You know when you are out shopping and keep seeing a great piece at several boutiques and you question if it is a sign from the “shopping Gods” that you need it in your life? You can’t help but stop and stare at the gorgeous pieces made from woven rug fabrics that Kate Ward makes. They are statement pieces, super comfy to wear and easy to wear. In other words they are KEY to have in your wardrobe. Her pieces easily and smoothly updates your white v neck tee and jeans on a saturday.
Take a peek at my interview with Kate Ward, founder and owner of A Native Look and then you can support this American made product (she sews everything herself) by shopping it here: http://www.anativelook.com and be sure to follow her on instagram! You will not be disappointed.
STYLE: Tell us a little about yourself, Kate. Where are you from? Where did you go to college at?
Kate: I am an eastern North Carolina native. I grew up in Elizabeth City before moving to Raleigh to attend Peace College in 2003. After college I moved to New York for a couple of years and worked at an investment firm before my heartstrings pulled me back to NC. Raleigh has been home since then.
How did you get interested in making and creating goodies, such as your brand, A Native Look?
Necessity is the mother of invention! I finished graduate school at Meredith College last January. During my job search, I also started paying more attention to my sewing machine and scraps of kilim rug that I had stashed away in hopes of making a pillow cover. That project quickly evolved into the invention of a neck adornment that I thought may appeal to people as a statement piece.
How did you learn to sew/weave? Did you attend classes/intern somewhere to learn?
My “senior project” in high school was a clothing line designed with the help of a family friend. She taught me how to sew- I had never even sewn a button on. I’ve had practice since then, but I call her to come show me a trick from time to time. I still have a lot to learn! Weaving is an art form I haven’t tapped into yet. I’m flattered that so many people have inquired about my set-up and where I keep a loom in my house- I don’t! My sewing machine is set up at the kitchen table. It’s all very glamorous!
How did you create the company from the bottom up? Tell us how you created the brand image, name and what inspiration did you use?
The creative market these days is endless! Everyone has the ability to come up with something new, it’s just a matter of how you tap into that. As mentioned earlier, my tap-in moment was during a rare lull in life- being in between school and work opened up time that allowed me to delve into old hobbies and interests. Not really understanding the industry, but knowing enough to know that social media is leading sales, I started my journey with Instagram. I posted a couple of pictures and interest was struck! The name A Native Look felt like the obvious choice since I have always valued the “shop local” concept, and looking styled native to wherever you are. Within a couple of weeks, I realized the potential of the business and reached out to a friend who had ample sales and marketing experience- an area I knew nothing about. Erin Hill has helped with brand image and outreach and has even brought on an intern to help with social media and public relations. It’s all happening and the team is ready for the ride!
What inspiration do you look at now to create and drive your creative process?
My initial inspiration for A Native Look were kilim rugs. From there, the concept has broadened to include different textiles. I have always loved the intricacy of the patterns in each rug and tapestry, and the story that they tell. Each symbol in the weave holds meaning, which is really cool! Finding vintage pieces that can be revived is such a thrill.
Would you ever design textiles for a designer or custom request?
Of course! I’d love to get involved in other projects or collaborations. I have done a couple of custom pieces for customers who had their own kilim rugs that were too tattered to use in their homes- we were able to give them a second life in a necklace!
I love your use of colors and patterns, so fun! What do you find to be your favorite piece or collection?
I tend to lean toward the heavier weighted pieces; however, I have really enjoyed layering the lightweight necklaces with other local jewelry. There is no one print that I favor- the fun is in the personality and history of each piece.
Tell us the story behind the Hmong Necklaces. What does Hmong mean, stand for and each of the necklaces names?
In hopes of finding bold, bright colors for the summer collection, I looked into the history of some of my personal home décor. With this, I found that I was a collector of several Hmong tapestry pieces, and decided to go in that direction. The Hmong necklaces are a lighter weight, vibrant option for the “native” heat of North Carolina. To be fair, I’m still learning about the Hmong culture. This year’s summer tapestries have come from the mountains of Thailand. Part of the charm of A Native Look is transparency in where the materials are sourced. Names have been on my mind lately as I’m expecting my first child in October! The names in the collection were a result of stumbling upon a glossary of popular names in the Hmong culture.
Do you plan on opening a brick and mortar shop eventually? Or selling wholesale is more ideal?
Being so green to the industry, let’s not put the cart before the horse! Right now I’m focusing on growing the brand and gaining exposure through working with boutiques and local businesses. There are no plans for a storefront yet- but I’m certainly open to the idea.
If you could dress one celebrity with A Native Look necklace, what celebrity would it be and why?
Sienna Miller. Her style is everything and to have one of my pieces on her would be the highest compliment!
Do you ever go overseas and source your textiles?
No trips yet but all the textiles are sourced overseas. I’d love to sift through the markets myself- but for now I’m hunched over my sewing machine trying to make it happen!
What should we expect to see down the road, lets say in 5 years?
Big things. #nativeworldwide. In the meantime, be on the lookout for our fall ’15 collection and campaign #native9.