Jami Ordiz + Kaile teramoto of kaemi
Where did you guys grow up? If you could talk about your backgrounds a little that would be great.
Kaile: I grew up in Chico, California. Jami and I met at San Francisco State in the fashion merchandising program.
Jami: I grew up in Bakersfield, California and I moved to SF in 2009 to go to school at San Francisco State University. I was there from 2009 till 2016 and then we both basically moved to LA around the same time, just to pursue Kaemi and there was just more opportunities in LA.
Were you guys always into styling? What’d your parents do? Was this something that felt natural for you guys growing up or was this an individual passion you gals went off to pursue?
J: I was always into fashion, when I was little, my mom has my old sketches from when I would draw clothes, I was always into magazines, clipping stuff I liked. When I was in fourth grade, I started trying to make my own clothes. I have three older sisters and they always thrifted so I would go to the thrift store with them and watch them shop but my mom didn’t want me wearing kids thrifted clothes so I had to wait until I was older. By jr high, I started really thrifting and creating my own style. At that point, everyone was into Abercrombie, American Eagle and Juicy Couture. In high school, I got “best-dressed” I think it ran in the family even my dad was and three of my sisters also received “best dressed” their senior year in high school. Thrifting was a huge part of my teenage years; Mary Kate and Ashley’s grundgy style really inspried me. I really didn’t want to go to college but my parents were like, you have to go to school for something so I was like, well it might as well be fashion. I had to get a four year degree because that’s what they wanted, so I ended up at San Francisco State University. From there, I worked at Jeremy’s which is a designer re-seller in San Francisco and then I was promoted to assistant buyer and then after a year of doing that which was a 9-5, that’s when I met Kaile and we decided to do Kaemi.
When you talk about thrifting, what about thrifting in specific do you both enjoy the most? Is it a treasure hunt or do you think more about the potential story behind the clothes and the story they’re capable of telling? Like who had this before me? How can I make it mine?
K: For me, I’m definitely the first one in my family who is even into fashion. Both Jami and I learned a lot about sustainability at State, so that probably is our main focus when it comes to thrifting, as well as being original and reconstructing looks; realizing that we don’t need any more fast fashion retailers.
J: Thrifting became our business platform because it sustains the textile supply chain and it lets us be completely original. When we thrift, we can find pieces no one else has. It’s also like the thrill of it, like you said, it’s the treasure hunt, I have fun when I thrift, the dirtier the store, the better, you dig and you never know what you’re going to find. You get to re write a story when you wear used clothes.
K: It’s kind of like a lifestyle choice. For example: people choosing to recycle to reduce pollution, we choose to thrift and support upcycling [haha], We typically don’t shop at a mall or shop when there’s multiple sizes, and multiple colorways.
Definitely and at least when I think about thrifting, that’s the one part I think about, I feel like the whole sustainability thing doesn’t even cross a lot of people’s minds so I feel like that’s interesting in terms of what you’re trying to do and bring to light with your platform. What do you think about fast fashion? Obviously, shit like Zara, they see what’s on the runway and they make similar silhouettes and shit, do you think it defeats the concept of originality at all?
K: Yes, definitely because if you think about it, maybe a girl in the same city doesn’t have your shirt, but there are thousands of other girls internationally that shop at the same store and look exactly the same, it’s kind of like a uniform. There are so many girls that have the same pairs of jeans, same shoes, same whatever.
J: Yeah it’s not creative, it’s easy, it’s cheap. They just want to buy a look or trend off the rack right when they see it. But at the same time, I can’t blame people who do it because a lot of people aren’t into clothes so they go to Zara because that’s what’s popular, that’s what’s trending, that’s what they think is cool. It’s a personal decision, but I think you have to have your own style and personality to be able to thrift.
K: Or just be consciously aware of certain aspects: Where are these clothes being made? What am I buying? What am I putting on my body? Not even looks wise, but in terms of sustainability.
J: It’s going to rip in a year or it’s going to be out of style, so what are you going to do with it? You’re going to throw it back in a landfill, Essentially we have no trash cans on Earth. You should want pieces that are special and mean something to you.
Yeah I remember thrifting in LA and you walk into like the weirdest fucking thrift stores owned by the weirdest people haha it’s so fun. But I mean what do you then think about apps like Depop and Poshmark? Because it then becomes a virtual thrift experience, do you think that takes away from it all or does it make you excited?
K: Umm, I don’t think it takes away from it. We did have a Depop, but that wasn’t a platform that was for our brand. I feel like it’s just a personal choice, if it works for you, it works for you. Fashion apps like that helps other pass along clothes internationally. I’m not against it, but I’m also not against the typical brick and mortar experience where you scavenge for stuff.
With your store, Select Supply, what’s the story behind that? I was reading your Girls by Girls feature and it was just an idea that you guys came up with on a drunk night but how did that all really happen?
J: Select Supply is the store that we opened about 5 months ago, in July, and then Kaemi was started in February in 2015. Like I said, Kaile and I both had jobs that didn’t allow us to be creative. So we were both looking for a new outlet within the fashion industry. We met through boyfriends, well her ex and my boyfriend.
K: They were gonna go to Asia remember?
J: Oh yeah, they were gonna go to Asia because my boyfriend is an artist so they were gonna do a tour there and we were like, oh fuck this, we need to do something for ourselves, we were both antsy.
K: We were just fed up with retail life haha All four of us would always go out and they’d be talking about Asia. I’d be like, ahh fuck no, we need to get on our shit ASAP
J: They had their own careers poppin’ and I had already been styling low key on the side but I needed that extra push to be like, okay you need to quit your job and do it. So basically we were like, do you want to do something?! We were drunk. We were like what about a styling company?
K: And I was like, yeah I’m serious though….
J: It kind of happened within the next couple months, we got a name, logo, we both quit our jobs. I was fortunate enough to have my parent’s financial support for 1 year while I focused on Kaemi. We worked really hard in SF for a year, doing shoots and then we decided we wanted to start an online store because we wanted to sell the clothes we had complied.
K: Yeah we had such a big styling closet and we didn’t even think about selling the clothes until others were asking us where they could purchase certain looks. Everything Kaemi is one of a kind, hence it pushed us to start an actual brand past styling.
J: The market for fashion is very small because it’s overtaken by techies so there wasn’t much opportunity for us. We were coming to LA once a month just to do other projects here so we were like, fuck it, let’s just move. So we moved.
K: and that was the same type of thing as before where we set a date to move, early 2016. We are very goal oriented haha.
J: Within two months I would say, there was this opportunity that fell in our laps. Our friend knew a guy, who had this storefront and it was sitting there because he didn’t know what to do with it. Kaile ran into the guy, his name’s Andy. We ended up having a meeting with Andy, checked out the storefront and we were like, we could sell our clothes here. We put together a business plan that was approved and then we were in that bitch. Andy’s our financial investor, he helps us out and we curate Select Supply. We run everything, bring in the merch, promotions and events. We do both now, we have shoots for Kaemi at the shop and we get to network a lot and have events here.
Yeah it must be really cool to have your own store too because you can really create an experience for people. It’s one thing go have an online store but when people are able to come in, they can listen to the music you play, get a feel for your personalities from the decor and all that.
K: Yeah that’s why, too, we named it something different than Kaemi because it wasn’t the right timing for us to solely have control over a store. Creatively, we just had to change a few aspects of the decor to fit certain vibes and Select Supply was born. Both of us would have wanted something different if we were to have an in-store kaemi experience.
So what does Kaemi mean?
J: It’s a really funny story, it’s basically like our names combined.
K: And also, well I’m half Japanese and you’re a quarter? Yeah we wanted to definitely stick with our Asian heritage because we’re proud of it haha When putting our names together in Japanese, it is a known FIRST NAME ~~ (KAILE+JAMI= KAEMI )
I feel like growing up in Hawaii is so different than growing up on the mainland just because everyone for the most part, is Asian here, most people have Asian last names, even my friends who have blonde hair or pull more white, they’re Chinese or something. What is growing up and being proud of your Asian heritage like in California? It seems like there are just so many racial backgrounds in California in general.
J: Yeah I grew up in Bakersfield, Ca and when I was growing up, it was the third most conservative city in the nation so I was made fun of a lot actually for being Asian. And i was raised in a more liberal home so my views on life were not the same as my friends. It was a lot harder. I look Filipino but no one in Bakersfield knows what Filipino looks like! They would call me Chinese, Japanese, they didn’t know what I was, all they knew was that I looked Asian. I was fine with it and i kinda just had to own it. I was never ashamed of my ethnicity. Once you get to know someone, looks don’t matter. In high school, I was more exotic and I learned to love it.
K: Yeah I think the same thing for me. The only thing I have to say is that since I’m half-Japanese, when I was younger I would remember going to run errands with my mom and people would be like, oh how cute, look at this adopted kid and I’m just looking at my mom like, what?! Am I adopted? Also people would and still ‘til this day come up to me all the time and ask, what are you? Super blunt, acting like I’m an alien or something. I think I started to appreciate having exotic looks more when I went to SF. I started to appreciate it more because there was so much culture that I was like, damn, I’m part of this kind of culture, I liked being different, everyone around me in SF was different.
Yeah and multiply that with how you guys dress, you get to fully become real individuals when you are able to fully embrace yourself. That, in Hawaii, is such a rare thing, a lot of people try to be the same, look the same, be on the same trends. I’ve always been the “weird friend”, like, oh Lindsey? She’s weird. They even threw me an intervention party called “tight and bright” because I always wore black, baggy clothes. I was like, I hate all of you. Yeah but I mean, what’s the whole business side of things like? It must be pretty hard to navigate initially. What have been some struggles you didn’t foresee.
K: We do have a merchandising background, I took marketing, I think you [Jami] took marketing so I mean overall this is not this random for us. We’ve all taken accounting and business, but I think the reason why it works so well overall is our personalities, we are opposite, but it just works.
J: Yeah the only obstacle recently…
K: Was money
J: Yeah is also like trying to balance Select Supply and Kaemi. We’re finally getting into the groove
K: Yeah and not forgetting about Kaemi
J: For the first few months trying to open the store, we kind of neglected Kaemi. Now I think it’s fine. I would say that Kaile is better at the business side than I am.
K: I wouldn’t say that
J: I feel like she’s more on top of things haha I’m a little bit, I’m an aquarius, so I’m like, oh yeah, well do it…
K: Yeah and I’m bugging the shit out of her like, okay we need to do this, this and this haha
J: Yeah we do work well together though
K: Yeah I would say that Jami is better at communication, being able to say what she thinks. I sometimes stumble over my words/ emails, she’s really good at that side of business because she was a buyer so focusing on that, organizing the clothes and stuff, wiring emails, etc. haha I’m a little bit of an awkward person. Our personalities/ pros and cons just all work to coexist together hahaha. Everyone asks me just that, how is it working with a partner? And that is the answer. It’s been a journey.
J: Yeah and we’re still on that journey, we’re not at all where we want to be just yet, we’re not settled yet. But we also understand that it takes time so we’re being patient
K: Yeah and I think that’s the one thing too that we had in mind is that this wasn’t going to happen overnight and we didn’t necessarily want it to happen overnight because we want this to last. We knew it was going to take five, six years, however long.
J: I think also the Internet plays a role of how you can get discouraged, just because you see people blowing up overnight or someone tags someone and all of a sudden, they’re someone haha. I feel like we are just patient and our time, our break or whatever will come when it comes so we just need to keep our heads down and keep working.
So what’re you guys working towards ideally then? I know maybe it’s unforeseeable.
J: We definitely want a Kaemi showroom. We would have a showroom where other designers or celebrities could come pull our clothes for events and stuff, like a studio showroom. Also, we were also talking about having our own talent/modeling agency. We love finding girls on instagram that are very unknown and low key. A lot of the girls we’ve worked with, they’ve gotten so many jobs because of their shoot with us.
K: Yeah, but not the typical runway stuff.
J: Keep styling, we still want to always style but a showroom would be awesome one day.
K: And just become more of like, a grounded brand, so it lasts.
J: Yeah and I mean, our minds might change tomorrow, you never know haha.
That’s the beauty of Kaemi almost, like would you say that Kaemi is more so your creative outlet and then Select Supply is the grounded, business side of things? Is that how it works?
J: Mmmm, yes and no, Select Supply, we have events and there’s other ways for us to be creative here at the store. I think throwing parties/events and doing promotional stuff is fun and allows us to be creative with how we want people to perceive the store.
K: Yeah I feel like they’re both creative ,but creative in different ways. Kaemi can reach people internationally but here, it’s more so those who live in k-town, live in this community, homie type vibes. That’s, again, why we honestly didn’t name it Kaemi because we both agreed that, business wise , that wouldn’t be the best move for us right now.
What have you guys learned about yourselves through this whole process? This is your heart and soul.
J: Ummm let me think about this
K: Yeah Jami met me when, I was still — I don’t know. I’m definitely more confident, I’m more like myself. I think just at the time I met Jami, I wasn’t at my highest peak. While working with her, it’s more like figuring out who I am and what I really want, what I believe in.
J: For me I think it’s about doing what you put your mind to. I’ve grown a stronger work ethic. Kaemi is something that I am very passionate about! I want to see it grow into an empire. When you are working toward something that you want to last forever, it’s a different experience mentally. It’s more challenging, but way more rewarding.
K: Our parents weren’t apart the fashion industry, which has pushed us to be self-made.
J: I think we’ve learned that happiness is freedom.
This is pretty unreal. Like this whole thing, this whole Sukeban thing even and getting to talk to folks like you and from all of this, I gather that everyone is really doing it themselves, it’s like our generation is so DIY oriented because we have to be. It’s crazy to hear what people are doing, what people have done.
K: I think everything happens for a reason and I feel like if you have the right type of energy and you are yourself whole heartedly, then everything will pan out how it’s supposed to.
J: Yeah in the right headspace and stuff?
K: Yeah if you’re genuinely in this industry, you have a good heart, your intentions are good, you want to see your family/ friends do well, then I believe things will work out for you how they are supposed to. One doesn’t have to strain themselves and their natural being, things will fall into place if you are centered in what you want to do if that makes sense.
How would you both define your personal styles in general?
J: I’ve always been eclectic. I have thrift store written all over me. I like to play with silhouettes and color matching. Definitely more funky.
K: You’re like funky.
J: Yeah I’m a little funky.
K: She’s a risk taker. The way she does things — it’s just in her own way haha I’ve never seen anyone else do that.
J: I’m not scared to try new things.
K: Mine is tomboy, but I also love to wear minimal slips, lace, so I don’t know. I’m kind of extreme in that sense haha.
Do you gals feel like through starting Kaemi and everything, has your sense of style changed at all since you’ve always been given a legit reason to develop that because it’s become a part of your jobs?
K: My style has definitely evolved. When I was working for Free People, it was draining being around that sort of style and environment. With that being said, Kaemi has been a breath of fresh air.
J: I don’t think my style has really changed. I feel like I’ve been pretty consistent, even in high school I’d still wear the same clothes. The items have changed, the fabrics I choose have changed but style wise, I’m pretty solid, I feel like I have my own style and I don’t really need to change it.
Do you think style should change or is it more a reflection of your personality?
K: For me, change happened when I was going through rougher times in my life. Figuring out who I was and becoming more confident within myself helped. So I feel like it has to do with moods, personality, like what you find appealing to your body and what makes you feel confident/ comfortable.
J: I think it definitely has to do with personality, I don’t think it’s necessary for someone’s style to change. Style should evolve! But the underlying genre of someone's style should be consistent.
K: Yeah you don’t need to change based on the trends.
What kind of changes would you guys like to see in the fashion industry in general? Especially being in LA it can be super bougie and influenced by Hollywood to a certain extent I imagine.
J: I don’t even go out anymore, especially in LA. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gone out and immediately wanted to go back home. Everyone wants to be this image of something but they are all reflections of each other. Not all- but a lot of them all want to be someone’s muse. False advertising is not appealing to me. Be YOU!
K: Yeah they’re just like suburban LA kids who copy moodboards and then buy designer streetwear haha
J: I think the fashion industry needs more depth. I think there’s too many people trying to be the same thing.
K: I think what the luxury fashion houses are doing is art and I don’t disagree with that, but I wish it could be an easier transition— because that’s so hard to reach in the sense of monetary value, it’s either that or fast fashion without no in-between.
J: I feel like the whole streetwear thing…
K: Needs to die. Lol lol
J: It’s too much. It’s become more pretentious, but it’s just too trendy for me, it’s too try-hard, it’s just too much ego.
K: Yeah and it’s literally a t-shirt with a logo on it. There are over a million brands trying to make it over a t-shirt. For example, people obsess and waste money for the new Supreme drops, it’s just crazy that’s what fashion has become.
Yeah and that’s thing too, it’s an investment in a trend. People are spending money on tee’s and not even on luxury brands when that probably has more insight into a designers head etc.
K: Yeah and for a t-shirt, the kid is just getting it because another celebrity said it was cool. High fashion comes up with collections based off of an idea and their motives are different.
J: Yeah but that’s not to say that all fashion has to be art because obviously we want stuff that’s comfortable too, but I think what Kaile was saying about the fact that there has to be a more steady transition, from runway to ready to wear.
K: Yeah, but of course people want it in mass quantities, that’s just America, that’s just how this country was built — the faster you can get it, the better, the cheaper, that part in itself is screwed.
Have you guys ever thought about relocating ever?
K: I would love to be bi-coastal. I don't know where I want to live for the rest of my life, but I would love Kaemi to be bi-coastal or even located in Asia.
J: My boyfriend and I have always talked about moving back to the bay, San francisco, once we really want to settle down and honestly, I want to stay in California. I’m a California girl. But we shall see where this journey takes me.
K: Yeah even next year I’m moving to the outskirts of Los Angeles.
J: We’re both in K-town right now, we both live in K-town and it’s a little clustered. I’ve never lived in an apartment building until now and I really hate it. I need space.
Just to wrap it up, what advice do you have for anyone who’d stumble across this article about taking a risk?
J: I think that you should follow what your heart is telling you to do and these days, I feel like it’s easier to be in the creative field because if you’re really passionate about it and you follow what you want to do, it’ll fall into place. You’re gonna live with that determination to make it work. Also, I want everyone to be themselves because that’s all you have is yourself, you have to use what you know about yourself to get you through. Don’t rely on confirmation of others. Passion, determination, heart and being true to yourself is what’s really going to make someone successful.
K: I would not be able to do this without Jami. I’m not saying that you have to have a business partner, but find a creative team that is like family, who has the same morals and values as you, and who also want to see you succeed. I think more people should team up with like minded people.
Yeah in regards to that, there’s also so much perceived animosity and like a weird sense of competition instead of being like, girl, what you’re doing is rad. People need to embrace each other.
J: Yeah like leave your ego at the door, if you want to get anywhere, you need to get that chip off your shoulder.
K: In this industry, your true self is always going to show. People who are their true selves are going to see right through that and that’s where you either progress or get lost in all of this.
J: Lost in the sauce.
See Jami & Kaile's Girls by Girls feature here