The Kit and Ace co-founder on his favourite places to shop, his least favourite trends and the surprising things we’d find him doing in his spare time.
As the son of yogawear brand Lululemon’s founder Chip Wilson, 26-year-old JJ Wilson always felt drawn to the fashion industry. In 2014 he launched Technical Cashmere brand Kit and Ace with his stepmother, Shannon, comprising luxury cashmere basics enhanced with technical fibres. The brand opened 30 stores across the globe in under a year, with its first London store opening on Shoreditch’s Redchurch Street earlier this year. Retail prices range from £40 for a T-shirt to £350 for a cashmere coat.
Tell us about the concept behind Kit and Ace.
We started Kit and Ace because we looked at our lives, and the lives of our friends around us, and saw a void in the luxury market for clothing that keeps up with a busy lifestyle.
What is Technical Cashmere?
Technical Cashmere is one of our proprietary fabrics. It’s cashmere that’s been enhanced with technical fibres, such as elastane and viscose, so that it’s easy to wear, easy to care for and retains its shape throughout the day.
You recently opened your first London stores. How did this feel?
It’s a great feeling and we worked hard to get here. We now have a shop in Shoreditch and one on Regent Street; London’s been good to us and we’re excited to see what’s next.
What makes your stores special?
Each of our shops incorporates hyper-local elements – custom, quality pieces created for us by local artists and contractors. They reflect the local market the shop operates in and the pieces make up 30% of our shop build-out.
You founded Kit and Ace with your stepmum. What are the best things about working with family?
We have a shared history and we’re aligned with where we see Kit and Ace going. We can be at work or at home and we’re having the same conversation – business moves faster when you’re on the same page.
Your father, Chip Wilson, founded Lululemon. Did you feel pressure to go into fashion?
I’m driven by creativity, but at the same time I’m entrepreneurial. I never felt any pressure to work in fashion. I was inspired by what my father built with Lululemon and wanted to create something new from the ground up.
What has been the high point of your career so far?
Seeing the response to our brand and opening more than 30 shops around the world in our first year. It’s been exciting.
Kit and Ace store, Redchurch Street, Shoreditch
What is the best thing about your job?
Getting to conceptualise and execute creative ideas. From our fabric to our shops, we’re doing things differently and creating experiences for people that are not traditional to retail.
And the worst thing?
Not being able to be in two places at once. We’re growing at such a rate that it’s impossible for me to be at every shop opening or event. I make up for that by staying connected on everything that’s happening.
Where are your favourite places to shop?
When I’m in Los Angeles, Abbot Kinney has a nice collection of a few of my favourite brands. SoHo in New York is also a one-stop for the best in retail and overall vibe.
What was the last new brand you discovered?
I really love IRO; it’s not a new discovery, but it’s a current favourite.
What is the most treasured item in your wardrobe?
My Kit and Ace Revere Cargo trousers.
What one fashion trend do you wish would disappear?
Looks that resemble Star Wars. Take [Kanye West’s clothing brand] Yeezy, for example.
What one trend do you wish would come back?
Everybody loved tearaway pants. Update them with a nice taper and sign me up.
What fashion era do you think is the best?
The one we’re in now. Technical luxury. Machine-washable cashmere? I’ll take it.
What is the most expensive item in your wardrobe?
My Calibre de Cartier watch by Cartier.
Kit and Ace store, Redchurch Street, Shoreditch
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Hire better and smarter than you. I learned this from my dad. It’s been integral to the success of Kit and Ace.
If you weren’t in the fashion industry, what would you be doing?
I grew up in fashion and retail, so it’s hard to imagine anything else. I’d have to be doing something creative, maybe something in design or architecture.
What do you do to switch off from work?
I like to sweat. Ride Cycle Club is a concept indoor spin studio I co-founded. When I’m sweating it out on the bike, I don’t think of anything else and can just be present.
Who else in the industry do you admire?
I admire Chip. I can’t think of anyone else who has achieved what he has in his career and changed the way we look at apparel. I admire that he values giving back, like with Imagine1day, a foundation our family created that builds schools, leaders and a culture of education in Ethiopia.
Tell us something not many people know about you.
I’m always on the go and love the travel, the big cities and the excitement. But there’s nothing better to me than spending time with friends and family at my family’s place on the Sunshine Coast – away from it all.