Creating is a way of life for Jessica McKie, founder and designer at Sködia.
McKie’s story began in Melbourne, Australia, a place of beauty, color, nature and four seasons — sometimes all in one day. We talked with Jessica and her business partner Fernando Martinez over the phone from their new home and studio in Hudson. “I was very sporty growing up,” says Jess. She explains how she was exposed to the art of patternmaking and sewing from a young age. “Our mom made our clothes, pajamas. I danced when I was little, and she made our uniforms, and I watched her. As I got older, I thought, ‘Why buy this when I can make it myself?’”
Which is exactly what she decided to do. During her time at the Whitehouse Institute of Design, McKie honed her skills and developed the concept and business plan for what would become the brand she leads today: Sködia.
“The business plan I wrote in college ended up being similar to the official one,” McKie says. “But when I graduated, I wanted experience in the industry, so I moved to New York.” There, she continued to work on the concept and designs, alongside working full time at Creatures of Comfort and Opening Ceremony, where she met Fernando Martinez, the man that would go on to become her business partner and husband. The two have collaborated and built the brand together, the result of which is four successive collections of soft, simple, but very wearable pieces with oversized cuts and unique drapes. Skodia describes their approach as “Fundamental, wearable pieces alongside unique fabrication that can be worn together in a uniform mentality.”
The outcome is an array of well made, mix and match pieces that can be worn out to a nice brunch, to catch a flight, or to relax at home in pure comfort. “Construction is really important to me,” says Jessica. “We do all the patterns and fitting ourselves in our showrooms. What I design is very personal to things I like to wear. When I’m designing the collection, I want each piece to be matched with any other piece. You can wear any of the bottoms with any of the tops or vice versa.”
Part of the pairability of Sködia’s collections lie in their unique color palettes. “We were just in Italy, those pastel pinks and forest greens, and took a lot of pictures,” she explains. “We travel a lot. Sometimes it’s just back home, and I’ll travel around Australia for inspiration, or just when I’m on production or designing in my studio. Sometimes I find it when I’m cooking, in the colors and shapes of what we eat. Inspiration is everywhere.”
McKie approaches each collection with a fresh eye and new perspective without putting restrictions on herself. She is constantly drawing and making, pulling from whatever she feels at a given time, filtered through what is wearable and functional. The majority of Sködia is unisex, but there are women-focused pieces as well, notably seen on a number of celebrities this past year, such as Kylie Jenner in pink, Cara Delevingne in green, and, no surprise, Rihanna in all white.
But far beyond celebrity caché, at the heart of the Sködia brand, is a desire to ensure each step in their process is thoughtful, ethical, and sustainable. From design processes to the factory they work hand-in-hand with, this is of utmost important to Sködia. When the brand first began, they convinced a Brooklyn factory to take on their small order with the assurance that, in the near future, their orders would be much bigger. “We’ve been with our factory since the very beginning,” says McKie. “They have been working with us since we were very small, which is rare. And now they are allowing us to scale.” Scale they have, but all while creating each entire collection using slow-fashion practices, ensuring their materials and processes have the lowest environmental and consumer impact possible.
While this may be perceived as purely a marketing strategy to some, we commend any company that is making an effort to do their part. The clothing industry is currently the second largest polluter in the world, and Sködia is not only operating sustainably but using their voice to speak out. “It’s something I’m really passionate about,” Jess explains. “I have a lot of to say in terms of the production industry and would like to be more of a spokesperson on the benefits of slow-fashion. The movement is becoming insanely big. Some people might not know if they just look at the clothing. If it’s made in an ethical way and constructed really well, hopefully people will buy a little smarter. Right now I can’t change the world, but I can change my own brand and my approach, and hopefully we can promote it as a brand.”
This philosophy of seeking creativity and operating with intention carries into Jess and Fernando’s commitment to live an inspired life all around, which recently led them to move to Hudson. “We just moved to upstate New York to find inspiration,” remarks Fernando. “You forget there is actual space to breathe. Being up here and experiencing the winter is going to inspire us.”
Alongside all that inspiration is a good deal of hard work and keeping things tight. Sködia is a small team, which has grown slowly, so as to maintain quality and focus. But when you make products like these, the word is bound to get out. And the word is spreading. And the business is growing.
Growth will likely continue. “There is still a theme every season that plays out in the color pallette and whatever inspiration we are going for. Sködia is more of a way of living. I would love to make pillows and hand towels. I make a lot of clothes for our friends with babies, so Sködia baby is something we are considering. We are ever-changing, and when you are a creative person, you can be involved in so many elements that end up inspiring something new.”
The two also work on a unique project or collaboration every season. They have an exclusive cap for SS17 designed for Opening Ceremony in bubblegum pink. They are also considering a prefall or resort collection alongside potential runway plans.
However the brand continues to evolve and wherever the journey takes Jess and Fernando, their continued success will be due in no small part to their commitment to creating quality, colorful, consciously-made clothing that makes you feel like you’re wrapped in a cloud.
See the collections and places to shop here, and to see more in person, make an appointment to visit their New York City showroom.