Back in 2016, Alexandra Hadjikyriacou and Jaimee Mckenna, both Textile and Knitwear graduates from Central Saint Martins, united to form the brand Kepler. The label takes inspiration from traditional methods of garment making and cultures from across the globe, amalgamating them to create a modern approach to constructing clothing. At once boldly sculptural and quietly romantic, the collaborators’ output celebrates the handmade. Kepler innovates, experiments and curates by combining the two designers separate skills and influences, evolving into something new. To learn more about Hadjikyriacou and Mckenna’s work, how Kepler came to be, and how the duo are handling the current health crisis, Something Curated spoke with the designers.  

Something Curated: Can you give us some insight into your respective backgrounds; how did you enter this field?

Alexandra Hadjikyriacou + Jaimee Mckenna: Jaimee’s mum studied fashion at Saint Martins back in the 80s and later had a real interest in textiles, which Jaimee grew up around. Alexandra grew up with a family of interior designers and architects and was always influenced by the world of design. Both of us studied at Central Saint Martins BA Textiles, where we met, and later MA Fashion specialising in Knitwear. This is where we both found our love for textiles and knitwear, as this was something we’d never really done before.  

SC: Where did the name Kepler come from? 

AH + JM: When we decided to partner up to create a collection together we didn’t want to use our own names as at that point in time we were simply collaborating together to make something creative using our craft and didn’t initially plan for it to grow into the business it now is. When we put together our research to design the collection, we both noticed that we were inspired equally by the same subjects – which were, history, nature, landscapes, micro/macro, cultures, anthropology – but coming to them from two different perspectives.

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Collection VII in the making

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So when we decided on the name we thought it would be more interesting to use something non-relative to us and at the time NASA was using a variety of satellites named KEPLER to explore the universe. We were specifically interested in KEPLER 186F which was a potentially habitable planet similar to earth, just 20% bigger. So it felt like it resonated with our research and way of working. It inspired us to design and create clothes for another world. 

SC: What are you working on at present, and how is the pandemic affecting the way you’re working? 

AH + JM: At the moment we are both still coming to terms with what is happening in the world right now. While dealing with so many emotions due to uncertainty in the world, we are finding clarity that our skill and craft, which we love, brings nothing but a mindful and healing aspect to our current daily lives. And this inspires us to find new ways of being resourceful and even more sustainable during times when clothing and fashion is the second biggest consumable on the planet. 

We had just finished our collection and were due to be making production however due to the global pandemic many orders have been paused and we are focusing on private orders and custom pieces which we can be making remotely in isolation. We are also trying to be as creative as possible and expressing new ideas, possibilities, concepts, collaborations, stories – anything that has a positive outlook in keeping the imagination flowing and the passion to still grow. 

SC: How would you describe your collaborative dynamic?

AH + JM: It’s harmonious. We are very respectful of each other’s skills and craft as we both know what it takes to make things by hand. We are both extremely different at seeing the same thing and that’s part of the beautiful harmony. There is a good balance between masculinity and femininity between the two of us, which resonates in the designs and clothing. 

SC: Your work often reimagines and recontextualises historical garments hailing from civilisations across the world – broadly speaking, what draws you to these types of influences and why do you think it’s important to reflect on traditions and methods of the past today?

AH + JM: Living in a world that is always reinforcing new methods and manufacturing for speed, huge quantities, fast fashion and over consumption, people forget to find newness within the past. There is always a reason to look back and making things in the past took time, methods were slower, more laborious, more effort was needed and patience. There is a real satisfaction in making something by hand, it becomes more precious and I think the craftsmanship becomes visible and speaks. Because we are constantly studying these old methods in a system that requires speed, it’s extremely satisfying by simplifying these methods to then create something modern. 

SC: You work with a lot of deadstock yarns – are there any particular materials or processes that you’re especially enjoying utilising right now? 

AH + JM: We currently have a good relationship with a supplier of deadstock yarns, who is always sending us exciting yarns which in turn gives us new inspiration and possibilities. Whatever we have already in our studio or have in front of us is what’s inspiring us right now, just using what we have. 

SC: What do you want to learn more about? 

AH + JM: Being as sustainable as possible – there’s always more you can do, always more you can learn and improve upon. We are always looking for how to apply old techniques to new methods for the Kepler woman. 

Interview by Keshav Anand / Feature image: Ophelia crop pleated top from collection VII — Images courtesy Kepler

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