Kali Made Garments is making a name for itself in the California apparel scene. Founded by Bay Area native, Victor Kali, this locally-made bespoke men's brand prides itself on small batch, luxury staples for the conscious clothing wearer. We sat down with Victor, at his downtown Oakland home, to tap into his inspirations, creative design rhythm and to learn more about his love affair with the Bay.
Your Full Name:
Victor Manoa Kali
Your favorite food:
Where were you raised?
South San Francisco and Millbrae, to be exact.
Something interesting that we might not know about you.
I’m a huge basketball fan and have been playing and watching as long as I can remember. My first job was actually working at a kids basketball camp, which used the game to not just teach athletic skills, but also how to be a complete and healthy person with respect for the world around you and all the people in it. I also work pretty closely with the local artist community in Oakland, and like helping out with shows, events etc to support the artists on a personal and ground level so they can continue to pursue their dreams like I do mine.
What prompted you to start a men’s clothing line?
I was always interested in clothing and it’s ability to inspire and affect people’s feelings about their surroundings. Growing up, my garments were a way for me to personally feel more confident and secure. After learning the ropes of the corporate fashion system, I decided to start my own brand more in line with my values. I think timeless pieces that age gracefully and mature with a person are the most valuable; they allow for confidence to become a more internal, natural development rather than relying on the need for outside gratification that is all to prevalent in our current society.
Tell us more behind the “Kalimade” name and why you decide to produce locally in the Bay.
Well, I’m not the most creative person when it comes to marketing and branding, so I just decided to use my own name for the brand! Kali is obviously my last name, and I make garments, but I also want the brand to represent the lifestyle and culture I grew up in in the Bay Area. California is a very inclusionary and unique place - Kali Made is a representation of my pride for our special place in the world. I decided to produce in the Bay for a few reasons - I have a pretty free flowing creative process, so it really helps to be close to the production facilities to make sure everything gets made to the highest level of quality, and I can iterate and make decisions with more freedom. I also wanted to keep my investments in the community I live in. And from an environmental standpoint, keeping the production pipeline as local as possible greatly reduces my reliance on traditional shipping and production processes which contribute to “soft” consumption of resources through the pipeline.
Who do you design your clothing for?
I hope my garments appeal to a customer who is less interested in being fashionable and more inspired by presenting a conscience and considered persona. I don’t make clothes to stand out, really. My ideal customer is quietly confident in themselves and what they stand for, and isn’t afraid to live their own best life, whatever that means.
You integrate elements of sustainability into your work. Can you tell us more about that and why it is important to you?
The move toward sustainability isn’t really a choice we have any more. It’s an almost moral question we have to reckon with as a civilization built on mass consumption, that we have to live and create in ways that are better for our internal and external environment. I’m not mad at how we have developed to gain gratification from our current consumption patterns, but we have to figure out how to be a more responsible and thoughtful society overall. I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I hope to at least be asking the right questions.
What was your first encounter with the Huston Textile Co.?
A few years ago I saw on social media that a small local shirt maker had made a piece with some local textiles. I’m a bit of a fabric and production nerd, so this made me really excited. I looked up Huston Textile and gave Ryan a call. The next week I drove out to meet him and see his shuttle loom, and it was awesome! I felt like I’d met a kindred soul - until then I didn’t really know anybody else passionate about heritage quality textiles, especially in the US. The fabric itself is amazing, and seeing how him and Kat have grown this local fabric community into a little family is super inspiring.
What is your favorite piece of clothing that you’ve developed?
Well, I really like my Universal Track Jacket, as an everyday wearable heritage piece that works on tons of different people, styles, body types, etc. It was nice to put my own little luxurious twist on a pretty classic silhouette. I love seeing what people react to what fabrics and combinations - it’s all about what I hope makes people happy and confident in themselves. The fact that people from all walks of life have reacted positively to this style makes me really happy and makes me feel like I’m helping grow a tight little community in its own right.
How do you choose the textiles you work with?
Quality and a good hand feel are my topmost priority when choosing textiles. I want my garments to have a very tactile quality to them, so even if you don’t see them per se, when you are wearing them you can definitely feel them. I tend to gravitate toward heavy soft cottons and finer wools. Being able to layer your pieces is a huge part of my style and life in the Bay Area, so versatility is kind of ingrained in my psyche at this point. I also like the idea of mixing and matching fabrics and styles in unconventional ways, like using an indigo dyed Italian denim for a sport coat, or a fine tuxedo style wool crepe for a more casual track jacket.
Your bespoke clothing has influenced many people in the Bay Area. Have you dressed anyone we would know of?
My friend Boots Riley is an activist, artist, and now successful film director who has really been rocking my stuff lately! He made this wild social commentary (and hilarious) film “Sorry To Bother You”. We were already friends from the Oakland scene, and seeing his latest successes in a new field have been amazing. Also my buddy Nate from the band Tune Yards likes to rock his Kali Made jacket on tour - I’m glad my garments get to see the world!
What does the future of Kali Made look like?
Just keep moving forward, one collection at a time! Ideally I would love to establish a more consistent direct sales business, so I can keep working with Huston and my local factories and exploring new styles that keep me excited as a designer. I’ve got a few new tricks coming down the pipeline - I think the next step for Kali Made is to start expanding my own horizons and creating pieces that are a bit more unique but still in line with my core concepts for the brand.
Where can we find your collection?
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just want to say thank you to everyone I’ve had the pleasure of working with or supported Kali Made in any way, from picking up a piece or just showing love for new styles. I have to remind myself sometimes that I started the brand to bring my little piece of beauty and joy into the world, and every day that I get to keep Kali Made moving forward is an immense honor and pleasure.
images by mrkrbnsk@gmail, @urbanm11