the Kloke brand, not surprising when you consider the clean lines and effortless sophistication Amy and Adam produce season after season.
Kloke: “The conceptual influence comes from our lives and the things we do each day, from all the things around us. This does change seasonally and also depends on life, where we’ve been, what we’ve been listening to, watching looking at and the things we find. From a garment perspective, we’re generally into designers who’ve altered the way we look at cut or have changed our perception of design. From the method of how Cristobel Balenciaga cut a sleeve to the way Rei Kawakubo alters the design process. We hope that by looking wide the outcome is something new.”
Although there are rumblings of further international interest, the couple is quick to point out the limitations of Aussie labels selling into larger overseas markets. The difference in season may cause issue, as well as a lack of understanding as to how a smaller brand may fit into a larger fashion spectrum.
With so much to look forward to, Makers can’t help but ask for a sneak peak into the forthcoming summer collection. There’s excitement and a mention of “so much goodness” as we are taken through the new season garments.
Kloke: “We have expanded on our knitwear collection and have some great colours in the range. We have also expanded the dress offering in our women’s range using a Japanese viscose that has a beautiful drape.
The snake in the grass print has been used across men’s and women’s, in denim and cotton shirting. A firm fabric favorite and standout in the collection is the double mesh nylon used in the women’s range. We have also introduced some new trouser shapes for men.”
The future looks bright and Makers can’t help but think that this brand has been built to go the distance. Kloke is a Melbourne label that we predict will be going strong for many years to come.
Kloke: “ Sustaining the business long term is really important to us, and this comes from many aspects, not just the design of the garment. We plan on Kloke being around for a long time and to help ensure this we have been developing and growing at our own pace."