In her words, Parsons grad Kelsey Peyton Crane of Atlanta-based kpc. is a “fashion designer, sewist, and tailor.” In ours, she’s a literal weaver of dream wares, breathing new life into old textiles with her wasteless approach to fashion, which she calls “new vintage.” If you’re not yet familiar with kpc., let us introduce you. And, if you’re lucky enough to cop one of her one-of-a-kid creations, well-done — tell her The Good Sort sent you.
THE GOOD SORT: You spent over a decade working in the fashion industry in NYC for big names like Oscar de la Renta. What inspired you to launch kpc.?
Kelsey Peyton Crane: The inspiration to finally take the steps to launch kpc. came to me last summer. I realized that I was unhappy with my career and was trying to dig deeper as to why and what I could do to change that around. My thought process went like this: I had been designing and making patterns and clothes for fun in my free time outside work, careful to not lose those skills that I had worked so hard to learn and master in college and well after. Throughout my career in fashion, I had worked for several amazing entrepreneurs who saw great success. I finally realized that only I could fill the voids I had experienced or that I was currently experiencing — whether that was feeling under appreciated, undervalued, overutilized, etc. So, with encouragement from my husband, family, and friends I decided to leave my job and start planning for my future, which is kpc. A big part of this decision was asking myself if I would be upset in five years if I hadn't at least tried to go out on my own.
THE GOOD SORT: Was there a turning point in your career or life that made you rethink the mass production retail model and take this bespoke, sustainable approach to fashion?
Kelsey Peyton Crane: Absolutely, 100% yes. I've worked both in bespoke tailoring and mass production. Polar opposites on the production scale, and in design as well. Bespoke always felt so special to me. Working directly with the customer from the very start of the process to the final product is extremely fulfilling. It always seemed so much more personal, emotional, and authentic. The major turning point (and also a big motive to start kpc.) in my career was at my most recent job where we mass produced about ten collections a year. Eighty percent of the textiles used were polyester. Everything was sourced and produced in China. We had sales every couple of months. The markup was extremely high. And at the end of the year, we had an alarming amount of product leftover only to sit in storage for years to come or go to waste. It was all so disheartening to me and I felt like I was lying to the consumer. I guess the realities of mass production really affected me more than they affect others, but I couldn't keep contributing to that model.
THE GOOD SORT: You’re a one-person production and design studio making one-of-a-kind pieces, so I imagine every day is different. If there is a typical day, can you walk us through it?
Kelsey Peyton Crane: On a typical day, I start with the technology side — replying to emails, answering DMs, calls, etc. I try to wrap that up by 11. When that's all finished, I head to my studio and look at my available textiles on my textile wall. When I purchase a textile, I immediately know what I will make of it and write it down or sketch my ideas. I keep a working sketchbook with sketches and notes; it's like an ongoing to-do list that keeps me in line. I sew until I'm satisfied. Sometimes I lock the studio at 5. Sometimes it's locked at 7. Sometimes I've only made one garment, sometimes two. It's always at least one, though. Oh! I also give myself an hour break each day. It's such a game changer. After working in fashion for a decade in NYC, I always noticed everyone would eat lunch at their desk while still working. Not until recently have I discovered the importance of having an hour break. I take that time to doodle, sketch, journal, etc.
THE GOOD SORT: This may be highly classified intel, but your (insanely good) pieces are crafted with a range of fabrics — everything from ’60s crochet coverlets to vintage painter’s cloth — how do you find the textiles you use?
Kelsey Peyton Crane: Every two weeks, I spend a couple of days sourcing textiles. I map out estate sales in the Atlanta metro area. There's also a monthly traveling antique show that makes a stop in Atlanta. The most fun sourcing days are when I drive out to my favorite antique warehouses in rural Georgia. Sometimes my mom comes along. She's got a fantastic eye and such great taste. Sometimes, I can convince my husband to come. He's also got a great eye and he is actually a customer. I've gotten to know several vendors and owners of mom-and-pop stores throughout the state. They've picked up on my taste and willingness to experiment with any woven, so that's a huge plus.
THE GOOD SORT: Is sourcing deadstock and vintage textiles a painstaking process, where you’re looking for the exact right piece in order to execute your vision? Or is it more about your particular creative approach in reworking what you find?
Kelsey Peyton Crane: This just came to me: it's like dating. When I know, I know. I don't see any textile as off limits. This has helped me broaden my search and open lanes for further creativity. I never go out searching for something particular because I find that if I'm focused on that one particular item, I may miss out on something I'd never consider. With the rising popularity in this sort of upcycling aesthetic, I've started to think outside of the box to keep things interesting and fun. For example, I've recently started to hand-applique original vintage Ken doll clothing on top of my garments. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it really is an extension of my humor on my clothing. So kpc.
THE GOOD SORT: Your tailoring is impeccable. What should someone trying to make more sustainable fashion choices look for when deciding if a piece, new or vintage, is a worthy investment that will last for years to come?
Kelsey Peyton Crane: Thank you! I take pride in tailoring and construction, both in my work and in the work of other labels and brands. Of course, I think investing in quality core wardrobe items is a great sustainable fashion choice to make. But then I think everyone definitely needs supplemental wardrobe items next on the pyramid. I can't speak for everyone, but I'm a very emotional shopper. Not emotional in the sense that I will cry at the beauty or construction of a piece or binge shop if I'm upset. But, I collect pieces that spark something in me or are absolutely special and unique, whether it's something new or vintage. I love basics but, I also love my vintage black satin muumuu with a marabou feather neckline and gold shank buttons that I wore Christmas morning in 2019 with my family in Orange Beach, Alabama. (That's just an example of my emotional ties to pieces in my wardrobe-with special pieces, I can almost always tell you what I was doing/where I was while wearing it). I hope that made sense! I think that emotional aspect of clothing is what has brought me success with kpc. thus far. My customers have a piece they know is the only one of its kind made by an individual they can actually reach out to and communicate with. It's special.
THE GOOD SORT: Where do you go or what do you do to get inspired?
Kelsey Peyton Crane: Honestly, I'm so busy during the week that my sourcing trips have become a major point of inspiration for me. It's a constant cycle of inspiration. I love browsing well-curated vintage menswear collections/stores. This may sound crazy, but since I work alone in a studio, there's a lot of talking to myself that goes on while I'm sewing or cutting. New ideas pop up. Potential new textile manipulation or execution comes up.
THE GOOD SORT: What are you reading, watching, and listening to these days?
Kelsey Peyton Crane: I can't help but read New York Magazine every two weeks. I don't watch much television. And I'm a big music nerd. Right now, I've got Yacht Rock Radio deep cuts (please don't judge me!) and modern Afrobeats on rotation in the studio.
The Sort Six
What do you collect?
What brand is totally underrated?
What’s one store you can’t visit without buying something?
Ugh, the grocery.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever given or received?
Mail-order oysters. I love oysters and I think it's the perfect gift for any oyster lover. Also, a friend of mine brought this up a couple of weeks ago: gifting TSA precheck. Such a cool idea.
What’s your greatest extravagance?
We’re always interested in talking to cool people doing interesting things. Who should talk to next?
Ali Rose VanOverbeke! My former Parsons classmate and friend who left the fashion industry to start her own sustainable eyewear brand, Genusee, made of recycled plastic single-use water bottles in Flint, MI.
All Photos: Courtesy of Kelsey Peyton Crane
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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