As I remember it, I was introduced to Kjaer Neletia Pedersen by my dear friend Randi Winter at one of the many events held in Hycroft Manor. Her bright coloured silk garments drew my eye and the easy-to-wear shapes were a bonus. I didn’t buy anything that day, but we slowly began to build a friendship. I enjoyed seeing herK-O.ME designsappear increasingly at fashion events; a sure sign that she had a strong, growing customer base.
When I launched my book –– in February 2015, Pedersen kindly offered to come with a few samples for me to wear to the launch. I put together a couple of basic white and black outfits and then snazzed them up with two of her wonderful silk jackets. I was ever so stylish that evening and had many people ask which designer I was wearing.
It took several more months before I saw the K-O.ME creation that was perfect for my closet on the runway atVALT. As much as I love colour, the look I fell in love with included a white and black woven kimono jacket paired with a tunic top and several scarves sewn in a white and black skull print. It rocked my world. Now, I always receive compliments when I wear it.
But Pedersen’s original career was not in fashion. That’s right. She was first an artist, then enjoyed a wonderful career teaching art. Now, let me introduce you to Neletia Pedersen.
Image Credit: – Kerri-Jo Stewart –http://www.kerri-jo.com/
1) What is your current career(s) – paid and unpaid?
I have enjoyed many passionate careers in this lifetime. I was born an artist and love working with charcoals, paints, and clay. I have taught art at high school and university levels. Now, I’m having great fun creating with fabrics. I have a heartfelt passion to make clothing that every woman can wear to look and feel amazing every day. I want to make clothing that blurs the line between daytime and evening wear, that makes dressing easy and effortless.
2) Can you share an interesting thing (or two) about your journey to reach this moment?
My father was a master tailor from Denmark and my mother an accomplished seamstress. I shunned the idea of sewing and enjoyed other creative pursuits as I grew. An early passion of mine was to create portraits. I was quite good and my work was requested from a young age. However, my true gift was teaching students how to create a likeness in charcoal portraits. Seeing my students learn how a simple line change could create a portrait that better reflected the image of their subject was particularly satisfying.
I have always loved artistic fashion. I bought an abundance of clothes from boutiques and artists throughout my years, often assisting them in designing and creating pieces that they sold to other women. One day, it occurred to me that I could create what I wanted all by myself. I decided – quite out of the blue – to buy a sewing machine, even though I had never sewn. I jumped into creatively dying and bleaching fabrics, and then free hand cutting and sewing. The garments looked quite good and I seriously considered learning more on the dying of material. However, I quickly realized that my true passion was in the hunt for glorious fabrics, buying small amounts as I traveled, and then playing with them: placing the fabric this way and that in front of the mirror on my own body, free hand cutting, and sewing on my much-loved industrial machine. Yup. I love the process.
3) What three things would you like people to know about you to give them a sense of who you really are?
I am kind, I am passionate, and I am not afraid. Just three? Add artistic, happy, giving, loving, learning, evolving, always searching and trying to improve, and more.
Image Credit Ed Ng – http://www.edngphotography.com/
4) Highest moment so far?
There have been so many high moments. What to choose? Probably one of the biggest thrills in my clothing line adventures was after only sewing for a couple of months in my entire life. I applied to be in Circle Craft, a high end juried art market in Vancouver. It felt like I won the Oscars when I was accepted.
At the market, I was supported by my husband, sister, and my sister-in-law. I was so grateful for their help. There, I connected with the women shopping and sold a great many pieces of my One Of A Kind line. I certainly made more money than I expected to that year, but I was particularly proud that I stood solid among some of the most amazing artists in the country. My mantra was simply, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” In the moments when I doubted myself, I always remembered how I was able to teach my students confidence. No matter what your age or stage, a cheerleader is often needed, even if you have cheer for yourself.
5) What are you working on right now? In the next 6 months?
Right now I am obsessed with my gorgeous studio space. I’m so eager to enjoy customers dropping in, planning small gatherings with their friends, creating casual fashion shows in the lobby, and just enjoying life among so many other talented artists. My studio is big enough to hold my fabrics and sewing machine, and yet is plenty large enough to enjoy my customers who want to buy directly from me.
6) Who and/or what inspires you?
My husband, my sons and my sister. I just don’t know how I could have become who I am, or done what I have accomplished, without their undying love and encouragement.
Designing and creating clothing seems to always comes back to my own selfish desires in what I want to wear. So, I inspire me! I refuse to be invisible as I walk through this life. I demand respect from others, as I also give respect, and I stand stronger in life with my own fabulous clothing line that flows from my body and says, “Here I am!”
I create for all size women, and nothing makes me happier than to watch a woman dance as she tries on my line, to hear back from a customer on how glorious she felt in her own skin or to be told that she enjoyed more compliments than ever. Oh, the simple joys in life. My customers always inspire me.
7) How do you personally define success?
As a teacher and a mother, it was gloriously easy to be successful. I taught my own children early in life to volunteer, make people smile, and reach out to another human beings just to help them feel better. It is crystal clear that my success in life is creating a space that assists others in feeling good. I loved to see my students smile joyously, fly in my room with expectations of a glorious time and see them dance out of my class feeling better about themselves and life in general. I miss teaching children of all ages. However, as much as I am sure that I will return to teaching, it is quite satisfying at this moment to simply be a part of women looking and feeling better.
As I mature, I learn that confidence is not dependent on your size, wealth or age. Instead, it depends on the little things in life that make you feel good. Get a haircut that suits you, breathe deeply, smile, give someone a helping hand, put on a little makeup and do wear clothing that you have complete confidence in. Too many women are just not enjoying the mall shopping experience anymore. Knowing your clothing maker is a wonderful alternative and you will certainly enjoy having your own designer.
Nothing thrills me more than to create for you! Smaller, bigger, longer, shorter – it is all about what you want, what looks great and what feels amazing. Fashion must celebrate the body you have, and in my line, you can gain a little or lose a little. It’s all good!
I believe that shopping should always be a great deal of fun and a private studio experience is pretty darn amazing.
8) Favourite quote?
“And I said to my body softly, ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath and replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.” – Nayyirah Waheed. I believe this whisper can be heard more clearly in comfortable feel-good clothing.
I also remember this quote by Maya Angelo when I am with my customers: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” In my life, I sincerely hope that all of the people I know – waiters, students, customers, everyone – leave feeling just a little better about themselves.
Kjaer Neletia Pedersen’s Links:
Studio Information (first Saturday of every month from 12–5PM or by appointment):
195 Studios, 195 Pemberton Avenue, North Vancouver, BC
Story Photo Credits:
Kerri-Jo Stewart – http://www.kerri-jo.com/
Ed Ng – http://www.edngphotography.com/
Patrick Parenteau – https://www.facebook.com/dvpix.patrickparenteau
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