New Kids in the Hood, by Olya Tsikhanchuk
Sometimes your Instagram crashes end up becoming your friends and role models. So it happened for me with NKITH. I first saw their posts two more than two years ago, and I immediately was attracted by beautiful images. Then when I was reading into the story and the concept around the brand, I fell more and more in love. We started talking with Sarah via DM and so far we have an “online” friendship but I do hope for it to bloom into a friendship when we can meet over a cup of coffee and talk about everything.
You are well aware that Balumba is a journal for families and about families, so an interview about a family business, with a social responsibility and care for the environment, is something we are always proud of. Meet Sarah, Florian and Hamdi and read about their ideas to influence the world and fashion.
Who is behind NKITH? New Kids in the Hood are the two founders Sarah and Florian and their good friend Hamdi, a tailor and production manager from Syria. We are using upcycling materials and fabrics from overproductions to make kids clothes.
When did your story start?
There is me, Sarah, some years ago, looking for a job in the fashion industry after attending tailoring school in my hometown, Nürnberg. But as you may know, the textile production has almost disappeared in Germany. So I started working as a free stylist for many different brands, but I did not feel happy and satisfied in my job. I always loved working with kids and elderly people so I decided to go back to university to do social studies and open my mind, doing something meaningful.
One day I met Hamdi at an art exhibition that a friend of mine was organizing. Hamdi is from Syria. To escape the war he had to leave his wife and four children back home and travel for two years until he reached Germany. Of course he was very concerned at that point. His family was still in the war zone and there was little he could do besides sit and wait.
When he told me that he used to own a huge textile factory in his hometown we came up with the idea to start something together. I had a little room with a sewing machine that we could use now and then to sew some clothes together – and that’s what we did. We took old fabrics and made trousers, shirts, hats and many other fun clothing and toys for my little boy. It was great being creative and “wasting” time together.
At the same time I was also working in a refugee home for many months as part of my studies. It was summer 2016 and Germany was waiting for more and more refugees to arrive. I started to organize an afternoon kids playgroup for mums and their kids in the emergency shelters to give them a save space to laugh, learn and talk about all that matters to them. So there were many new kids I met these days. And that is how our name came up: New Kids in the Hood.
During all that time my husband Florian was eagerly supporting the project from the background. He helped us sourcing the materials, getting sewing machines and organized a bigger space in his companies studio. As he was working as designer / creative director in his regular job he couldn’t stop engaging creatively and we spend a lot of time together brainstorming about new styles and sustainable production. So when the project grew and people liked, what we were doing we took the next step in the beginning of 2018: we founded our little family business.
Is it difficult to work and be family? Me and Florian always dreamed about a family project. We loved talking about great (or not so great) business ideas for hours till midnight. We already discussed opening a nightclub, a sewing studio, an ice-cream parlour (called Banana Split) and a food truck. Today I am so happy that none of those ideas made it.
In our minds New Kids in The Hood is a brand for modern families – so kids fashion is a part of it, but not everything. And that’s why it works so good for us because we can go with the brand wherever we want and dive into matters we really care about: sustainability, design, craftsmanship, new business models, social entrepreneurship and so on …
Of course it is not super simple to get a business running and have a fulfilling family-life at the same time. There is no definite schedule that we can work through – having two little kids makes planing in advance quite difficult. But being spontaneously and staying kind to each other is the key. And our skills complement perfectly, so that also helps a lot.
How important is the social media in your business? Instagram is very important for us. At the moment it is our main channel to promote our caps. It works great for us, because we meet a lot of lovely people and we connect with other business owners.
Having said that, we also see a downside in social media: those platforms are kind of a blackbox and we can’t foresee how future changes may affect our business. In the end they are all build to get you buying ads and if you can’t afford that and organic growth doesn’t work anymore you have a problem. Besides that the negative effects of social media on society are also alarming.
What are your plans for NKITH?
Right now we are preparing our first collection for SS20. We are going to present it to the stores this summer at the Playtime Paris fair. We will not only have kids caps, but a small range of items from jackets to t-shirts to trousers which will be made mostly out of upcycled fabrics. And there will be items for the parents too: as we said before it’s about the family, not only the kids.
Besides that, we are really working hard on the production side to make upcycling work on a bigger scale. We are also thinking of producing circular, but that’s still on an idea level, nothing concrete happened so far.
Talking and writing more about sustainability, about the wastefulness in fashion industry and the true costs is also on our to-do list. Sustainability as the „new normal“ must be the goal and by keeping the discussion alive we want to help foster this paradigm shift.
What inspires your products?
Our kids needs of course. But also the limited possibilities of reusing old material. If we design a product there are a lot of boundaries, so we have to come up with creative solutions to make work. We can’t just order the material we like to use and go for it.
From a style perspective we go back to our own childhood. It’s the 80s and 90s that inspire us most. We love going thrifting and finding real treasures from another time and life. And we love to bring those items back with a contemporary twist.
How do you organize your work? Florian is all about the brand and how to market it – from the identity to the web stuff. I am building up the community and take care of our network. We share all design and production tasks and of course our common vision.
Hamdi is our first employee and he helps us designing the samples, organizing the production and partly sews the items. There is one additional seamstress that helps in peak times and Alex, who is a pattern maker and seamstress.
We put a lot of effort into processing our fabrics. Washing, cleaning, dying and sometimes silkscreening is all done by hand. By now everything is produced in our small studio in Nuremberg, Germany, but as the orders increase we are looking for additional productions in Europe.
How do you define your pieces?
We make high quality pieces out of a small junks of garbage ;-) We truly put a lot of love in every detail, and we test a lot to make the items durable. We also try to avoid gender cliches – so most of our items are unisex and the color stories we use bypass the general stereotypes.
What is the social responsibility that you take on?
We work with people we really like, no matter where they come from. We see different cultures and languages as an enrichment not a barrier for our project. And yes, google translator helps us a lot.