Haute Thing is a series exploring style and the people whose personal aesthetics contribute to the ever-changing landscape of fashion.
The cozy lifestyle has definitely dominated wardrobes and social media feeds over the last few years but being stylishly comfortable doesn’t necessarily mean slogan hoodies and basketball shoes. The balance between feeling like you’re in your pyjamas and looking like you’re in straight up designer garments is the focus of Sködia – a label created in Australia and based in New York by Jess McKie and Fernando Martinez. ‘Softwear’ is their specialty and, you might even say, their way of life – an approach to style that combines comfort and class with the least effort possible.
Jess McKie has been designing this luxe softwear through Sködia for years, building an intimate and loyal following which has more recently included the likes of Rihanna, A$AP Ferg and the Kardashian/Jenners (just casually). And despite the A-list press (including a ‘collab’ with Topshop), Jess is possibly more driven by the genuine esteem boost she can give to the label’s regular customers. “We really encourage people to wear the clothing and have our pieces as their ‘go to’ in order to feel their most confident and comfortable.”
Who were your style influences growing up?
I wouldn’t say I had anybody specific I “looked up to” but I was definitely drawn to menswear more and the men in my family’s clothing – always stealing pieces from them, whether it was a sweatshirt from my dad or my brother’s t-shirts. I guess you could say I was a tomboy but was also not forgetting to add a feminine touch. A combination of the two genders ‘stereotypes’. Oh, and also Sex and the City.
What are your earliest style memories?
[Besides above] alongside designing/making Barbie doll clothing with my mum.
What was your first experience working in the fashion industry?
I remember my dad made me do ‘work experience’ during my school holidays at Country Road’s head office in Melbourne. It was the first time I had ever been in a corporate setting that was still somewhat creative. My main job was to hand draw trim designs for pyjamas. I loved it!
How was Sködia born?
It initially began in my fashion school days. We were told to create our own clothing company and I made a basics/unisex label named after a made-up IKEA furniture piece – partly satirical and partly to combine the Scandinavian minimal/simplistic design aesthetic with a twist of functionality and practicality. This then became a nickname and I guess it just stuck.
In five words or less, how would you describe Sködia’s aesthetic/design mantra?
Something for everyone.
Which individual/collective embodies good style to you?
I love it when somebody has a ‘uniform’ type style, whether they be somebody who people consider ‘fashionable’ it just means they don’t necessarily follow trends and have found what works for them. Whether it’s Jerry Seinfeld or the late Steve Jobs – that’s their thing and what they feel most comfortable in and they stick to it.
How does it feel to see your designs on the likes of Rihanna and A$AP Mob?
Having the big celebrities wear our clothing is super exciting, especially the musicians we have adamantly listened to like Rihanna or A$AP Ferg. And it’s obviously great publicity. But honestly, it’s not all we strive for! It’s a little different but I get just as much satisfaction from our customer’s Instagramming their new gear to. I love the feeling of being able to supply that esteem booster that new clothing can give.
What drove your focus towards ‘softwear’?
SOFTWEAR is sort of like our mantra. It’s a tongue-in-cheek term that depicts special yet functional wearability to be worn in a uniform mentality. Sort of something for the everyday that can still be special. We really encourage people to wear the clothing and have our pieces as their ‘go to’ in order to feel their most confident and comfortable.
How have Melbourne and New York City influenced your aesthetic?
I think moving to a new country, even though there are similarities, allows you to really find your true aesthetic without the ‘fixed identity’ and same surroundings you are accustomed to in your home town. I like to think it’s a good mix of both that got to where we are today.
How do you guys work so well together? What is the key to successfully balancing your personal and professional relationship?
Firstly, it’s not always easy but for us it works. We are lucky we are happy to be around each other most of the time. Fernando also works as a bartender making cocktails a couple of nights a week. Maybe it’s the cheap booze or the time apart but it seems to work for us? We are a good team.
What has been the biggest change in the fashion industry during your careers?
The industry starting to embrace the plus size market on a high fashion level and embracing more diversity with models. This is something that baffles me that is relatively ‘new’ but better late than never I guess.
What style trend needs to end immediately and why?
I really don’t know haha. The good thing about trends is that 99% of the time they do go out of style. So if there is ever a ‘trend’ that is worrying to somebody, the good news is, it won’t last!