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Isolation Diaries: Christian Kimber

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Isolation Diaries: Christian Kimber

Back in March amidst global panic over the Coronavirus pandemic, Melbourne-based designer Christian Kimber made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend trade and close the doors of his Fitzroy store. One of the first retailers to put a hold on operations, the designer has since spent the last three months (yes, it’s been that long) reviewing and reflecting on his namesake brand, its offering and how he can add more value to the menswear sector. Beginning with a ‘Keep Calm and Shop Local’ campaign, Kimber pivoted his efforts towards digital, offering his customers private in-home appointments and using his platform to urge his audience to support local independent businesses to see them through this challenging time.

Kimber has since reopened his Fitzroy store and operations have resumed as per usual. We recently caught up with the designer to see how he dealt with the transition into isolation and what’s next for the brand.

First off, how have you found your time in isolation?

It’s been a very interesting time for us. We closed our retail operation fairly quickly, earlier than other stores, and we have really been rethinking how we deal with our customers. We’ve done a lot of house visits. We’re so lucky to have lovely clientele that have supported us during this time. It’s been very difficult for small businesses. When [isolation] first happened, we started with a campaign about keeping calm and shopping local, and the idea is around supporting independents – your favourite bookstore or favourite café – to make sure they can still be here after it all. And I’m sure a lot of people have done that.

Personally it has given me a lot of time to reflect, and I normally work six days a week, so I’ve had more time at home with my wife and my dog Ralph, but also more time to think about products in a different way, you know? Behaviours are changing, men don’t need the same sort of clothing. So, what can we do to make things a bit more comfortable? It’s been a really interesting time, fashion, the whole industry is changing. There’s been so many positives but a lot of negatives.

 

It’s been a really interesting time, fashion, the whole industry is changing.

Kimber and his isolation buddy, Ralph. Image: supplied.

To Kimber, working from home doesn’t always mean sweats. Image: supplied.

Kimber and his isolation buddy, Ralph. Image: supplied.

To Kimber, working from home doesn’t always mean sweats. Image: supplied.

Staying inspired during this time is definitely challenging. You’re so glued to the news to figure out what’s going on and the future doesn’t seem that positive.

What have you been up to?

I’ve been spending a lot more time at home, reading a little more, walking the dog a lot more than I ever have, finding new ways to exercise because I can’t go to the gym. I’ve basically just been running away from all the cookies I’ve been eating, because my office is right next to the kitchen. I’ve been watching a lot of TV and started watching Sopranos again. But you know what, it’s really spending time with my family that’s really been the best part of this. It’s a horrible situation but the only way we can help it is by not doing anything and not going out so much, so that’s been our journey these past few months.

Have you struggled with staying inspired?

Staying inspired during this time is definitely challenging. You’re so glued to the news to figure out what’s going on and the future doesn’t seem that positive, right? Especially for retail and fashion. I’ve be thinking, reflecting and reimagining our products, how we can create things and be more sustainable, creating products that are more unique; creating our own fabrics with our mills and our own prints. But you know, inspiration has never been an issue for me because I’m so passionate about men’s clothing and the industry, but it’s more about how do we create products that feel right for the next few years.

Has any good come out of isolation for you?

I think the best thing that’s come out of isolation for me is really spending time with my family more, and going forward, I think I’m not going to work such crazy hours. I’ve really been reflecting on how lucky we are at the moment. And in the future I want to enjoy life more.

What are you most looking forward to post-isolation?

Post isolation I’m really looking forward to travelling again. This time when you’re at home makes you think about how lucky we are to travel in general and where we would like to go. I would like to be able to go see our factories in Italy and catch up with some of our friends and our mills, and I’d like to go see my family in England at some point, so I’m looking forward to travelling again, for sure.

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