From Adelaide to Philadelphia and back again with Jana O'Callaghan – designer of new local brand, Kinney.
Kinney fashion label comes to town
Since leaving Adelaide more than 10 years ago Jana O’Callaghan has been busy.
She initially left to study fashion design at RMIT, and went on to work professionally in the industry Western Australia and the USA. But, she’s back, and she’s just launched her first independent wholesale fashion label – Kinney.
“I grew up here, I went to school here and I did TAFE here,” says Jana.
But returning to live in her home state is as much of a surprise to Jana as it us to anyone else.
“I always thought it if I was to leave WA, I’d be back to Melbourne.”
Jana’s career as a designer post-graduation launched immediately. She approached Philadelphia-based fashion label, Free People, and moved her life to the US within 3 months.
“I just approached them and said I’d love to work with you. I sent them my folio and my imagery from fashion week, and I crazily moved over there without even seeing the city,” she says.
“It was a good job – really, really creative. I started there as an assistant designer, but they don’t treat you like that. They sort of give you a brief to design 10 looks for whatever it may be, and you had to physically make the garments. You’d not only design the garments, you’d physically make them.
“A lot of the styles would be sort of vintage interpretations, so I’d often go to New York and hunt through vintage markets and buy and deconstruct pieces and put them together that way.”
Two years into the job, Jana moved her life back to Australia to be with her long-term partner, who was, at that time, based in Perth.
“The fashion industry in Perth is pretty small, but I ended up finding a job for Picnic Clothing,” Jana says.
“I was their head designer and product manager, and that was really fun. I used to travel lots; I used to go to Europe and the US about five times a year for buying trips. Because you’re doing so many products, you go there for inspiration and pick up what the trends are, or get ideas.”
But then, Jana and her partner found themselves at a fork in the road – Jana had a job offer in the US, and her partner had a job offer in Adelaide.
They chose Adelaide.
“It was getting to the point where I wanted to start my own label… it had been brewing for a little while,” Jana says.
They bought property in the Adelaide Hills, Jana set up her studio there, and Kinney became a reality.
Jana says living in the internet age means her Adelaide location is no setback at all. With manufacturers based in China and Perth, and agencies nation-wide, her business in the Hills has wide reach.
As a wholesale brand, Kinney is set to be sold in over 88 fashion and lifestyle boutiques across Australia. Inspired by the Abbot Kinney stretch in Los Angeles that is home to a hub of indie designers, the label targets the demographic that is leaving its teen years behind.
“I saw a gap in the market for – I’m sort of targeting an older age bracket. It’s not a young teens product,” Jana says.
“I felt that that garment wash sort of look that I do – there isn’t a lot of that out in the market, and if it is it’s very limited. It’s usually Scandinavian brands that are you know $400 to $500 retail, and I’d had a bit of success with that look in the past and I wanted to take that further.”
The business will remain conservative for now, releasing three collections each year.
“I just wanted to keep it small initially, so just a 30 piece range. I’m doing two summer collections and one winter,” says Jana.
The first range, which is a Spring/Summer ’17 collection, will be released to over 35 boutiques and stores across Adelaide (and more across Australia) this August, including Living By Design, Elle & Elka, and Designer Exchange.
Jana sold the collection in March of this year with more than modest success – those 88 stores tell the story of just how much interest the label has garnered. And not only does it sell, it’s done what it should do for Jana as a designer – it’s fulfilling.
“I’ve enjoyed working for myself, it’s quite rewarding,” she says. “I’m loving being back in Adelaide, it’s such a good city. I really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.”