by Michael Raver
With the launch of his new artisan menswear line manufactured entirely in NYC, Taiwanese-born designer Kai D has become a classic example of the American dream. The former Nautica designer broke out on his own in 2009 with the desire to create something practical, timeless and long-lasting using resources found in his own backyard. “Working locally is more personal,” he says. “You know the people making the garments.” Creating jackets based on 1930s military uniforms and vests inspired by ironworkers, Kai’s work is marked by a high functionality and details often disregarded in menswear.
Subtlety is a key component to all of Kai’s collections. Earth tone-laden fabrics and sleekly contoured silhouettes summon sophistication without abandoning masculinity. Form and function sit side by side in wool jackets that are made to endure a blizzard, but could easily segue into a Williamsburg cocktail party.
For Kai it’s all about duality; the styles simultaneously call to mind the Industrial Revolution and modern hipster aesthetics. For example, leather elbow pads on a tweed field jacket or a charcoal crombie coat with a surprise green plaid lining are all expertly tailored with a vintage, handmade craftsmanship. Kai would like his clients to embrace the intelligent and the sexy side of dressing—a sentiment clearly visible in his camouflage bow-ties—but neatly sums up his ultimate design focus with, “It all comes down to the fit.”
Kai’s studio also produces custom pieces that utilize their client’s existing personal collections, and outdated standbys are revitalized through his dapper lens. The centerpiece of what he calls the Custom Design Service is his “personalized pocket”—a wax cotton pouch added to five pocket jeans with monogrammed initials in pop-color thread.
The Kai D American artisan collection can be found online or at his NYC studio.
Images by Kai D