By Rachael Lovette
I first met Kenna Bird last year outside an office building in Portland, Oregon waiting to head inside for a TV interview taping ahead of a fashion show. There was a certain friendliness emanating from her as we waited in the crisp, cool October air at 5:00am. I had the gut feeling that this self-described Fashion Designer would become one of the Pacific Northwest’s most promising fashion visionaries and I was getting a front row seat.
What sparked your interest in fashion?
I have always loved the idea of standing out; of not being afraid to be the most overdressed in the room. Growing up it took me a while to embrace the fact that I could wear whatever I wanted. Even now I get hesitant because I know I may get looks or comments, but I remember seeing people wearing rhinestone shoes, bright colors, big tulle dresses and fawning over it. I love how fashion makes you feel something; it sends a message as soon as pushed myself more and more to do the same with my own style and of course, in my designs.
What made you take fashion more seriously and make a career out of it?
All through high school, I dreamed of moving to NYC to pursue fashion after graduation. Well, I didn’t, and went to a university in Washington State. I pursued business while I was there and about half-way through had a major revelation--that this was not what I wanted to do. I brought my sewing machine back to school with me one weekend and started making sewing a part of my everyday life. I also binged a LOT of Project Runway during that time LOL. None of my friends had any idea that I sewed and suddenly it became one of the first things I told people about. I finished my business degree and by that time I was making myself outfits, doing various commissions, etc. I then made the decision, I am not going to let anything hold me back to pursue fashion, and perhaps make that move to go back to school in NYC.
Are you self taught or did you study fashion design?
I am completely self taught. I learned when I was about 9 years old and would make dresses with my mom from store bought patterns. The first dress I made with her was brown and pink, which is not the best combination but I still have it to this day. I would say being self-taught is fun because you sort of just dive into it and there is a ton of trial and error. There may be a complicated design I want to try and I just go for it not really knowing what I am doing and I learn a lot that way. But it can be challenging and I would say takes more time. While I am self-taught, I have always wanted to study fashion design so I may find myself doing it soon!
What were your main goals in the beginning? What are they now?
In the beginning, it was just to finish a garment! I would start so many projects and never finish them because learning to sew can be rather challenging. I had to force myself to finish sometimes because I ran into errors that really set me back. Now that I have been sewing for maybe 14 or 15 years things are a lot different. I would say my goals now are to keep fashion design in my life as a regular hobby and to keep it FUN. Turning a passion into a career can be tricky and I have to pull back or find things about the hobby that got me started in the first place. I would also say my goals are to get formal training, and to one day expand my small business into a brand and have a line. Since I am a one woman show that also works full-time on top of growing my brand, I mostly just do commissions as they come in, however I definitely plan to grow.
How would you describe your brand aesthetics?
Plenty of PINK. Very whimsical, feminine, bold, happy. I want for anyone wearing my designs to feel confident and proud and strong. I used to wear very feminine clothing like pearls, pink, sequins, etc. When I got into high school I started wearing a lot of black and that lasted for maybe 6 or 7 years. There is nothing wrong with a good neutral palette, but I wanted to look “mature” or “serious” so someone would take me seriously. I also look really young for my age so that may have been a part of it. However, about a year or two ago I started incorporating ultra-feminine details again. That’s where my style came from and what makes me happy. Wearing something like pink tulle with glitter sneakers doesn’t make someone any less of a strong powerful individual, and that is what I see as the aesthetic for my brand.
How has your work evolved since you began?
It is still evolving everyday. I used to make clothes that I could wear on a daily basis but my personal style is pretty simple from day to day. I love a good graphic tee and jeans. But lately I wanted to push that WOW factor when you see one of my designs so things have definitely started to shift from practical to eye-catching and maybe a little more impractical. ;) I also used to make clothes just for myself and within the last 4 or 5 years I have had a wide range of commissions and gotten to work with various styles and body types which has been a huge contribution to my skills and brand.
What inspires your fashion designs?
Anything can catch my eye, a lot of the times I get inspired by movies, other fashion designers, music and celebrities. My designs are rooted in a feminine nature but I don’t intend it for just one gender, so keeping that in my mind inspires me as well. I also like to pull from various aesthetics I love and have done designs or photo shoots inspired by New York or Disco. Most of the time it involved traits that feel romantic, fun, whimsical, happy, strong, that I pull from.
What's next for your brand?
Well right now I have this lovely interview with New Face Fashion Magazine and I have a few photo shoots I am wanting to plan. Over the past few months I have been working down the Kenna Bird brand aesthetic even more, so diving into that deeper. So expect to see a LOT of gowns and special occasion clothing. My website will also be getting a face-lift so be sure to check that out. I also have some big changes happening in the next year so stay tuned for that!
What’s your motto?
There will never be the “right” moment, that moment is now.
From working on fashion shows and photoshoots together over the last year, I can attest to Kenna’s creative supernova status. She draws inspiration from everywhere and for a fan like me, I’ve found aspects of fashion I didn’t care for previously, interesting again. I’m excited to see what’s next for her brand, and even more excited to introduce you to her.
Check out more of Kenna Bird designs on her website at: www.kennabird.com
Stay up to date on what Kenna Bird is doing on Instagram at: www.instagram.com/kenna.bird
Rachael Lovette is an accounts executive specializing in no-BS articles for creatives, an advocate for model safety, and a pop culture buff. Check out her Instagram.