Don’t Just Dream It, Do It- Interview with Fashion Designer Lia Kes

After 9 years in New York City (NYC), modern, romantic, utilitarian clothing designer Lia Kes has decided to open up to her very first store front at 3024 Filmore Street in San Francisco. Sure there’s competition around but Lia welcomes it. With her line already in Barneys, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, and Fred Segal, and worn by the likes of Kate Hudson, Kim Kardashian, Giuliana Rancic, and her pieces featured in Cosmopolitan, In-Style, Life & Style, Lucky, Marie Claire, OK, US and WWD, those other boutiques on Filmore have got nothing on her.

Lia’s clothing is created with the modern woman in mind: the woman in us who is looking forward, conquering and achieving her goals each and every day. Her Holiday 09 Collection includes strong shapes lightly hung on the body with soft silks and fine jerseys and sheers. Peek a boo shoulders, deeply cut back seams, and fringe dresses all play together to create a thoroughly modern yet feminine look.  Her woman goes into the world and achieves her dream and like Lia, this collection aspires to and achieves.

Lia Kes is a native of Kibbutz Afikim, which is in the northern region of Israel. The Kibbutz is a very small social community and the people there are down to earth and very low key. Her mother was a kindergarten teacher Lia remembers her always leaving the house with her red lipstick applied and always looking her best. Her mom was “on it” and Lia learned from the earliest age that it doesn’t matter where you are you should be prepared for whatever may come. “Each day is a new day to conquer and you need to be ready for it.”

Lia served in the Israeli Air Force for two years, and then received a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design from Shenkar College in Tel Aviv. From a design and architectural perspective, Lia tells us Israel was an amazing place to grow up. “There are only 5 million consumers there, so to grow your own business is difficult and you have to have something brilliant to offer or no one will pay attention.” This environment innately helped to shaped the person and drive she has today.

In school, Lia went “bananas.” She designed what she wanted and said what she wanted and was not in the least concerned with her next step in life. Looking back Lia says she would have worked harder on making contacts early on. She would have tried harder to maneuver herself exactly where she wanted to be. She might have been nicer to her professors and focused on forming those crucial personal relationships while still in college.

She believes that as a student you must find the correct balance between taking everything in your heart and mind and putting it out there and also in preparing yourself to know the market and understand your goals. Ask yourself, “What is the best thing to suit my goals?” Figure out where you want to be and in each class see how you can get the most from it to arrive at that destination.

Ask yourself: “Where do you want to go? If you want to work in Luxury goods, go to Italy for a summer and study with Jean Paul Gautier. If you want to work for DKNY Jeans, save up money and do a summer internship every single summer in NYC. If you want to own your own store, start making contacts with store owners even those that are not in fashion.”

“Every step you take will help you open up doors. It is possible to achieve anything you want. Don’t just dream it, do it. Go and knock on doors. Understand if you want it, it can happen. “

Upon graduation, Lia had intended to move to Europe and work for a designer there, but before her move the designer was fired and so Lia decided to open herself up to the rest of the world and moved to NYC to begin designing t-shirts. New York was an “earthquake in my life”. It took everything she had just to move to NYC and on top of that, courage to make it happen. “In New York I was challenged by everything” yet she had a natural inner inertia that propelled her forward. It was part of who and what she was meant to be.

Slowly working herself to where she wanted to be, gaining confidence and money along the way, Lia expanded her line and started to get accounts with small boutiques. Wanting to expand her line she worked on more complicated and intricate looks and decided to quit designing t-shirts for the time being. One and half years ago Lia decided to get back into the t-shirts and that’s when Bloomindales and Neiman Marcus picked up her line. “How could you forget you are strong in designing t-shirts?!?” she questioned herself. “Why did you try to do all this sophistication and break your bones over it?” She kicked herself for doing so much bone breaking work on other parts of her line, when she had the tool in her pocket the entire time. But does she have any regrets? None.

When she moved to San Francisco in late 2009 because of her husband’s job transfer, she found herself reinventing herself to adjust to the SF vibe and people. She loves the sophisticated casual style of the people in SF. There is a “funkiness to their casual sophistication” she tells us. “There is a big European influence here” which she loves. She has created her store on Filmore Street to have the spacial layout of an art gallery but has streamlined silver bars with the Lia Kes signature clothing to purchase as well.

When Lia designs her collection she begins by asking these questions first: Who is my woman? What does she look like? Where is she going in my clothes? What is she doing in my clothes? Why does she need my clothes? “All creative decisions are easier” after that is done. “Every season this woman gets clearer and clearer to me.”

With her woman in mind, Lia looks for inspiration from her “super ordinary” life she leads. Inspiration comes from her feelings, the weather, kids, anything. She is constantly striving to find that balance between modernity and femininity. “I look at each garment and try to the most minimal change to it.” She takes the basic and twists it with the most minimal change possible. (I’d love to know where she gets her basics because mine look nowhere near as desiring as hers do.)

When asked Lia if she could remember that one moment in her life when she really felt like she made it (let’s see, loads of celebrities wearing your garments, Bloomies, Neiman’s, Fred Segal, carries your lines, tons features in fashion magazines), she tells us “No! Never! My dreams still lie ahead of me. I am only in the beginning of my life! I am constantly rethinking everything in life. Designing is what I know. I don’t know anything else. I want to be bigger. I can put it in nice pretty words, but simply, I want to be bigger.” Who doesn’t?

Visit Lia Kes at 3024 Filmore Street.
Bring in your student ID and get 10% off your purchase.

By Mindy J Trisko