I spoke with Kiel James Patrick, the founder and chief designer of his eponymous brand of preppy accessories, on a sunny late summer’s day. As it turns out, we were both doing yard work, talking on our headsets and looking forward to a cold beer – I liked him right away.
My wife of course was a big fan the minute she realized that the model-ly looking guy on the KJP website is actually Kiel James Patrick himself. His growing collection of KJP bracelets and belts started back when he was in prep school. Obsessed with the simplicity and superior craftsmanship of old clothing, he rummaged through vintage shops and raided the attics of friends and relatives.
Combining family tartans, English regimental stripes, high quality woven wool from Scotland and Ireland, and jacquard woven silk ties; he began creating small, detailed fashion accessories, which he would sport himself. His line of self-made preppy accessories, created to reflect his own sense of style, expanded during high school to include belts and bracelets and the occasionally reconstructed polo shirt or cardigan.
As Kiel’s friends began buying his creations, the hobby turned into a small business. Word spread and more orders began to arrive.
During his freshmen year of college, Kiel, as he says, “grew into his face” and began modeling. He would show up to shoots wearing his own styles, and the professional stylists and photographers would typically wind up requesting KJP accessories for their other shoots.
After a series of successful high-end crafts shows, meaning his booth was regularly swamped and every single bracelet sold out, things took shape. Kiel’s company was formally established and he began developing a more professional-looking line of products. More than anything, Kiel wanted his brand to be about creating a classic, all-American lifestyle.
As he states on his website, “the Kiel James Patrick brand is all about bringing back old-fashioned design elements, but using them in a contemporary new way. Everything I design is handcrafted in the United States. Other designers ship off their designs to various countries to save a few bucks, and wind up selling low-quality or inferior and generic-looking products.”
Far from just a pretty face, as it were, Kiel is a smart entrepreneur and very much aware of the interest his brand’s success has sparked in larger, corporate design studios. He is also quite happy to build equity, quality and loyalty through steady growth regardless of current trends.
A major component of his philosophy is keeping production not only domestic but local and creating and retaining American jobs. While a hot theme right now in our current Americana/workwear market, Kiel puts that ideal to the test – seriously. Virtually every aspect of his business is based in the Ocean State and he plans to keep it that way.
The bracelets’ signature brass buttons are literally made right down the street from their headquarters at Urschell Tool, a company that specializes in belt buckles and military pins. All of the handcrafted leatherwork is done a few miles from the KJP offices as well, at Bren Corporation in Johnston, Rhode Island.
He purchases his fabrics from local Rhode Island and Boston area businesses and the nautical rope used for his bracelets and belts comes from T.W. Evan in Cranston, Rhode Island. Actual production of his entire line is also done in-state.
That kind of dedication to mission is really putting your money where your mouth is. And it means his bracelets and belts are not cheap, seasonal throw-aways; they are real pieces of craftsmanship designed to be used for a long time. Kiel sent me an assortment of bracelets and belts to test out and I have been doing just that for the past month.
The verdict up front: while definitely casual in nature and geared toward men who want to telegraph a defined level of preppyness, I really like them. My Pip Pirrip Repp bracelet is a little chunkier due to the leather tab and therefore less appropriate for a business casual look. I’d probably try one of his new skinny Repp models which are meant to be low profile and even stacked (more of a female thing).
When going casual, I really like the Turk’s Head collection, from which he sent me a medium blue nautical rope bracelet. I used to have a sailor’s knot bracelet years ago, and this is like a more mature, updated take on that preppy staple.
The Croffix Sailing belt is classically styled in a natural maritime rope and built extremely well. A little thinner than I expected, but nonetheless a new favorite that will last a very long time. The contrasting backing is a neat touch.
Another thing that amazes me is Kiel’s impressive ability to come up with so many country club/yacht racing/country estate sounding names for every one of his creations.
To learn more about Kyle James Patrick, visit their website.
I look forward to seeing what this young and very accomplished man come up with next. After getting to know Kiel, I am confident of a few things: he has absolute conviction in his plans, possesses a genuine and original sense of style (something very rare these days) and has excellent taste in beer. OTC plans on being a fan of this brand for the long haul.