Keefer Edwards is a 17-year-old senior at Traverse City Central who enjoys running and skiing and competes year round in cross-country, track and field and indoor track. He also designs and sews clothing, hats and accessories under his own name and business called, “Keef Company.” Although he is undecided about what college he’s going to attend he says that he plans on studying fashion design wherever he ends up. MyNorth’s Eliza Foster talked to the young entrepreneur to learn more about the inner workings and design process behind the label of Keef Company.
Tell me about Keef Company? Where did the idea for this company come from?
Keef Clothing started out of my living room in Glen Arbor during August of last summer. The idea came one day when I was chillin’ in my newly bought 1978 blue and white VW bus. I was looking at one of the colorful Mexican blankets I freshly purchased to pimp out the interior and an idea sprang into my head: I think I can make that into a backpack. So I snatched up the blanket, snagged my old Brother sewing machine (one of the tiny learning ones) and went to work. Two hours later I had my very first backpack (now referred to as a Whack Pack.) I thought, if I can make one of these, and have fun while doing it, why couldn’t I bust out a few more? So I purchased myself a few new blankets made some more packs and shortly after whipped up my first pillow. It was then that I realized I had found something that I truly loved.
I came up with the idea of the name ‘Keef Clothing’ and shortly there after made myself a website and started putting logos on my products. From pillows and packs I soon found myself making shoulder bags, hats, shirts, and even a few accessories. I have a passion for recycled materials so I began incorporating those into my products as well. My 2nd Life hat line is now 90% recycled material and my bucket hats are 50%. I have always felt passionate about American made goods and vow to never have my products made overseas. I now have 6 sewing machines and operate my studio out of my sister’s old bedrooms that have been vacant since they went to college. I hand make all my products.
I recently ran into a few trademark issues and what not with ‘Keef Clothing’ so I am currently in the process of changing the brand to ‘Keef Company.’
So how long have you been sewing and designing clothing? How did you get into it?
I began in 7th grade with a small company I started called ‘Neon Rootz Apparel.’ I was, and still am, an avid park skier. I noticed the demand for Tall Hoodies (long sweatshirts park skiers wear) and did some research and started making and selling my own. My grandmother bought me my first sewing machine, the little Brother I mentioned earlier, and it was enough to have me whipping up a few hoodies every week.
Did anyone teach you how to sew and design clothing? Or did you teach yourself?
My grandmother knew a little bit from when she was younger and that was very helpful. Aside from that, I have relied on Youtube videos and quite a bit of trial and error, resulting in several close calls with some of my equipment and appendages known as fingers (don’t tell my mom.)
Is everything handmade by you or do you have someone else working with you?
Currently I am hand making all of my products with the occasional help from friends willing to cut out my patterns for me. Business is steadily growing so I am looking to either hire someone or hire a local sewing business do to some of it for me.
What’s your brand statement? What message do you want people to associate with the Keef label?
Oh boy, I guess I must be honest I really don’t have one quite yet. However, as far association with my label I would like people to think of the recycled materials, handmade in the USA products, and friendly service I have attempted to build this company around.
What types of products do you make?
Backpacks, pillows, five-panel hats, bucket hats, shirts, and accessories.
Tell me a little about your process. How do you begin a project? Do you have to shop for materials or do you know exactly what you want to make and sit down and do it…?
The idea for each project sprouts in my head. I try to draw inspiration from things I see around me and then attempt to put my own unique twist on them. It either then goes onto paper, usually on my homework and in class when I should probably be paying more attention (again don’t tell my mom), or straight into fabric that I cut out and sew into a finished product.
I shop for fabrics quite a lot. I have a few websites I order off of online and keep those bookmarked because I go back quite often. All of my reused fabric is donated (which is ideal) or purchased from thrift stores in the Traverse City area.
Is each product unique?
Due to my limited equipment and my patterns and stitching unintentionally being slightly different, each product is in a sense unique. I have done a few custom hats and bags that could be considered ‘truly’ unique. My 2nd life hats can only be replicated a handful of times since each shirt or pant used to make them is unique.
Speaking of unique, what kinds of materials do you use?
I love thrifting for reused fabric (I cut up shirts and pants) and am always happy to accept donations as well. For the products that I can’t use repurposed goods for I usually buy my fabric online from various stores.
Anything new and exciting planned for the winter months?
I’m hoping to get into a few more stores and release some new products I’ve been working on for a while. I haven’t been planning much, mostly just letting the business lead the way, and it has fortunately been working out better than I could have ever imagined. So I guess that’s the plan!
Keef Company ships items across the U.S. and he is also willing to customize orders. “I am always happy to customize! If people give/send me their reused shirts or pants I will gladly turn them into hats. They can just shoot me an email and we can work out pricing and what not.” Questions about a product? Contact Keef Company at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Facebook.