The JESSE KAMM History // HERstory

Jesse Kamm is an American independent fashion designer based in Los Angeles, CA. She is the founder of JESSE KAMM, a clothing brand known for its “languid, Annie Hallish separates [which] are cult items among the creative class on both coasts” (The New York Times)

Early Life

Born and raised in rural Illinois by her father, Andy Kamm, a draftsman, and her mother, Kathy Kamm, a potter. Kamm graduated with a degree in Recreational Therapy from Illinois State University and in her early 20s, lived abroad in the UK, Greece, and Australia, and worked as a therapist and a model before pursuing a career in fashion design.

Raised in rural Illinois, Jesse grew up in a household that valued the weight of balance and self-made sustainable success, her father, “building our home with the help of two library books and his two hands,” and her her mother, “cooking macrobiotic food and teaching us everything about nature.” Jesse’s interdisciplinary approach to work and value followed suit: after living abroad, working as both a therapist and as a model, and eventually settling in Southern California >> Apiece Apart

Career, Brand, & Aesthetic

Kamm launched her first collection in 2005 with a focus on sustainable basics with an unmistakable minimalist 70’s boho vibe, all of which is made in Los Angeles, California. The original pieces in the collection were hand printed with images made from Kamm’s original drawings. In 2009, aligning with the birth of her son, her aesthetic took on a distinct focus on minimalism, which informed her style and the future of the Jesse Kamm uniform. “I try to create great pieces that you can wear with everything, everyday, and look smart and put together." (Atelier Doré) Since 2005, Kamm has presented 2 collections per year, Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter.

Kamm’s husband, Lucas Brower, has worked alongside her in many capacities. In 2015, Brower came on full time, as the Chief of Operations at JESSE KAMM. Brower has an undergraduate degree in Economics, and a masters degree in Environmental Science and Policy, both from Stanford University. One of Brower’s roles at JESSE KAMM is to guide their company’s sustainable practices.

Jesse Kamm — whose languid, Annie Hallish separates are cult items among the creative class on both coasts…Kamm’s minimalist, outside-the-mainstream niche in the fashion industry is mirrored by her approach to living. >> The New York Times

My style became very clear to me when I had my son. It evolved a great deal at that time. Time is scant when you are a parent. All decision making is much more clearly defined for me now, especially in the way that I dress. I do not have time to hem and haw about anything. I think the strict uniform dressing grew out of that place. I design the collection with a similar frame of mind. I try to create great pieces that you can wear with everything, everyday, and look smart and put together. The goal is to look like a dream, even when life feels like a nightmare. >> Atelier Doré

[JESSE KAMM is] serene, minimalist, trend-proof, and monochromatic. In short, it’s palette cleanser. >> Vogue

Rather than operate her clothing line at the nonstop pace of most online shops, she runs an ultra-lean team and offers a tight edit of seasonless styles. >> Domino

She founded her namesake line around a back-to-basics desire to arrange and curate the way people got dressed. >> Apiece Apart

I am interested in making strong clothes for strong women. Shapes that are minimal, clean, and handsome, constructed so that they will last until you are old, grey, and still very chic. >> CA Weekend

Philosophy & Inspiration

Jesse Kamm’s life philosophy is rooted in her Midwest upbringing, which remains a constant source of inspiration. From a mantra of simple and essential living, Kamm makes a point to encourage women to invest in fewer, well-made, durable pieces, steering clear from the trappings of “fast fashion.” Women wearing JESSE KAMM take pride in representing her sustainable philosophy. Kamm’s overarching goal is to keep the brand small, truthful, and honest. Constant growth is not the brand’s goal.

In effect, Kamm sees her advocacy of the simple life as an extension of her work as a designer. “There is a small community of people who are inspired by and moved by the idea of the backlash — the idea that no, everything doesn’t have to be so fast,” she says. “I feel like part of my job on this earth is to remind people that they can do that. >> The New York Times

I choose to live simply so that I can afford to travel, and to spend as much time in the sea as possible. My life is luxurious, but not in the way most people see luxury. It is luxurious because I have freedom, and for me, freedom is wealth…I am constantly trimming the fat. If something is not essential, it goes. As makers, we do not have to say yes to every request. More is not better, more is just more. >> Apiece Apart

The minimalist aesthetic that characterizes her self-titled label is also reflected in her lifestyle choices, from her essentialist philosophy on interior decorating to her keen awareness of her family’s consumption habits. >> The Kinfolk Home

Utilitarian & Uniform Clothing

The JESSE KAMM uniform has been inspired by and adopted from menswear and fashion icons such as Patti Smith, Yves Saint Laurent, Halston, Diane Keaton, and Robert Mapplethorpe, giving permission for women to wear a menswear-like uniform.  

All of my heroes dress/ dressed in a fairly uniform manner. Men have been able to dress that way through history. It is easy to dress that way. I would always look at images of Halston, Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagarfeld, and feel a bit envious. My female references all dress with an air of menswear: Joan Didion, Lauren Hutton, Diane Keaton, Tilda Swinton. I think the ease was the original draw. And it looks good. >> Atelier Doré

I love a uniform. I have pretty much worn the same things for the past 10 years after realising that all of my favourite fashion icons had/have a signature look: Patti Smith, Yves Saint Laurent, Robert Mapplethorpe….Men have always been allowed to dress in essentially the same outfit for the entirety of their adult lives. Why should they get to enjoy the benefits of uniform dressing but not the rest of us? … I decided long ago that all of my favorite fashion icons always look/looked the same. ie: Patti Smith, Yves Saint Laurent, Halston, Diane Keaton, Robert Mapplethorpe... I am completely over the circus of dressing.  I think men's suiting is genius, and I have adopted that as a woman... I believe that women just need permission to wear the same thing over and over, just like men have been given. >> Harper’s Bazaar, Australia

I can wear Jesse Kamm to a wedding or the farmer’s market,…[It] can become a uniform without becoming boring. >> Vogue

Durability

JESSE KAMM makes a product that is constructed to last for years to come, and is beautifully crafted inside and out.  The collections are seasonless, trend-proof, and offer the opposite of planned obsolescence. She doesn’t build a product that will fall apart in a year so that you have to buy another one.

Environmental & Ethical Consciousness

JESSE KAMM is committed to sustainability and makes every effort to minimize its environmental footprint.  All of the collections are manufactured in the USA with the intention to save on all the fuel it takes to ship overseas and back, and to support her local community.  Their contractors and artisanal craftsman make a fair wage. Their dye process happens in the USA with compliance to all EPA regulations pertaining to process and waste stream.  Kamm believes that controlled and limited growth is inherently sustainable. She uses deadstock fabrics wherever possible, and utilizes eco-fabrics like organic cotton, tencel, and cupro, among others, whenever possible. All collection pieces are manufactured in a Los Angeles based ethical workshops with safe worker conditions. She is able to keep an eye on sourcing and production, and guarantee her workers a fair wage. In contrast to the mentality of many brands, JESSE KAMM wants you to wear the same thing year after year. The JESSE KAMM company car runs on vegetable oil.

I am a conscious wanderer of this earth.  That consciousness guides all of my daily practices, which inevitably includes my work. Thinking locally is my guiding practice.  Producing locally and ethically is of great importance to me. I believe that the "sustainable" sourcing of fabrics can be quite complicated, but we make the best choices we can every step of the way. I believe that the most responsible practice I have, is the commitment I have made to keep my brand small.  I do not desire to become a "global brand," I do not need a larger slice of the pie than I can eat. I work so that I can enjoy my life. I make a point to restrict and constrain the brand at every corner, as I feel that excess will be the demise of us all. I operate in a minimal manner, with a minimal staff, and use minimal resources.” >> Harper’s Bazaar, Australia

Kamm’s sustainability efforts, among them, her use of deadstock fabrics and a company car that runs on vegetable oil, add to her label’s appeal. >> Vogue

Her brand’s been around for 10 years but remains purposefully small, perhaps a reflection of this wise, resonant line in her bio: "In my life, I know that I deserve to be a sane person. >> Fashionista

Everything is produced locally in Los Angeles, where she can keep an eye on sourcing and production, as well as guarantee her workers a fair wage…Kamm makes every effort to minimize the footprint of her eponymous label. Besides its made-in-California provenance, the line comprises mostly deadstock and remnant fabric, including fine silks that she hones into limited-edition dresses, tunics, trousers, and bags. >> In Habitat

She refuses to work with the big brands in order to keep her authenticity. She teaches her son good work ethics from an early age on. She spends three months in Panama to recenter, get inspired, spend quality time with her family and to surf. She doesn’t care about trends, but rather encourages to trust your gut and go with what feels right. Her feminine, yet strong style is the epitome of the laid-back California culture. >> CA Weekend

The Cult Classics

Kamm Pants

JESSE KAMM is perhaps most well-known for its signature silhouette high-waisted, wide-leg, versatile, Sailor Pants which were introduced into her collection in FW/2013 collection. They are made in fine canvas in a variety of colors, denim, and a limited edition chambray, corduroy, and linen. Kamm introduced the straight leg Ranger Pants into her collection in SS/2017. Kamm’s pants have gained a cult following, noted especially for their versatility, durability, and wearability.  

Designer Jesse Kamm's perfectly tailored sailor pants were the original inspiration for the dozens upon dozens of high-waisted, wide-legged cropped trousers that currently overwhelm the shop floor. >> The Business of Fashion

They’re widely flared at the ankle and they close (very) high on the waist with a single, simple button. I remember they felt very sturdy and substantial and kept their shape on my body, and they were kind of tight and flattering on the butt in a nice way but relaxed everywhere else. They are made of canvas and come in ten colors, none of which read clownish or showy: cargo olive, a lovely navy blue, the prettiest red. >> The Strategist, New York Magazine

The Los Angeles–based designer of the high-waisted, cropped Kamm pants—which have amassed a near cult following for their crisp cut and vintage vibes. >> Domino

These high-waisted, cropped, wide-leg pants (i.e., the opposite of leggings) gained a cult following from the start, thanks to their figure-flattering powers and their appropriateness for all seasons. The thick canvas fabric will keep you warm in the cooler months, and you'll keep cool in the warmer months, as they are wide enough for air to flow against your skin…Something that we love about the pants that fashion girls go crazy for is that you can wear them to work, on the weekends, and with practically any type of shoe. >> Who What Wear

The JESSE KAMM Trench Coat

Kamm first designed her signature trench coat in SS/2010, and has updated the design in the subsequent eight years since. Fabrics have included silk, linen, and a water-resistant weatherproof material. It has been described by New York Magazine as, “a 2018 version of a Columbo or Dick Tracy detective coat.” The “Mostaza” Trench from Kamm’s Spring Summer 2017 collection was worn by Emma Stone’s character on the Netflix series, Maniac.

“The coat is officially called the Trench Mostaza (mustard in Spanish because Kamm designed it while in Panama)...Though Kamm has made this trench for eight years, most of them were made in silk and linen — Stone’s version, part of Kamm’s spring/summer ’17 collection, was actually the first to be made in a weatherproof material. This season’s trench is navy blue and also water-resistant…It looked like a 2018 version of a Columbo or Dick Tracy detective coat. >> The Strategist, New York Magazine

A really great lightweight trench coat is essential. I like to layer one on top of almost everything; it is a way to take an unimpressive look and make it handsome and put together. >> The New York Times

Pop Culture

Her clothing has been worn by celebrities, musicians, designers, and artists such as Courtney Barnett, Frances McDormand, Maya Rudolph, Behati Prinsloo, Jenny Slate, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Janicza Bravo, Dakota Johnson, Emma Stone, Hilary Walsh, and Claire Oswalt, among others. JESSE KAMM clothing has appeared on film and in television shows such as The Netflix series Maniac, Bob’s Burgers (Season 3, Episode 8, Mo Mommy, No Problem), the Netflix series Gypsy, HBO’s Camping, and American Horror Story, among others.  

Philanthropy

Jesse Kamm is passionate about giving back to organizations which align with her and her family’s values, beliefs, and passion for social justice. Kamm donates regularly to ACLU, NRDC, Planned Parenthood, The Harriet Buhai Center for Family Law, Let America Vote, and throws a yearly sale which directly benefits Los Angeles Public Schools.

Personal Life

Kamm lives most of the year in the Mt Washington neighborhood of Los Angeles with her husband, Lucas Brower, and their son, Julien; and part-time in Panama.