“There are very few places in the world these days where you can get something that’s truly personal,” says Kai Brown, artist, musician, and the artisan behind custom denim brand All My Relations. It’s the reason he began chain stitching bespoke vintage denim for his friends, among them models Ashley and Jess Hart. (Check the Instagram account for a taste.)
“I just started making jackets for friends as gifts. I never saw it as a business right away. I just wanted to find another outlet for my creativity, and chain stitching became the perfect fit for that.”
If chain stitching seems an unusual pastime, you’d be correct. In fact, it’s something of a lost art.
“I really couldn’t find much on chain stitch embroidery, that’s actually one of the reasons I became so interested. I really felt like I’d found this lost art form, and it really excited me.”
Kai founded All My Relations in 2015, as “the antithesis of fast fashion.”
The brand was, in part, born from his own customised jacket that his grandmother made him, herself a master seamstress.
“I never sewed when [she] was alive, but I have so many memories of watching her work. She would always repair our clothes as kids, and I remember how happy I was when she was able to repair my favourite pair of jeans,” Kai recounts. “All My Relations is very much rooted in that feeling of handmade and attention to detail, something my grandmother cared deeply about.”
The name comes from a Native American phrase that was spoken by his good friend and young Navajo leader Alex during a Native American ceremony Kai attended during a motorcycle trip to Utah. Translated, it means “we are related,” and refers to seeing the world as interconnected, a view that resonated with Kai.
A surfer and motorcycle enthusiast in his spare time, Kai splits his time between Sydney and LA, where he has two design spaces. “I feel like I need that mix of culture to help me stay inspired,” he says. “Anything that gets me on the road or in the water away from technology helps inspire where I come from in my creations.”
Inspiration also comes in the form of that lightbulb moment every time a customer is handed their own unique design. “I see that stoked look on their face, and the connection we make in that moment. It reminds me of how I felt when my grandmother gave me something she repaired or made for me. It’s truly personal, and I hope I can always provide that for our customers.”
His instantly recognisable designs effortlessly mash laid-back Aussie beach lifestyle with motorcycle culture, and it’s his modern take on familiar classics that has led All My Relations to some big collaborations, with brands like Levi’s and the US-based Ron Herman Japan.
“I just finished a collaboration with Levi’s USA for their new concept store Tees + Jeans on Abbort Kinney Boulevard on Venice Beach. I was lucky enough to be asked to work with Craig Stecyk. Craig’s the artist who’s responsible for capturing the Dogtown and Z-Boys era in Venice. Being a surfer myself it was incredible to be able to work with him and help bring life to his art through one of a kind Levi’s jackets.”
Despite his success – or perhaps because of it – Kai’s advice to would-be entrepreneurs is simple: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to reach out to people who might be able to help or guide you. I’ve had so many people help me along this journey. No-one can know everything. Stay humble and practise gratitude everyday. It’s the greatest blessing to be your own boss, but the journey to that place is never easy.”
He’s also made a point to be selective about the projects he accepts and companies he works with. “I would say the biggest challenge is just trying to grow the brand in an organic way, and making sure that the people we work with align with our core values.”