Kaemi on Their Craft: "Be Humble, Stay Away From Frauds, & Fuck Fast Fashion!"
With sustainably conscious and ethically responsible clothing brands on the rise, Kaemi’s vintage curating styling duo—Jami Ordiz and Kaile Teramoto—has hit the ground running. Since founding their slow fashion styling brand, Kaemi, from San Francisco in 2015, the Bay Area natives haven’t wasted a moment making a name for themselves in the name of social progress. And although they landed almost immediately alongside established clients, models, and photographers, the girls remain grounded in their pursuit of shifting norms and pushing for a fashion world that demands responsibly sourced goods.
MILK.XYZ sat down with the pair to get the scoop on their beginnings and growth as an industry pair, their advice for other dreamers, and the ways in which they define cool. We know one thing for sure: Kaemi girls lead by example.
How did you two meet?
K: We met one night back in San Francisco when Jami’s boyfriend was good friends with my boyfriend at the time. Coincidentally, Jami and I had been taking the same fashion courses at the same school, yet somehow hadn’t met up until that point. After that and countless other nights running around the city together, we were pretty much inseparable.
I remember meeting you guys at the Phoenix Hotel on the 4th of July in 2015, both beaming with joy and momentum over this brand in the making. At what point did you first start to conceive the idea of Kaemi? What were some of your earliest plans for the brand?
J: The idea of becoming a styling duo came in 2015. At that time we were both working post grad nine to fives. I was a buyer and Kaile a merchandiser. Although we were in the field, we were both bored. In college, where I really grew a passion for styling, I did small projects for fun with my friends and I knew I’d found my niche. I’d style the weekly newsletters and displays at work. Having been obsessed with thrifting since 7th grade, it was easy to put together interesting looks with my thrifty/vintage closet. When Kaile and I were having discussions about what we wanted to create, the concept of styling and then selling those clothes was an easy decision. We both quit our day jobs, and a couple of months later Kaemi was brought to life. From the very start, one of our business platforms has been to spread awareness about sustainability in the textile industry. We definitely credit San Francisco State University for opening our eyes to this issue. We believe that our company is shedding light on a solution; that is, shopping at second hand stores to reduce landfill textile waste.
K: For me, the decision of what exactly I wanted to do within the fashion industry wasn’t as clear. I ended up going with my gut and the timing of all our plans. As Kaemi grew, I began to feel myself grow along with it. In so many ways, it’s helped me figure out who I want to be in both my business and personal life. I have Jami to thank for that, as well.
Can you talk about any surprises you’ve faced with the project? How has moving to LA changed business?
K: Moving to LA has definitely helped us grow in so many ways. We have met some amazing and inspiring creatives out here who remind us daily that this is all possible. I personally still get surprised with how much support and love we get from others. It is, again, a reminder that we are on the right path, doing the right thing, and will continue to move onward. Another surprise for us is how few people have a grasp on the negative effects of fast fashion. Corporations release designs more frequently today than ever. It kills our planet and sucks dry consumer individuality. Knowledge is power. Do your research. Understand what you are putting on your body and where it comes from.
In spite of there being no shortage of competition in the styling world, Kaemi has worked alongside high profile clients like Travis Scott, Kehlani, and Wiz Khalifa. What has it been like, as two young women, to hold your own in a hardball industry?
J: We’ve been really blessed with the opportunities that people have given us. I think the number one rule I have with Kaemi is that we always stay true to ourselves. We know the difference between what’s really cool and what’s just a trend. I think people recognize that; you can see it through our work. Kaemi isn’t trying to appeal to everyone and if we are then we aren’t being genuine. That is our edge in this industry.
In the time that Kaemi has been around, you’ve managed to develop a signature cool but vibrant eclecticism, layering unexpected colors, textures, and cultural trends. Can you name some of your influences?
J: There are so many day to day things that inspire me; but if I had to pick two constant factors it would be nature and architecture. Mother nature really influences me because of the colors she combines and contrasts. When I do look for inspo, contrasting forms is what usually attracts me to something. Architecture inspires me, too. Buildings, exterior, and interior design can dramatically inspire my mood, which in turn inspires my wardrobe to tell a story. My dad is an architect, so I grew up with an appreciation for landscape and design.
K: Our models. Personalities in general. Casting is a key component to us when deciding what looks we want to incorporate within a photoshoot. Personality is the essence of expression, and we love to take from that idea, in turn making the people we work with feel like their ultimate selves. When Kaemi does that, we’ve done our job.
The majority of your models are young, busy women. They run their own online shops, model for major brands with top tier agencies, and start music careers from scratch. How does it inspire you to work around such driven girls, who so clearly understand the meaning of hard work and payoff?
J: We are obsessed with our models! The girls that we want to represent Kaemi first need to be able to represent themselves. When we scout girls, we want them to bring something to the table besides looks alone, whether that be personality, their own style, their points of view, etc. We want every project to be a good collaboration of ideas. Every girl that we shoot with inspires us in a different way. I think that every one of our models has huge confidence. In this judgemental world, that is truly inspiring.
K: Wow, yes! Without our babes, Kaemi would be nothing. I am happy to say that the models we work with are also our friends. The support is endless on both ends and it brings a strong sense of empowerment to the dynamic. In the past, we’ve scouted girls to shoot who had never modeled before working with us. Months later, we get to watch them blossom into the rising badasses of this industry.
Speaking of hard work, you two are a couple of power houses. I have to ask, do you ever consider Kaemi to be a political statement in itself—part of a larger overall movement that aims to promote power among women and people of color?
J: Fuck ya! Kaemi is a positive movement and we want to encourage women to simply follow their dreams. Kaemi was the ultimate risk when we first started, but hard work and patience has allowed me to do things I never thought I could. For me, the fashion industry can be much deeper than the materialistic, vain, consumeristic industry that people make it into. My parents taught me that clothes are a form of expression and confidence. This is what I hope Kaemi can inspire to our followers. We just want to see people thriving in their own skin.
K: We love shooting girls with rare and ethnic backgrounds. We welcome diversity and love using every one of our shoots as a chance to work for it. Kaemi also strives to promote sustainability. We want to help shift the norm from what it is now: shopping for exactly what everyone else and their moms seem to find at the mall. We are in a time where natural disasters occur on a regular basis… understanding the benefits of upcycling and thrifting is CRUCIAL! This business is about more to us than making a profit. We stand for something bigger and hope that is what our customers take from this.
What sort of advice do you have for other girls? Girls that may be somewhere akin to where you were just before Kaemi started? Who feel themselves at the brink of something, or who maybe just feel stuck?
J: Don’t be afraid to fail because this is when you learn all the important stuff. If you are honestly passionate about something, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. It’s super important that you are doing things for yourself. Don’t do it for the followers, credit, fame. Don’t let others dictate your interest or opinions. Stand out, take risks, be honest.
K: Yes, staying present with your true self and taking risks is key. I’ve personally learned self compassion throughout this business journey. We as humans will make countless mistakes and that is okay. Being transparent with others is also a rare, but rewarding attribute to have. Be humble, stay away from frauds, and fuck fast fashion!
Stay tuned to Milk for more dynamic duos.