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.