Denise Ho, the founder of Kitdo, tells us about her journey dressing fashion for over a decade.
Kitdo founder Denise Ho has long espoused the need for a makeover, fashion reuse and a less wasteful modus operandi in a world of sartorial excess. Indeed, she was talking about sustainable fashion long before it was in fashion.
Not only did she create Kitdo, the restyling accessory that reuses anything in your wardrobe, but also Knotti, a sustainable collection made by knitters from the local community. Here she is talking about everything stylish.
Denise Ho, founder of Kitdo
When did you fall in love with clothes?
I think I fell in love with clothes when my mother was a buyer for Jean Paul Gaultier. She brought back these amazing creations from another world – that was in the early 90s, when Gucci was at its peak. I like [Ku, her sister] and I just watched her beautiful clothes come in, even though we didn’t understand what they were, but at the same time, it was magical to see your mom bringing in some high fashion bags and bags. Seeing it, smelling it, trying it on was such a luxury at the time.
You then studied fashion.
Somewhere around this time I decided I wanted to study fashion design. It got very technical afterwards and it was hard – it’s hard to learn how to make clothes from scratch and it put me off a bit. When I moved to London I met my mentor – I was helping Sarah Richardson, and she really showed me how to 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 father. He’s super classic, the white shirt and the black pants, but for some reason he makes the simplest clothes so stylish. He doesn’t wear the most outrageous things, colors, or brands, but it’s just the way he frames it and the way he wears it.
I’m surprised you didn’t say your sister, Jaime Ku.
[Laughs] Jaime is… OK, that’s basically funny with Jaime, because even she would say the same thing. But in fact, she isn’t too keen on shopping – she just looks good in anything.
Who are your style icons?
Right now 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 70s style – the classic Annie Hall look was my inspiration back then. But when I cut my hair really short, I didn’t look at the outside world but down the road. Whether it’s on the streets of New York, Central or Tokyo, just look at what people are wearing to get a feel for the city. I could really take inspiration from an old lady on the street in her pajamas if she had an interesting accessory.
Your Instagram account has wonderful pops of color all over it and isn’t that heavy on designer labels.
Yes, I’m more interested in the story behind someone’s look than a brand. For example, if you had just returned from India with a richly embroidered shawl, I would like to know more about it than “I got this from this brand, in this mall”. It’s not an interesting story.
What fashion mistake would you never repeat?
The first thing that comes to my mind are dresses that are too tight. I mean, maybe it’s a personal thing. Even if you have a body for it, I think there are plenty of other ways to achieve a more flattering figure than bodycon dresses. I’m not sure about French manicured nails either. It was a trend back then, but now it looks outdated. I think a lot of people don’t really understand their body. You have to work with the proportions. Like when you see people wearing really loose clothing just because it’s a brand. When shopping you have to try everything and look at yourself in the mirror – don’t be intimidated by what’s on a hanger.
Which brand or label do you have attention now?
I really like the Y project [founded as a partnership between French designer Yohan Serfaty and businessman Gilles Elalouf]. I really like the designer – recently I found out that I have to love the designer to love clothes. I also love Y Project because of its clever designs, the way a garment is made to be worn in multiple ways.
You talked about sustainability in fashion long before the trend. What did you see that the others did not see?
I have been working in the sustainable development sector for some time. This is a very difficult subject because I think a lot of brands say they are doing everything they can, but from my own experience when it comes to clothes I think it is important to don’t do anything new or buy anything new. This is what people should strive for. This is when the makeover came to my mind, as not only is it a skill that I have developed over the past 18 years, but I have also found that people don’t actually only wear 10-20% of their entire wardrobe. This means that we are not using what we already have. My focus right now is to try and create content, to talk more about the different ways to wear the things you already have, and to encourage consumers to dig into their wardrobes.
Tell us about your businesses.
Shortly after giving birth, I started Kitdo. I’ve always wanted to develop a stylist product – having styled for years, I’ve ruined a lot of samples using safety pins on the set. Ripped dresses, tops, you name it and we stabbed it with a pin during a shoot. I thought, how do we still use the same template? I wanted to replace this with an accessory using a magnet. I started to develop it slowly. It is a stylish accessory which can create more ways for you to wear your clothes. I post videos on social media showing five basic ways to give whatever you already have got a makeover. I don’t see anything like it on the market right now. And my dream is to someday create an empire of restyling accessories.
Are there items in your closet that you could never throw away?
Many things have sentimental value, as my mother passed them on to me – Gaultier 30 years ago. Fortunately, it’s now making a comeback, so I keep it even more in my heart. And my red wedding dress. I got married in this Rabih Kayrouz House that I received from Joyce. It’s very unconventional but I love it and always wear it when I go out – only now with sneakers!