Fashion

The Founder of Kitten on Depop Shops, Curated Vintage and Femme-ing Up Football

Hypebae speaks to Charley Keighley, the designer behind one of London’s fastest-growing upcycling brands.

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The Founder of Kitten on Depop Shops, Curated Vintage and Femme-ing Up Football

Hypebae speaks to Charley Keighley, the designer behind one of London’s fastest-growing upcycling brands.

Customized football shirts have quickly become one of this summer’s biggest trends, shining a spotlight on upcyclers, sustainable designers and most importantly: women. Charley Keighley is all of the above, kickstarting her own label, Kitten, during her time on furlough in lockdown. Her ruched shirts and upcycled football tops have since become an ultra-popular option for blokecore enthusiasts, so we caught up with her to find out more about how her burgeoning past-time became a fully-fledged business.

“I started a Depop page, not really thinking about it. The name actually came about because I started the page, completely not committing to it, thinking ‘what shall I call this thing that I really don’t care all that much about right now?’ I’d just gotten a kitten so I thought, ‘Yeah, sure. That’ll do.’ Not realising that just four years later, it would literally be my life,” Keighley tells us.

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“It started with me sourcing vintage style pieces and Y2K things and re-selling them, which led to me getting a bit of a following. From then on, it evolved from just vintage sourcing to now sourcing, re-working and then eventually even designing my own pieces. The idea came about really organically, it was just about me creating the pieces that I’d been wanting to find. At a point I just decided, if I can’t find it, I’ll make it myself,” she adds.

Read on for our full interview with Kitten founder, Charley Keighley.

How did Kitten come about?
It all started in lockdown. I was working in fashion buying at the time, and I was on furlough so I had a lot of time on my hands! I started a Depop page, not really thinking about it. The name actually came about because I started the page, completely not committing to it, thinking “what shall I call this?” I’d just gotten a kitten so I thought, “yeah, sure. That’ll do.” Not realising that just four years later, it would literally be my life. It started on Depop, with me sourcing vintage style pieces and Y2K things and re-selling them, which led to me getting a bit of a following. From then on, it evolved from just vintage sourcing to now sourcing, re-working and even designing my own pieces. The idea came about really organically, it was just about me creating the pieces that I’d been wanting to find. At a point I just decided, if I can’t find it, I’ll make it myself.

Have you always possessed those design skills? How did that part evolve in terms of actually being able to make what you wanted?
I mean… there’s definitely been some failed attempts. I’ve worked in fashion for pretty much ever, so it’s something I’ve been around a lot. I’ve always been aware of the process of how to take something from a sketch to a garment. When I was on furlough, unable to work that muscle in a sense, I was eager to continue doing it in my own way so it evolved from there.

kitten depop shop girl founder football tops oxford shirts upcycle ruching

That makes sense. It sounds like Depop played a big part in your evolution, what do you think about it as a platform for emerging brands and designers? How did it help you?
Depop really is the main reason that Kitten exists. It really allows individuals who want to explore a creative outlet a place to do that without it being daunting and needing to set up your own website. It helps bring you into that world quite organically and gather an audience because you’re put in with a pool of people that you aspire to be like. Their followers end up then following you and it starts to build that brand identity for you.

Super helpful at that stage, I can imagine. As part of your offering, you mentioned an element of curated vintage. Tell us more about that. How do you know what to look for?
It’s always been quite linked to my personal style, always been a mix of masculine and feminine, with things like grandad vests. Now, it’s less about just sourcing and more about re-working. With that, I like to start with quite a masculine shape like an Oxford shirt or a football shirt and “femme” it up a bit, in a sense. I’ll add something that wraps around the boobs or the waist and play with it, making it more than it was originally made to be.

kitten depop shop girl founder football tops oxford shirts upcycle ruching

On that note, where does your inspiration come from? How do you know when it’s time to create something new?
I have a lot of ideas all the time and there are some that I just get a feeling about. Even back when I was sourcing, there’d be particular things. For example, back when grandad and argyle vests were a thing, I saw a child wearing a hand-knitted one and I was like, “god, I really want that.” I found a lady on eBay who was making them for babies and I just sent her adult measurements. It’s usually based on me seeing something that I actually really want to wear myself.

I love that. We’re pretty much all back to wearing what we did as kids, anyway!
Babycore, lol.

Babycore. So we’ve spoken about inspiration, but where does the creative process begin? Do you start with a sketch, do you start with the garment?
It depends, with the redesigned pieces, I usually start with a few garments. With the Oxford shirts, I had a few and off the back of my ruched T-shirts, I had an idea that I wanted to do something similar with the shirts. I actually put the shirt on and just wrapped myself with threads to cinch it in different places. I usually try to have a few of the pieces that I want to rework and try them on myself and play around with them. I’m so visual with the way that I work so I have to mess around with it.

kitten depop shop girl founder football tops oxford shirts upcycle ruching

Can definitely see that! It also feels like sustainability, responsible design and being conscious of our consumption comes quite naturally to Kitten as a brand, given its vintage element and upcycling. Why is that important for you and how do you ensure that you’re creating responsibly?
I’ve always been a charity shopper. I’ve always liked the idea of giving new life to something that was discarded by somebody else. With the brand, it felt important to continue down that route because back in the day, I worked at Topshop for a while and when I was there, I saw a lot of the other end of the spectrum, being in fast fashion. It always felt important for me to take the skills that I’d gained from that experience and translate it into a more ethical way of producing.

That makes sense. In terms of the brand’s visual design, the concept of Blokecore is one that immediately comes to mind. How do you feel about the term and do you think that factors into your design process?
Yeah, I think it’s naturally taken a turn that way, with the football tops especially. In the last couple of months, they’ve been a real star piece for me. Without even trying, the brand has gone down that Blokecore route and I think it’s because, like I said before, I love to start with something traditionally masculine and make it more feminine.

kitten depop shop girl founder football tops oxford shirts upcycle ruching

Why do you think that football shirts are so popular now?
It does feel like something that’s really slapped us in the face recently! I think that the Euros this year is obviously a huge part of why it’s continued to build. I’m not even sure of how it started but I’m very glad it has.

Me too. Final question for you, what is next? How do you see the business and the brand evolving?
My immediate future definitely revolves around the Euros, we’re about to drop the new campaign which I’m really excited about. Moving on from that, it’s a bit of an open book to be honest and just about seeing the next design that comes along. I’ve also been designing some slightly more feminine pieces and looking into creating some wedding guest looks from scratch, something that’s in between high end and high street and is ethically made in London. So, lots more to come there!

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