Denise Ho, the founder of Kitdo, tells us about her journey dressing the fashionable for more than a decade.
Kitdo founder Denise Ho has long espoused the need for re-styling, re-purposing fashion and a less wasteful modus operandi in a world of sartorial excess. Indeed, she was talking about sustainable fashion long before it was fashionable to do so.
Not only did she create Kitdo, the restyling accessory that repurposes anything in your wardrobe, but also Knotti, a sustainable collection made by knitters within the local community. Here, she talks about all things stylish.
Denise Ho, Founder of Kitdo
When did you fall in love with clothes?
I think I fell in love with clothes when my mom was a buyer for Jean Paul Gaultier. She’d bring back these amazing creations from another world – this was the early ’90s, when Gucci was at its prime. Jaime [Ku, her sister] and I would just stare as his beautiful clothes came in, though we didn’t understand what they were, but at the same time it was magical to see your mom just bringing in bags and bags of high fashion. To view it, feel it, try it on was such a luxury at that time.
You went on to study fashion.
Somewhere around then, I decided I wanted to study fashion design. It became really technical later on and it was tough – it’s challenging to learn how to start making clothes from scratch and that did discourage me a little. When I moved to London I met my mentor – I was assisting Sarah Richardson, and she really showed me how you can transform a person by dressing them in a very different way. That’s when I fell in love with styling.
Who dresses best in the family?
My dad. He’s super classic, the white shirt and black pants, but for some reason he just makes the most simple clothes look so stylish. He doesn’t wear the most outrageous things or colours or brands, but it’s just the way he frames it and how he carries it.
I’m surprised you didn’t say your sister, Jaime Ku.
[Laughs] Jaime is … OK, it’s essentially funny with Jaime, as even she’d say the same thing. But she’s actually not that into shopping – she just looks good in anything.
Who are your style icons?
At the moment I’m more inspired by street fashion than anything I see on screen or in fashion magazines because it’s more accessible. I used to be really into ’70s style – the classic Annie Hall look was my inspiration back in the day. But when I cut my hair super short, I didn’t look at the world outside but down the road. Be it the streets of New York, Central or Tokyo, just look at what people are wearing to get a feel of the city. I could get really inspired by some old lady on the street in pyjamas if she had an interesting accessory.
Your Instagram account has wonderful pops of colour throughout and isn’t so designer label-heavy.
Yes, I’m more interested in the story behind someone’s look than a brand. For instance, if you’d just got back from India with a richly embroidered shawl, I’d want to know more about that than, “I got this from this brand, at that mall.” That’s not an interesting story.
Which fashion mistake would you never repeat?
The first thing that comes to mind is too-tight dresses. I mean, maybe it’s a personal thing. Even if you have a body for it, I think there are many other ways to get a more flattering silhouette than skin-tight dresses. I’m not sure about French manicured nails either. It was a trend back in the day, but now it looks dated. I think a lot of people don’t really understand their bodies. You have to work with proportion. Like when you see people wear really baggy clothes just because it’s a brand. When you go shopping, you’ve got to try everything on and look in the mirror – don’t get intimidated by what’s on a hanger.
Which brand or label has you attention now?
I really like Y Project [founded as a partnership between French designer Yohan Serfaty and businessman Gilles Elalouf]. I really like the designer – recently I’ve found I have to love the designer in order to love the clothes. I also like Y Project because of the smart designs, how one piece of clothing is designed to be worn in multiple ways.
You’ve been talking about sustainability in fashion long before the trend. What did you see that others didn’t?
I’ve been working in the sustainability sector for quite a while. It’s a very tough topic because I think a lot of brands are saying they’re doing as much they can, but from my own experience, when it comes to clothing I think it’s important to not make anything new or buy anything new. That’s what people should strive for. That’s when re-styling came into my mind, because not only is it a skill I developed over the past 18 years, but I also discovered people actually only wear 10 to 20 percent of their entire wardrobe. That means we’re not utilising what we already have. My goal right now is to try and create content, to talk more about different ways you can wear things you already have and encourage consumers to dig through their wardrobe.
Tell us more about your businesses.
Soon after I gave birth I started Kitdo. I’d always wanted to develop a stylist’s product – having styled for years, I’ve ruined lots of samples by using safety pins on set. Ripped dresses, tops, you name it and we’ve stabbed it with a pin at a shoot. I thought, how are we still using the same model? I wanted to substitute that with an accessory using a magnet. I started developing it slowly. It’s a restyling accessory that can create more ways for you to wear your clothes. I post videos on social media showing five basic ways to re-style anything you already have. I don’t see anything like that in the market now. And my dream is to create a restyling-accessory empire one day.
Are there clothes in your wardrobe you could never throw away?
A lot of things have sentimental value, as my mother passed them to me – Gaultier from 30 years ago. Fortunately, that’s now making a comeback, so I keep it even more tightly to my heart. And my red wedding dress. I got married in this Maison Rabih Kayrouz that I got from Joyce. It’s very unconventional but I love it and I’m still wearing it when I go out – only now with sneakers!