“Everything, even fashion, is a transference of energy.” Janelle Corpuz Hethcoat, the designer behind KE7H3R, talks fashion as self-love with Ruby Warrington…
It’s not often I come across a fashion brand that aligns as perfectly with our philosophy at The Numinous as KE7H3R by L.A. based Janelle Corpuz Hethcoat, which is chic, modern, and has a sustainable as well as a spiritual and social mission. So when Janelle approached us about helping support her launch for Fall ’16 it was a no-brainer. When I actually got to hear the full story behind the brand, it made me feel even more proud about helping Janelle realize her vision. Read on to get the full scoop on a label to love for ALL the right reasons…
RUBY WARRINGTON: What’s your background and what brought you to fashion?
JANELLE CORPUZ HETHCOAT: I’m a Filipino American, female born and raised in Los Angeles. As for fashion, I went through about 12 years of catholic school where we had to wear uniforms and I think that really fed my need to be visually creative when it came to the way I dress as an adult. In my college years I was a biology major (my very strict Filipino parents wanted me to be a doctor), but I had a lot of older friends who worked as designers. After seeing what they did I was just dead set on being creative for a living. So after many semesters of deliberation I finally said, “Fuck it, I don’t care what my parents think!”—and I changed my major to fashion.
RW: Was there a defining moment for you deciding to launch your own line?
JCH: Last year was crazy. I went through so many hard and character-defining things; a hellish breakup, I got sober, my dad passing away from cancer, losing my job, and finally, finding and marrying my soul mate. One defining moment of many, was going out into my backyard, after maybe weeks of not getting out of bed from depression. I sat there and the sun hit my face and I kind of said to myself, “Well… what now Janelle? After all this what are you gonna do?”
And I guess the voice of my higher self, or maybe my father, told me to just make something with my hands. To stay in the sun and make something. So I started making patterns, cutting fabric, and then sewing up styles in my backyard. I would put the clothes on and post them up on Instagram. People would respond in the comments or text me like “I want one of those! Can you make me one?” and that’s how KE7H3R was born.
RW: The name KE7H3R comes from your study of hermetic qabbalah – can you explain what it means?
JCH: I’ll definitely try! In quabbalah, the Tree of Life is a symbolic description of how the universe came into existence. At the top of the Tree is something called the Kether, which is described as the source of all divine creation. An easier way to visualize this, is to place it on top of your own body—envision Kether as a ball of white light that sits right above our heads, like it’s that divine power that gives us our best ideas, leads us to do our highest good, and guides us to our purpose.
Kether is also associated with the Fool card in the tarot, which I associate with any project where you really have to follow your heart and take risks. I actually pulled the fool card in a reading with myself in my backyard. So when I named this line KE7H3R, I was just honoring the message. I replaced the 7 for T and 3 for E because 7 and 3 are my magic numbers.
RW: And how about the brand’s motto: “- IS +”?
JCH: It means “Less is More”—a motto that means a lot to me. As a brand we stand for both minimalist design and the idea of a capsule wardrobe. We feel that it’s more important to have a few finely made pieces that you can wear forever, than a million poorly made pieces that you’ll throw away at the end of a season.
This is important for a lot of reasons. The first one is the damage that fast fashion is doing to our environment. The second is the harmful and inhumane work environments that this type of large scale fashion subjects people in overseas factories to. And finally, the harm that fast fashion or consumerist fashion is doing to our self esteems…especially for women.
Keeping up with “trends” is exhausting and unhealthy, and suggests that your external purchases are what lead to happiness. A minimalist approach meanwhile, means less time thinking about what you can or should buy, and more time thinking and being grateful for what you already have—including the people around you and the experiences you can be enjoying.
RW: How do you shop for fashion personally?
JCH: For the last two years I have literally only bought my clothes second hand. Or I make them! I will buy the occasional something new, when it comes to stuff you really can’t buy second hand like swim suits, yoga wear, underwear etc. In this case, I will buy locally made stuff when I travel, or special hand crafted things on etsy.
RW: How can your fashion choices become a self-love practice?
JCH: I think fashion is like food. You don’t want the mystery, pumped full of hormones, genetically modified thing inside your body, right? Think about the energy that is put behind creating what you are placing on your body, as your expression and reflection of yourself.
Everything, even fashion, is a transference of energy. When you choose products that are made ethically, you are showing loving concern for the world, which in turn is an act of self-love—because in saying that the rest of the humans on this planet deserve better you are also saying you deserve better.
There’s also what I call “status buying”—when you buy that thing that’s totally impractical and uberly expensive, just to “look” a certain way to everyone around you. I would do this a lot when I was younger, because I thought buying super expensive stuff made me look more successful, more professional, or more advanced in life. I shelled out $800 for 6-inch high YSL pumps that I couldn’t even walk in. And after I would feel like shit.
And so I think your fashion choices can become a self-love practice when you are able to honestly answer: Am I comfortable in this? Does wearing it make me feel like I can be myself?
Discover more and shop the collection at Ke7h3r.com
KE7H3R (pronounced KEH-THER), a gender neutral and ethical clothing brand based in Los Angeles, launches today with its direct to consumer limited run business model. Janelle Corpuz Heathcoat is KE7H3R’s founding designer and CEO. “KE7H3Ris a name I learned about in my study of hermetic qabalah. It appealed to me because it represents the individual’s alignment with the universe in the divine source of creation. I envision Kether as a ball of white light that sits right above our heads. I feel like it’s that divine power that gives us our best ideas, leads us to do our highest good and guides us to our purpose.”
Janelle explains KE7H3R’s motto “- IS +” (less is more): “As a brand we stand for minimalist design and capsule wardrobe. We feel that it’s more important to have a few finely made pieces that you can wear forever than to have a million poorly made pieces that you are going to throw away at the end of a season.” The 15-year fashion veteran is passionate about the slow fashion movement as a means of counteracting the negative effect of mass fashion companies abusive working conditions and pollution of the environment. “I got sick of hearing, ‘This is fashion, we’re not saving lives.’ So I decided to create a brand that gives back to our global community.” KE7H3R partners with waterislife.com to donate one water filtration straw for every unit of clothing sold. This provides children who live without clean water supply in third world and developing countries with clean water for up to two years.
Janelle credits a creative connection with nature and inner peace as the inspiration behind KE7H3R’s season I, having drafted and cut each style in the garden of her childhood home. “I have this love for kaftans, karate pants, kimonos; things that are sort of columnar and free-flowing. The inspiration was the feeling of freedom, the feeling of knowing yourself, and the feeling of an inner strength. I borrowed these silhouettes from ancient cultures, some from fighting uniforms, some from holy garb. The unifying unisex edge comes from the need for all of us to be “human”. Why do males and females have to dress differently? Why do women need to wear tight form-fitting things that show off their body and men do not? I guess for me, it’s an act of feminism. We all have the right to feel confident and beautiful in what we wear.”
The garments from KE7H3R’s debut collection range from $125 to $180 and are made of hand dyed vegan silk (tencel) and 100% cotton Japanese ikat. Each style is made in limited quantity and produced in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles-based expert designer Janelle Corpuz Hethcoat has a seraphic gift, like no other.
It was a warm day in Austin, Texas. Ron Richison — husband to my friend Julie — waited in the car with me until Ms. Hethcoat (just Corpuz at the time) arrived at the location near Red River Street. We were present for a well-planned Vans Women’s Brunch during SXSW2015. I was a guest of the designer. We ate fruit pie, sipped on chilled beverages and picked out a pair of sneakers, as a courtesy of the 50-year-old company. We also met Raury, together, on 6th Street.
Humbled and collected as she naturally is, Corpuz was a delight to shadow. She didn’t talk much about the pieces she made. She, just kind of, pointed at the collection items. Then, we walked into the building and got on-line to get brunch.
Before that moment, I’d spent time with Janelle Corpuz Hethcoat. On two occasions, actually. She visited New York City twice — for another Vans event in the Chelsea area — and another time to film new episodes for a personal online series called, “Artist Closet” to promote her brand, Halseyan. On a whim, I helped put together a shoot featuring Awkwafina, Dai Burger, and Kitty. We were fortunate enough to have friends in high places, so we shot at Dungeon Beach — a luxe recording studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn — and the Bad Boy HQ in Manhattan, New York. We were on cloud twelve. I’m unsure if you’ll ever get to see those episodes. Nonetheless, they were fun to create.
Originally Rami Even-Esh (known as “Kosha Dillz” to the music world), introduced me to Janelle Corpuz Hethcoat. It was years ago through email, and like the wise one’s always say, it takes ample time to know who will be around forever and to appreciate a relationship in hindsight.
As an American designer, how important is it for you to produce your work in the United States? Does it cost more? Do you locally source garments?
I am an American designer, huh? I guess I’ve been working for other companies so long [that] I never really considered myself as such. With that being said, I feel that it’s of utmost importance to produce in the United States. I feel at this time, in our history, it’s important to create job opportunities within our own communities. It’s important to know where your clothes are being made and to stop this consumerist-fashion-nonsense that does nothing but perpetuates waste, pollution, knockoffs and more shitty clothes that you’ll want to toss after one season when it’s no longer in style.
As making something in the USA was not an option to me before in the companies I used to work for, I found this to be a great opportunity to join what many are calling the ‘slow fashion revolution’. We would never be able to produce in the USA because the prices would be too high to sell in mass quantity at your large department stores. Here in lies the deadly cycle. The engine of fashion is being fueled to work faster than it was meant to go. For this first collection, everything was sourced locally — from fabric to trim. I actually made each pattern by hand in my backyard before taking them to someone to produce in Downtown LA. I created each wash technique by hand, also in my backyard, and hand dyed each solid piece in natural indigo and other natural vegetable dyes.
How do you pronounce the name of your line? What does it stand for?
Yes, I know. It’s hard to read pager code. Haha. A lot of people have persuaded me to change out the alpha numerics of the brand name to just letters but nah. KE7H3R is pronounced (KEH-THER). It’s a name I resonated with in my study of the hermetic qabalah. It is the location at the top of the tree of life, the divine source of all creation. For me, this name represents one’s connection to a higher source, it inspires us to be our highest self and it is eternal light.
Tell me about each piece. They all seem to have a unifying unisex edge. What inspired the creativity? Tell us about the colour scheme and form(s).
At first, I wasn’t planning for this to become anything. Especially, not a brand or business. I just found peace in working outdoors in my childhood home, making garments that were easy, didn’t require much thought, and made you feel radiant. I have this love for kaftans, karate pants, kimonos; things that are sort of columnar and free-flowing. The inspiration was the feeling of freedom, the feeling of knowing yourself, and the feeling of an inner strength. I borrowed these silhouettes from ancient cultures, some from fighting uniform, some from holy garb. The unifying unisex edge comes from the need for all of us to be “human”. Why do males and females have to dress differently? Why do women need to wear tight form-fitting things that show off their body and men do not? I guess for me it’s an act of feminism. We all have the right to feel confident and beautiful in what we wear.
The color (or pattern) scheme came, sort of, organically. Like I said, all [of] the fabric was locally sourced so I pretty much found what was available and went with it. The bold vertical stripe and the Japanese ikat brought a visual excitement to my original solid palette. The vegan silk (aka Tencel), which is the base fabric for most of the styles, is a fabric I fell in love with because of its sturdy weight and its buttery feel. I loved the way it felt as it moved when I would walk. It’s a very comfortable fabric. The color scheme, black, natural and indigo, just happened, to be honest. The color of Tencel I wanted, could no longer be found, so I bought an ugly color base fabric and over dyed it with natural indigo.
I created the collection in a modular assortment, so each piece could be interchangeable and versatile within the collection or with your own closet.
It seems to have a peaceful, zen, religious feel? Is this what you were aiming for?
This is exactly what I was aiming for. Living in our society, at times, is somewhere between a sparring match and a meditation. That’s what these garments ready you for. To be fluid enough to adapt, driven enough to be on your grind, but to be in a constant state of peace while doing it.
How long did it take to produce these items?
I started the whole process, maybe in March. So all in all, maybe 6 months.
Tell us about the models. Why did you pick each model?
As I was contemplating on what models to use, I kind of said to myself: Let’s find people who embody the spirit of the clothing. Low Leaf was the obvious choice for me, and when I put that first dress on her, I knew the choice was kismet. I mean, it looked like it was made for her. If you don’t know Low Leaf, she is an amazing artist, and her music achieves that connection to the universe that I was speaking about earlier. Natural beauty, natural radiance.
Same thing with Zeroh. It’s just an energy. His enigmatic and eccentric character is what made him an amazing fit. I mean, it felt like having a high priest on set. Also, his energy combined with Low Leaf’s was pretty magical.
Gnarly, of the band Kate Mo$$, was another obvious choice not only for his amazing good looks but also his “Fuck ’em all, Imma do me” type appearance. Just like the clothing, it’s a balance between the fire in your belly and the radiant pure light in your third eye.
Where can we buy these limited items?
You can buy these limited items — exclusively — on www.KE7H3R.com. KE7H3R partnered with waterislife.com, so with each item sold, we will donate a water filtration straw to a child in a developing country. Each filtration straw will provide a growing child with clean water for up to 2 years.