Stephen Kenn – A New Heritage
Heritage brands in menswear are #everything these days, but approaching furniture with a heritage esthetic, SK Collection, does it right!. Canadian born and raised Stephen Kenn, based in Los Angeles, is an artist and designer that pays homage to the past with a modern point of view.. From leather bags and canvas furniture, Stephen is not only influenced by his grandfather (the company bears his name), but also influenced by Los Angeles, where his collection is made.
Overseeing each and every detail personally, Kenn took time to answer questions exclusively for The Manual.
Tell us about what gave you that push to start your company?
In the fall of 2011 I ended a season as the designer for a bag company called Temple which used WWII duffle bags as the fabric for men’s travel bags. My wife asked me a simple and yet probing question, what’s next? I had been thinking about carrying the same military aesthetic over into furniture to create something that was masculine and yet modern. We had some money that we had set aside for a vacation and decided to develop our first sample set with it. It was exciting to see the concept of the steel frame, webbing belts and military canvas blend so well. Once we finished the first sofa samples we knew that there was something really special about it.
Your designs evoke a feeling of a by-gone era, how does that translate to modern day?
I believe now more than ever that we are a generation that craves authenticity. We love real stories and seek to live them out. For our furniture (The Inheritance Collection) I am inspired by the military fabric itself. The character of the printing and stitching speaks to a time of utilitarian design that was simple and functional above all else. The bags (The Encounter Collection) are striped down to the barest bones as well and then crafted from the best leathers available to make a product that stands the test of time. There is something very timeless about bringing simple and clean aesthetic into relationship with good materials, that feeling of a bygone era is authenticity which I feel is relevant for design today.
What inspires your work?
I think a lot about innovation and originality. I try to expose myself to as much design and art as possible. I study material palates and structural details. Author Harry Beckwith is a brilliant marketing mentor. Two things that have stuck with me are “The last thing people want to see is what they just saw” and “Disguise the novel as familiar” These statements push me to be experimental and innovative while reminding me to keep design warm, inviting and comfortable.
How does producing in Los Angeles influence your designs?
I love manufacturing locally. I’m constantly being influenced by conversations with contractors, materials in their shops and more often than anything else, driving through industrial neighborhoods. Design genius happens in a flash. Ideas that completely transform my work usually happen while I’m driving around or exploring some warehouse somewhere. I believe in this beautiful marriage between a project that is slowly formulating in my mind while constantly exposing myself to methods, machines and materials. I have no idea how I would ever design exclusively behind the screen of a computer. I need to be out in the world, talking with people and seeing unexpected things. That is when my best ideas present themselves.