Kel Cadet-Lyons of R-KI-TEKT: “Ask for help”

Ask for help-If you don’t know how to do something, admit it, and seek out the person or team who can assist with your confidence. It will save you time and the shame of failure. As part of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure […]

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Ask for help-If you don’t know how to do something, admit it, and seek out the person or team who can assist with your confidence. It will save you time and the shame of failure.

As part of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kel Cadet-Lyons of R-KI-TEKT.

With her passion to discover, love for color theory, & past travel experiences guiding her, Kel created a brand for those that share an appreciation for the fine details. Whether minimal or bold, Kel redefines the balance between whimsical & classic, which offers an endless pool of visual stimulation and refreshing design perspective.

Some of Kel’s other passions include traveling, thrift and antique shopping, international music, photography, language studies, creating inspiration boards, modern dance, and leisure moments sipping tea with creative editorial content. But most importantly, spending time with her husband Durrell & children, Chloe and Levi.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been creative — even as a kid. By the time I got to high school, I had started to really take fashion and accessory design seriously. Soon, I had classmates submitting custom orders to me. I designed prom dresses, reworked denim, and more. After high school, I attended SCAD in Savannah. This is when I learned garment construction, CAD, and overall thorough ideation and content editing.

After I graduated, I was navigating life as a new mom and working at a local boutique. The owner encouraged me to place some of my accessories in the store, and soon they had sold out. From there, I launched an Etsy shop — and shifted my mindset from this being a hobby to a business.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?

This past year I can say has been the most interesting yet. Like many small businesses, we have had to navigate a global pandemic and shut down, as well as civil unrest. The latter taking the biggest toll on us as a Black-owned business. However, it has also contributed to us being thrust into spaces that we were once overlooked for, thus leading to exponential growth.

Going from dryer months full of doubt to Drew Barrymore including us in a post to being a featured business on Instagram, included in Facebook’s #BuyBlack Friday Gift Guide, makes for a very exciting year.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I began creating, I was incredibly doubtful about my work.

The owner of the boutique I worked for encouraged me to sell my pieces. I was very reluctant. I eventually gave in and added a small amount of product. To my surprise, they sold out. I added a few more and those sold out. She had so much belief in me and my work. Whenever I am scared to do anything within my business, I think of those times. Self-doubt can really keep you from growing in the right direction.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

One of the characteristics of my company that I admire most is that the majority of my pieces are one of a kind. My main sources of inspiration are West-Indian culture and the Indigenous Tribes of Africa, however, I like to think I take an abstract approach in honoring and referencing those cultures. A customer may think they are simply getting a pink wallet with a fun pattern when in reality it’s paying homage to the Suri Tribe of the Omo Valley.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

My main piece of advice to other designers and artists would have to be if you are on social media, frame out who you follow. There is a reason they call it a “feed” because it literally acts as visual nourishment. It can highly affect the work you produce, as well as how you creatively view the world. If you are not cognizant of your intake, your vision can be steered further from your desired objective, thus forcing you to chase an intangible marker. Take (as many) moments as you need to rest, refresh, and recalibrate. And do so without guilt.

Make sure to carve out time to actually do what you love when it comes to the business. The great benefit to selling on social is that you’re not going to miss any opportunities, there’s always a visible list of conversations — whether in Instagram, Messenger, or elsewhere — that you can follow up on later.

Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?

One of my favorite “trends” or should I say acknowledgments is the shift toward Afro-Futurism. So much of what has already been created and deemed “luxury” is based on what has happened and is currently happening in multiple regions of the continent. Seeing inspiration properly sourced and a broadened artistic ecosystem created is going to provide a refreshing visual and artistic experience for the fashion connoisseur.

What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”.

Pivot– Know when something isn’t working, it may not mean to quit entirely. You may have to shift your positioning or take a new route in order to get to your destination.

Ask for help-If you don’t know how to do something, admit it, and seek out the person or team who can assist with your confidence. It will save you time and the shame of failure.

Discipline- You can have all the dreams and ideas in the world, but it takes discipline to actually manifest them and see them into fruition.

Say No– Not every opportunity presented may be suitable for your business. It is ok to say no to projects that don’t organically align with your ethos to maintain artistic integrity. Don’t let your hunger for success lead to desperation and thirst for any and all attention.

Stay engaged with customers — It’s important to stay engaged with your customers — especially now that everything is digital. There are so many ways to do this — whether on social media or email. I use Facebook Messenger to communicate with customers and ensure I stay top of mind.

Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself?

I think we are at the beginning of the cleanse now.We are on the cusp of a new reality and mode of operation in the luxury market. It’s honestly thrilling to watch the slow unraveling of the industry’s tightly wound corset. Younger designers, editors, photographers, etc. are not interested in the gate-keeping ideologies of the past. They are networking across and building their own tables, versus trying to claw their way to the top or accept the crumbs thrown for the sake of exposure. They’re creating their own rules and breaking many in the process. They believe fashion is more inclusive than exclusive and are finding interesting ways to broaden their communities beyond the elite. With the idea that the “everyday person” can be a viable “it” figure, has forced the industry to become more malleable with its approach to luxury and access. There is a heavy focus on limited availability with tangible pricing structures, inclusive representation within marketing, and slow production & sustainability that serves as a firm foundation for many young brands. While there are many intricacies that still need to be improved, this is the most hopeful I have felt in a very long time.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can check out our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the latest on everything we’re doing.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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