There’s a new breed of luxury performance apparel, and at the helm of this growing category is the Wilson family. Patriarch Chip Wilson initiated a world where yoga pants rule when he launched Lululemon, and now his wife Shannon and son JJ are cracking into basics with Kit and Ace, a line of men’s and women’s contemporary separates made with a proprietary cashmere blend—or as they refer to it “technical cashmere.”
Launched this summer, the Vancouver-based company uses a blend made up of 81 percent viscose, 9 percent cashmere and 10 percent elastane, coined Qemir. The material was designed and created after more than one year of research and development exclusively for Kit and Ace. Brand president and creative director Shannon Wilson said the material was “born out of a desire to have a luxury fashion product be as functional as it is wearable.”
Qemir retains all the familiar elements of cashmere while providing a fabric that works with the wearer’s lifestyle. “That means our products will be soft to the touch, yet durable in the wash,” Shannon noted. And despite being cashmere, Shannon said the material will not shrink or stretch in the wash. “We’ve rigorously tested the fabric in a number of different wash cycles and are confident that Qemir will stand the test of time,” she explained.
Kit and Ace offers technical cashmere short and long-sleeve shirts, sweaters, henleys and tanks in versatile shades of gray, white, black and heather blue. The line might smack of Californian coolness with its relaxed fits and attention to comfort, but JJ Wilson, head of the brand said, Kit and Ace is designed for “the creative class” that demand quality in their life and what they buy. “For those people, we focus on offering the best T-shirt [they] will ever own,” he explained, adding that T-shirts will be the cornerstone of the business while the company explores other season offerings.
The brand’s tops retail for a pricey $68 for women’s tanks to $118 for men’s henleys, but JJ said, “We believe there is a growing demand for products that suit what we call a full contact lifestyle; that is, those people moving at a rapid pace to get the most out of their day. They need wardrobe pieces that complement their busy lives, being able to seamlessly move from the office to the social scene.”
He added, “Consumers are definitely looking at their wardrobe choices as an investment. Rather than purchasing something that will only last a season, it’s about how quality products can become the go-to centerpiece in their wardrobe.”
And in a similar way that $100 basics were once scoffed at and are now in demand, so too is wearable technology. With Qemir resulting from fiber innovations, Shannon sees a future where wearable technology extends beyond fitness bands and clip-on monitors and into more textiles.
“One of the biggest advantages of wearable bands is the low demand they place on the consumer, simply strap it on the wrist and go on with your day. That accessibility will naturally progress to textiles, with smart tech being woven right into the material so there is little to no barriers, making data tracking as easy as getting dressed in the morning,” she explained.
While JJ believes consumers are still unsure as to where the wearable tech industry is going, Shannon said as people become more aware of their daily lives, and take more control of how they are living, wearables will provide a wealth of data that can help shape “our habits, make us more active, and let us live a fuller life.”
For now, Kit and Ace is betting on its unique blend of proprietary technical cashmere, effortless style and online and brick-and-mortar expansion to grow the company into a closet mainstay worldwide. The Wilsons have a rapid expansion plan for Kit and Ace, and over the next five years expect to grow the brand into international markets. Currently, the company has stores in three stores in Canada and boutiques in New York City and San Francisco.
“Right now we are focused on North America, but have already begun looking at breaking into Europe, Oceana and Asia. Our online presence will constantly be evolving, we continue to experiment with new ideas, some that will work and others that might not. What we really want to see is Kit and Ace evolve online as a unique voice in the industry,” JJ added.