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Kelly Urban

AMO is a thoroughly modern line but also references the heyday of vintage denim in sunny California, capturing a freewheeling spirit that imbues this LA-based brand. Kelly Urban, the co-founder and designer of AMO, has the recipe down: she keeps every season of their essential wardrobe staples fresh with a level of cool that’s just baked in. The result is a lived-in air that looks as good as it feels.

Things are a little different right now, we’re in an unprecedented time…where are you getting inspiration from and how are you staying motivated these days?
 Honestly, it has been tough to stay creative during this time.  As an independent brand (we do not have investors or other owners besides Misty & myself who founded AMO together in 2014) most of my energy since this crisis hit has been spent on trying to keep our business alive.  I’ve been spending my days applying for loans, talking to accountants and financial advisers, making cash flow projections…all of the not so fun but extremely necessary things a business needs to do to get through these difficult times.  I was feeling guilty for a while, not being able to design the next season as my creative brain kind of shut down as I went into survival mode.  I have since just accepted this and tell myself that my focus is where it should be.  I will get back to that creative side once things normalize a bit.

Speaking of…you’re definitely the right person to ask this question—are you wearing jeans during quarantine?? What’s your daily uniform?
 At first no, I was living in sweatpants like everyone else I’m sure!  During the first few weeks I’d just roll straight out of bed, open up my laptop and get to work.  Then all of a sudden it would be 2PM, and I’d still be sitting at my desk at home in my pajamas/sweats trying to remember if I even brushed my teeth yet!  Eventually that routine along with the stress of everything started taking a toll on my mental health, and so I make an effort to get dressed every morning although with a focus much more on comfort…relaxed jeans, paperbag pants (ours have an elastic waist!), maxi knits dresses, and yes, sometimes still sweats. Getting dressed for the day makes me feel a bit more normal, and I’m definitely in a better mood when I’m wearing something that I feel good in.

Can you tell us about how living in LA and the denim industry at large (which is truly headquartered here) influences your creative process?
 Living and working here is everything.  We are so connected to the product we make and the people who make it.  Even now I’m talking to our contractors and wash houses weekly…not because we are actually sewing or washing anything but just to check in and see how each other are doing.  We have a very personal relationship with all our vendors – they are like extended family.  Our office is located in the fashion district of DTLA and all our contractors are within a 8 miles radius from there.  I think it’s extremely important to know who makes your clothes and how those clothes are made. Visiting factories regularly allows us to ensure quality but more importantly that clothing is made ethically and responsibly.  It definitely helps the creative process too, as I can talk about ideas directly with the person who is making them…whether it be an idea for a new denim wash, or the pocket placement on a pair of jeans.  Having that close relationship is really instrumental to what we do and how we create.

Your collection is so wearable and is chock full of perfect pieces. You seem to have a unique knack for creating jeans that are actually comfortable and that people want to throw on first thing out of bed (like in the movies!!), what’s your secret?
 I think it’s sort of a selfish, personal desire to make clothes that I myself want to wear!  I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl, always have been, and I love using natural fabrics like cotton, linen etc.  I can’t stand the feeling of polyester on my skin…and I really think that quality natural fabrics are more comfortable to wear.  So, when designing I always start with the fabric.  And as far as silhouettes, it’s very intuitive, I don’t overthink it.  Each season I ask myself, “What item do I want to wear that I don’t already have in my closet?”  For example, this Spring we introduced the Roller Jean which is a relaxed, baggy jean style with a higher waist and long inseam with a rolled hem.  I noticed that most of the jeans in my closet were cropped at the ankle (which I still love), but I wanted something that was a longer inseam, and a silhouette with a bit more volume. So, the Roller Jean was born, and it’s on heavy rotation during these quarantine days because it’s so very comfortable.

Tell us more about the new REWORK collection!
 REWORK started with a desire to create something new using zero new materials, only using deadstock past season styles and fabrics. Sometimes challenges like these really bring out the best part of your creative side as you really have to experiment which is fun!  We took old styles that were just sitting in boxes on shelves, cut them up, sewed them back together in new ways and realized what worked and what didn’t. REWORK is a true labor of love and a small part of our ongoing effort to minimize waste while creating a beautiful product that is made in Los Angeles.

Who was your last Zoom / Facetime with?
 Our sales team, who are based in NY and LA.  We have weekly calls just to say hi and catch up.  We all have kids so most of the time we’re talking about how homeschool is going.  
What are some of your daily particulars that you always put on (jewelry, accessories…etc.)?
 Right now as weird as it may sound, I’m putting on perfume every day.  It’s like a mood booster and the floral scent reminds me that Summer is coming. But I also love jewelry and shoes… although I’m barefoot most days at my desk right now!

With summer on the horizon, what’s next for AMO?
 I’m very excited about our new summer collection, although it may ship closer to pre-fall the way things are working out with deliveries right now.  I actually think that’s a good thing.  I never understood this fashion calendar of shipping shorts and tank tops in early April where even in LA it’s still cooler.  I think so many people (myself included) follow the buy now, wear now model and I see fashion shifting in that direction which I am very excited about.  The Summer collection has so many pieces that I’m dying to wear right now, like overdyed drapey army pants with an elastic waist, Denim Paperbag Shorts, oversized lightweight denim jackets perfect for layering, a jumpsuit in hot pink acid wash – sounds crazy I know but it’s so cute! And knit colors in pale wearable pastels like surf blue and bare – a nude that looks great paired with denim.  I can’t wait to be able to launch it (hopefully soon)!