“If it’s not fashion, it’s just clothes.”

Personally, I want my clothes to be clothes: warm or cool as needed, functional, and above all an extension of my mood and personality.

And so when I started Kær’s apparel line, it was pretty much just about making clothes for myself. Which is something I have been doing since I was a teenager.

 Me at 16, wearing my favorite pants and sweater. Both of which I had made myself. (I also quilted, but this particular quilt was a loan from my host-family).

Me at 16, wearing my favorite pants and sweater. Both of which I had made myself. (I also quilted, but this particular quilt was a loan from my host-family).

During Kær’s first couple of years, I ran into issues with the sizing. Stylists wanted to pull (borrow) from my line, but they requested clothing made for the models they wanted to feature: extraordinarily skinny and extraordinarily tall. Me? I’m a solid medium and vertically challenged for a Dane. And since my samples were made for me, they didn’t quite fit the models. “So, make size 00 samples,” I was told.

For a nano-second I relented — mostly because I honestly had no idea about what would work in the fashion world, and so I did as I was told. I remember one particular Sunday, making patterns for sizes that, in my experience, wouldn’t sell much, but that stylists told me they needed for shoots. It felt futile and a bit sad.

Soon after, a publicist told me I really should only work with light-skinned (or white) models because “fashion has to be aspirational.”

And I looked at my rack of size 00 clothing and thought: “Aspirational to whom?” That’s when I decided to make clothes, not “fashion,” for anyone who liked to wear them.

 The crew, after our 2018 NYFW live shoot at Galleria Ca D’Oro in Chelsea, NYC. From left to right:  Liz ,  Danie ,  Ada ,  me ,  Phil ,  Maryam ,  Tijana , and  Bibi . Photo credit: Hassan Kinley Photography 2018.

The crew, after our 2018 NYFW live shoot at Galleria Ca D’Oro in Chelsea, NYC. From left to right: Liz, Danie, Ada, me, Phil, Maryam, Tijana, and Bibi. Photo credit: Hassan Kinley Photography 2018.

We say that Kær is “inclusive design” because that’s the parlance of the business: “fashion” is for slim, tall, light-skinned women, and “inclusive design” is for anyone who’s not that. The first is considered aspirational, the second politically correct (at best).

But the truth of the matter is that Kær is design that makes me happy, because at the end of the day that is my personal aspiration: joy.

There are, of course, other reasons inclusivity is important to me. I struggled with body-image and eating disorders for years. My family is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. I am an immigrant with crooked teeth and grey hair. My day-job is focused on equality and justice.

And yet, when I think of Kær, the main motivation behind my design is joy. I work with models and other professionals who express joy. If we manage to deliver a little bit of fashion equity along the way, so be it.

If it’s not clothes, it’s just fashion.

 Spreading fashion equity and kindness, one t-shirt at a time.

Spreading fashion equity and kindness, one t-shirt at a time.