Fashion x Plants x Lust Survey: Kuwaii’s Kristy Barber

Not only is Kristy Barber the genius behind cult Melbourne slow-fashion label Kuwaii, she’s a green-thumbed woman of plants. Growing up amid the floral abundance of her mothers cottage garden, Kristy’s plant love has followed her from the country to the city, from the garden of her childhood to the floral fabric she creates for her designs. With a focus on local production and considered design, all Kuwaii’s clothing and shoes are made within just 15 kilometers of their head office. Slow, local fashion made with love. Right on!

Kristy Barber, founder of Kuwaii

Can you please tell us a little about your life, with plants? I grew up in the reclaimed swamp land and potato farming territory of Koo Wee Rup in Victoria. Our modest family home was surrounded by a cottage garden lovingly created by my mother and featuring over 100 old fashioned and David Austin scented roses. Then there was lavender, foxgloves, lupins, salvias and penstemons, irises and bulbs, with arches and arbours covered in climbing roses. This garden famously won the Yakerboo Festival’s Best Garden competition in the early 90s!

I often think of those beautiful flowers and wonder if the colours I use now in my ranges for Kuwaii are a subconscious reference to my childhood garden. I considered myself a black thumb until ten years ago when I moved into my current home and developed an obsession with pot plants, and now have an abundant and amazing selection of plants in my courtyard.

Can you please tell us about your business, Kuwaii? Kuwaii opened ten years ago in Brunswick, it’s my business and I still independently own and run it. We are all made in Melbourne, in fact everything is made within 15kms of our head office! We have a footwear range too, which proudly is made in a factory in Abbotsford.

My whole premise of starting a brand was to offer something that could be an alternative to fast fashion, something that was made slowly, carefully and with love. This is still my number one priority.”

We now have three stores and twelve people on our payroll.

What threads are you lusting over right now? The new Kuwaii collection for spring summer 2018-2019. Featuring another floral print, this one a collaboration with amazing artist Jordy Kerwick and created in his amazing painterly style.

What plants are you lusting over? I’m obsessed with any tall tree for inside that is angular yet shapely. Like a standard olive tree, or a giant rubber plant.

What’s your earliest plant memory? Smelling the roses in my mum’s garden.

Green thumb or black thumb? Explain. BOTH!  If you saw my garden you would think I’m a green thumb BUT my secret is survival of the fittest – only the strong survive.

Love and/or lust? Discuss. Love, I’m just that kinda gal.

Favourite plant inspired fashion/fabric? Well, I have to choose Kuwaii’s last summer photo-real print featuring a floral arrangement by Cecilia Fox and photographed and printed onto the softest Viscose. It’s sublime.

Lovemaking outdoors. Yes/No? Explain. No…I’m too cold blooded for that. Sheepskin in front of the fire please!

If you were a plant, what would you be? Alyssum. A quiet achiever and pretty hard to kill.

Check out Kuwaii’s WEBSITE / INSTAGRAM /FACEBOOK to lust over their threads and treads.

Kuwaii AW18 campaign. Image by Daniel Gurton
Kuwaii AW18 campaign. Image by Daniel Gurton
Kuwaii AW18 campaign. Image by Daniel Gurton
Kuwaii Smith St store. Image by Nicholas Wilkins