Katie Kalsi’s wearable art brings creativity to everyday accessories
Interview by Casey Hilder
Arts | June 2015
Click Magazine: Tell us a little bit about your artistic endeavors prior to starting your company.
Katie Kalsi: I started painting in the 4th grade in art class in school. My parents bought me art supplies and some canvas, and I loved it. I would rush home from school to paint. I found my passion in life at the tender age of 9!
CM: What are some of the inspirations behind your work?
KK: I have been inspired more by places and the things around me than by people. As a woman raised in the South, I have always appreciated what makes the South so special. The vibrant, beautiful colors in spring. The blooming Dogwoods are just so gorgeous. While my art has a contemporary flare —and it is that art that inspired my first straps I find inspiration wherever I go. I couldn’t even think about living any place but the South!
CM: Would you say there’s a personal connection behind each design?
KK: All of my bags are named after family members. The straps are named after what that strap represents, but with some flare to the title. If I painted the pattern on canvas, I would use the same name for the canvas piece as I would use for the strap. This is how I tie my art and fashion together.
CM: Did you study art, fashion or design in college?
KK: I went to The University of Memphis my first year, then I transferred to Ole Miss and studied Art with a minor in Pharmacy. I worked in the pharmacy of a local hospital for 8 years and on the weekends I would do festivals and trunk shows to sell my art. My pharmacy job helped pay for my supplies. I painted every free moment I had.
CM: Can you share a little bit about your first office?
KK: My parents’ house — the house where I grew up — used to sit on 18 acres before my parents sold part of it. It was there in their old barn that we converted it into a studio that sat near the lake. I would often sit on a bench near the lake or on the porch of my studio and sketch. The beauty and the quiet totally inspired me.
CM: Your products are based around the theme of “wearable art.” What does this phrase mean to you and where do you think this style belongs in the fashion world?
KK: I always wanted my brand in the fashion world to belong to the everyday woman. The woman who could invest in one good bag, but now can change her strap to change the look of her bag depending on the occasion or simply because she wanted a different look for the day. Women can use my wearable artwork to express themselves on an individual level.
CM: Each handbag is produced entirely in the USA, correct? Can you share a little bit about some of the challenges and importance associated with this decision?
KK: I am very hands-on with everything that takes place in the studio every day. We use high quality materials and nothing is used in the production process until I inspect it. It is a balancing act to be sure — being a full-time mom to two girls and being a designer, but my girls and I, we make it work.
CM: Can you tell us about some designs you’re particularly proud of or spent a little extra time putting together?
KK: Designing is an ongoing process. You have to stay current or customers will move on. I am always one season ahead in my designs. I carry a small notebook in my purse to sketch an idea as soon as I get it! People can expect to see new straps as well as a few new bag designs each season.
CM: Where are some places we can find your stuff around the MidSouth?
KK: We have several locations in the MidSouth as well as Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Kentucky. Our brand is growing, and we hope to have our line in every state soon. Throughout the MidSouth you can find my line at Dazzle, Two Girls and a Trunk, Past and Present, Paisley Pineapple, Peridot, Lansky’s Downtown, Southern Whimsy, Heather Boutique and Spa, Lipchic Boutique, Lake House Gallery, Giggleswick, Reed’s. A current list of store locations can be found on our website: katiekalsi.com