Kinfolk was formed in 2008 by four friends from New York, Los Angeles, Sydney and Tokyo. Born out of a desire to create the products and experiences that they could imagine in their minds but couldn’t find in the market, the creative collective has blossomed from its beginnings as a boutique design team, Ways & Means, to a multi-faceted, multi-national projection of their original vision, encompassing their design wing, Kinfolk Studios, artisan bike building, by way of The Kinfolk Bicycle Co., and the opening of two unique lounge/café spaces in New York and Tokyo. All this while collaborating on a number of joint projects with the likes of Nike and K-Swiss and collecting some major design awards on the way. We recently had the chance to chat with the guys at Kinfolk about the company, its values and the future.
Jack Smylie: Who are you, and what do you do?
Ryan Carney: Kinfolk was founded by John, Maceo, Ryan, and Salah as a creative team. Our extended family is Akira, Sugi, Jeff, Jeff, Tammer, Danny, and a growing list of friends like Yuji from Yuji ramen, and Freddy and Richard from Frej, two new food projects at the Brooklyn space. From bicycles, the bars, design projects, occasional product releases, there's no one category that defines us, we just try to stay busy.
JS: How did the Kinfolk collective come together?
RC: Kinfolk evolved from the design team Ways & Means, and when we started producing the bicycles and opened the Lounge in Tokyo, the four of us began to operate under the Kinfolk banner. As projects develop like-minded people jump on board. After a while you just organically develop this extended family where not everyone is involved in every project, but certainly everyone is interested in everyone else's projects and lend insight and support.
JS: Beginning as bike builders, what was the thought process in branching out to include bars and a number of creative services under the Kinfolk moniker?
RC: The bikes came out of a larger philosophy of trying to design and create things that meet our idea of quality. We were creative people first, and bike builders second. As we build our business, each new project gets easier because we learn from the past projects. The bar in japan helped us working as interior guys, and that was really helpful when working out the studio. Because of that continuity from project to project, people just began to associate the Kinfolk name with the larger ideal.
JS: Can you tell us a bit about the physical Kinfolk spaces?
RC: Both of the physical spaces blur the line between business and pleasure in a very casual way. The lounge in Tokyo has a very homey, living room feel to it. We can have business meetings there during the day, and cocktails at night. The space in NY is just an extension of that idea. Our work space is upstairs, but it's open enough that you can feel the energy of what is going on below and that helps the space feel alive.
JS: Do you feel like it was a natural progression to advance into these new areas?
RC: It has all been so organic that it surprises all of us how much we have accomplished in the past few years. It always feels like the right things just fall into place.
JS: With the construction of your Brooklyn venue and studio space you’ve expanded operations from Japan to the States - how does operating as a multi-national brand affect the Kinfolk dynamic?
RC: We've always been international. Our bikes sell all over the world, so it allows us to be plugged in to whats going on in all of these different places. Both in what's unique and what everyone has in common globally. Plus cultivating a community in global hubs like NYC and Tokyo just lets us interact with so many creative people. There's always something interesting going on.
JS: Kinfolk Studios acts as an umbrella for a number of design projects, including illustration and graphics for other brands, magazines and apparel – who’s involved with this side of things? Is this the direction you see the Kinfolk brand moving in?
RC: This is actually where we started, and we still do that work all the time. It may just not have our name plastered on the front of it, we did graphics and Design for MassAppeal, Black Book, Missbehave, Hysteric Glamour, ZooYork. We're basically taking all of those experiences and turning the focus inward. Nowadays, we're our own best client.
JS: In the past you’ve been involved with various collaborations and projects, with the likes of K-Swiss and Nike – are there any more of these in the pipeline?
RC: We just did an original design with Porter. But we are getting to the point where we really want to focus on Kinfolk, but if a project is a good enough fit we're open to it. Like everything we do, collaborations are an organic result of things we're interested in doing anyway.
JS: Kinfolk Lounge released a mixtape a while back, what was that about?! When can we expect volume 2?
RC: Cocktails and good music just go hand in hand. We have such diverse tastes and influences it just made sense to put something together. That was actually our 2nd mix tape. The first was all music from friends of ours. IQU, Pete Miser, Kimya Dawson, Felix Da Housecat, and a bunch more. Maybe we'll have to do something like that again.
JS: What are your goals for 2012?
RD: Strengthening our presence internationally and showing people some sides of us that they might not have known about. Surviving the coming apocalypse.
Photographer - James Lisle/John Prolly