Sunshine, sewing and a son: designer Jesse Kam does the work-life balance to perfection
If life is all about trying to find a balance, Jesse Kamm might just possibly have the perfect life. She’s based in L.A, but spends a good part of the year in Panama (where she has an eco-friendly place in the postcard-perfect Bocas del Toro). Her place is in a part of the city that’s actually quiet and peaceful - rural, even - and yet only 10 minutes from downtown. In fact, her studio is part of her house, meaning she can split her day pretty comfortably between work and family, consisting of her young son and husband, environmental scientist Lucas Brower.
“It is a great balance,” she says, reflecting on her lifestyle in a thoughtful, sing song-y voice. She says she tried focusing on motherhood for a while - “I took the first year of [my son’s] life off and we moved to Austin, Texas and rented this cabin and had this very rootsy period of just learning about this little person,” but ultimately, “When [my son] was 11 months old, we came back to L.A, and we decided that for me to be happy meant me having my job and being a mom.”
It’s perhaps this balance that enables her to design the way she does. “I feel like fashion can be very… what’s the word, grueling or intense, and when things start to get to be too much, it’s nice to check out and go get your priorities set straight,” she says. To wit, her pieces are bold and yet thoughtful, emphasising design and creativity over trends. The soft, organic palette and dreamy prints mean there is an almost rootsy feel to her pieces - a little bit of nostalgia for her upbringing in Illinois perhaps, mixed with the brightness and modernity of the California girl she is today.
“Growing up in the midwest was very much like… I don’t know, like so many millions of miles away from this world I live in, mentally at least,” she says. Always crafty as a child, she fell into designing after being exposed to racks of beautiful clothes as a model. “[As a model] I always felt like I wanted to be helping pick out the clothes… and so it became clear to me that I really enjoyed that process. I don’t think I ever thought, ‘Hmm, I’m gonna be a fashion designer’. When I stopped modelling I started taking sewing classes and I started drawing and creating and it became very organic.”
Fast forward eight years since she started her eponymous label, billed as ‘luxury’ and ‘artisan’ on the website, and it seems the label’s growth has stayed organic, as she focuses on maintaining the aforementioned balance in life. “I feel like if the collection were bigger and I were to have greater distribution, I wouldn’t have time to do the things I would like to do with [my son]. And maybe when he’s older and he’s in real school, maybe there will be a desire to grow in a different way. But we’re happy here having a small collection.”