Crazy, colourful and never boring, Camden Town has always had an extra-large helping of offbeat charm. Now it is also going to be the place where South meets East in a debut collection that is full of promise. KAT LE and SASHA MILLER give you an itch to scratch.
Most people would be up to their eyeballs in stress moments before the opening of their first store, but there is an infectious bonhomie between Kat Le, 23, and Sasha Miller, 24, that seems to blend all the years of hard work and dedication into this one glorious moment of a dream coming true. They are like an old married couple, finishing each other’s sentences often, or at other times starting on completely different tangents that seemingly make sense to the other, and cause the pair of them to trail off in excited laughter as they remember a shared experience from their days together at the London College of Communication where they both studied Surface Design.
‘We were one of those naughty ones in class, always writing little notes to each other about what we should have for lunch. We love food!’ Sasha laughs mischievously. But where do they put all of it? Their slender figures give nothing away.
Kat and Sasha have come a long way since the days of exasperating tutors with their antics in class, and underneath the banter is a humbling thought that a business has been borne out of their enduring friendship and passion for designing.
ITCHH, their first store, is opening this weekend in the heart of Camden Lock, and is the culmination of a journey that has seen many highs and lows. The collection is an eclectic mix of canvas bags, t-shirts, scarfs, chairs and much more, in designs which the two agree reflect not only their personalities but will appeal to a wider audience who have an appreciation for exclusive one-off styles. If it’s got a surface, you can bet these two have got designs on it. And the fun has only just begun.
Sasha is the Brixton to Kat’s Hackney, and they both laughingly refer to themselves as ‘ghetto born and bred’. So how did they manage to fuse the south and east of London in the Camden melting pot of the north-west?
‘We always wanted to be in Camden,’ Kat explains simply. ‘It’s always busy, with something to do all the time. There are loads of little oddball things catching your attention constantly.’
‘For me, Camden is one of the best places in London!’ Sasha chimes in, ‘It’s a great, quirky place to relax, chill out with friends, do a bit of shopping…everything about it is just…different. And it’s not too expensive.’
|Cupid's bow has found its target at last|
So it was a unanimous decision then? ‘Yes,’ they answer without hesitation, then look at each other and laugh again. Kat recovers first. ‘When we were at uni, we had to do a business plan once, and we both happen to do one which involved opening a store in Camden. And now we’re actually doing it!’
‘It’s very exciting. Camden is the place to be. Camden allll the way!’ Sasha sing-songs gaily, and they dissolve into giggles again.
They are entering new realms at a time when the world’s economy has been severely tested. How does it feel to be young entrepreneurs in this age?
‘We believe in the saying “start as you mean to go on”. All we have now is a small collection, but we have big dreams of branching out into new areas of design with time.’ Sasha says passionately, as Kat nods in agreement.
|Take a seat|
But this period certainly must have been fraught with frantic preparations. ‘Definitely. But I think Kat and I are those types who respond well to pressure, which is good. Because there has been a fair bit of that.’
‘It’s been stressful. We both look like crap!’ Kat adds, almost cheerfully, although a keen observer might actually disagree. Her light brown hair is elegantly piled on top of her head, and the tendrils that have escaped the clinch fall softly down the side of her face. The Vietnamese beauty has long lashes framing eyes that light up when she laughs, while Sasha, of mixed Caribbean background, is sporting an edgy fringe that testifies to a great personal style.
They’re going to be alright, aren’t they? ‘Of course. As long as Sasha stops waking up half an hour before she’s due to meet me!’ Kat gets a dig in, and the busted Sasha bursts into laughter again.
A first look through the collection shows eye-catching designs that are sure to have many takers out there, but what one item would they pick for themselves if the shoe was on the other foot?
‘I love the fusion of the skeleton with flowers in one of the designs.’ Kat says, referring to an intriguing theme of merging the old – the skeleton – with the new – flowers symbolising new birth and growth.
‘My favourite piece from the collection is an image of my younger brother on a t-shirt.’ Sasha says. ‘I took a picture of him that came out looking…weird. But then we had this idea to alter the image and create other themes around it and we ended up with this very catchy urban design. I love it.’
|An interesting merge of old and new|
Well this duo has proved that they are not short on dreams. So who is their target customer?
‘We want our collection to appeal to everybody. We want it to be wearable, where relevant. I’d rather we were designing affordable items that people could buy and know they’d got a good deal on, than make them so exclusive in terms of price that only a few people could afford it. No, that has never been our plan.’ Sasha’s tone is decisive.
How would they describe the collection using three words?
Kat: Feminine. Colourful. Retro.
Sasha: Quirky. Loud. Urban.
Now that things are going to settle for a bit, do they have a chance to let their hair down a little…perhaps spend time with their ‘gentlemen friends’?
They both cackle at this. ‘Kat is definitely looking forward to hot guys coming into the store!’ It looks like Sasha’s got her own back after Kat’s earlier dig.
‘Sasha’s got her eye on someone!’
‘Oh, whatever!’ Sasha scolds, trying – and failing – to keep a giggle from escaping.
Friends, ‘ghetto babies', university mates…now these two can add ‘business partners’ to their relationship.
ITCHH, Camden Lock
Now Open, Saturdays 9am - 6pm