As Creative Director, Lihui’s original vision was to create contemporary knits in flattering silhouettes for design-conscious women like herself. A recovering shopaholic, she recognized the need for well-made knitwear at a comfortable price point. “There’s a huge gap between fast-fashion and luxury designer labels. We want to be the trusted little company that focuses on quality & design in small batch production.” At KERISMA, Lihui is able to apply her architectural design skills & aesthetic sensibilities at various speeds & scales ranging from clothing to trade show booth, to showroom & studio interiors. KERISMA’s immersive growth continues to embrace collaborations with friends, designers & industry professionals.
KE HISTORY & HERITAGE
The family’s relationship with fashion began on the production side in the mid 80’s when Phil & Mama Ke immigrated to Paris, France from Wenzhou, China. By the early 90’s, four of Phil’s five sisters also joined him in Paris. Each trained as seamstresses while their husbands became surgers, steamers, cutters and other supporting roles. There was always a strong sense of kinship with much excitement for their common goal: to improve their family’s lives through hard work & honesty. Their humble beginnings set a firm foundation for the KERISMA brand of today & tomorrow.
Lihui’s taste & eye for style developed from an early age. “I remember Mama Ke taking us to Galleries Lafayette & Printemps department stores in the center of Paris to shop during the holidays. I loved seeing the beautiful mannequin displays especially from the multi-level atrium. It was a perfect marriage of fashion & architecture! We couldn’t afford much but being there instilled in me a deep appreciation for design & quality.”
Four years later, the family moved to New York City where they settled for the next 16 years. Their early years in Brooklyn were tough. Phil took up any jobs available from town car driver to waiter while taking English classes. Finally in the late 90’s, Phil & Mama Ke gathered enough funds & family support to open up their first sewing factory in Chinatown. However, Manhattan quickly became unaffordable. Year after year, more factories closed down due to increased rent & overseas competition. They eventually moved their tiny operations to Woodside, Queens closer to their home.
Meanwhile, Lihui attended Pratt institute for her Bachelors in Architecture. Upon graduating, she apprenticed at small design firms preferring the intimate studio setting. Her training ranged from tiny apartment renovations to retail branding concepts to mixed-use condominium/hotel projects. After a two year stint at GUCCI worldwide store design under the creative leadership of Christian Lahoude & Judy Lee, Lihui joined Danish Architect, Thomas Juul-Hansen’s studio to focus on high end restaurant & hospitality design. She realized the large scale & speed of architecture ultimately did not align with her needs for intimacy in design. She wanted to go smaller, dig deeper while zooming in on a more human scale. She fancied designing contemporary furniture & lighting (perhaps even jewelry pieces!) but her mind & heart kept gravitating towards fashion. Somehow applying her architectural sense to clothing design…that was the challenge and the drive.
It wasn’t until her aunt (Phil’s third youngest sister from Rome, Italy) visited the family during Thanksgiving of 2009 that the seed was planted to create their own fashion label in Los Angeles. “It seemed like an exhilarating idea! Moving to (yet another) new city, starting a new business with the support of the family. It was all so risky yet thrilling at the same time! Although we didn’t have a clear vision, the moment felt ripe with opportunity. I had visited Los Angeles while in college and knew that I would live there someday with purpose!” It is also a relationship forged with our native country China and our adopted homeland here in America.” Today, they fully embrace their ethnic yet multi-cultural global perspective. They identify with Third Culture Kids worldwide and actively support the local & international creative community.