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Melbourne label Kahe is prioritising thoughtful tailoring

PHOTOGRAPHY BY Skye Sobejko

WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

“I am passionate about fits, quality fabrics and the duality of the garment.”

Eight years ago, Melbourne-based designer Kacy Heywood threw herself headfirst into a new creative endeavour; creating footwear and garments from scratch. Entirely self-taught, Kacy learnt the tricks of her trade by pulling apart discarded clothing and obsessively watching YouTube tutorials.

Had she known how difficult the process of establishing her label Kahe would be, she says she “would have never begun”. But it’s her unconventional approach to design that’s made her label successful and has helped her acquire an intimate knowledge of garment construction.


For more fashion news, shoots, articles and features, head to our Fashion section.


After years of blood, sweat and tears, Kacy is now able to support herself through Kahe and the Melbourne clothing store she co-founded and is the creative director of, Error 404.

Her multi-functional, exquisitely tailored designs are released in low volume amounts, and the popularity of her drops is a testament to the versatility and enduring appeal of her garments. Below, she shares her journey in establishing her label, and what’s exciting her in Australian and international fashion lately.

Tell us about you. What’s your fashion background? 

 

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I am a self-taught designer that started in footwear and then moved to garments and creative direction. My education process was through the execution of my label Kahe that I began eight years ago. 

How did the label get started? Talk us through the process and the challenges. 

Naivety and youth was a huge catalyst for the label! I was 25 and finally accepted myself as an individual. The realisation that I am the only one living my life really struck [me]. So I started to live by this. The desire to create garments was/is innate. I partnered with my talented friend Robyn Daly who took photos and we created an exhibition together.

 

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Of course, we didn’t have any right of passage to a gallery, so we took a gallery’s storage room that had a roller door onto Gore Street [in] Fitzroy. We displayed Robyn’s images of my garments with my garments. Julia, who owned Melbourne’s iconic store Dagma Rousette, was walking her dog and stumbled across our humble pop-up/exhibition. She purchased a few pieces and asked me to stock with her. This was the beginning. I had no idea what I was doing! 

 

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This was in 2014. I honestly was making everything up. My patterns were made from newspapers. I taught myself by pulling apart old clothes, ironing them and drawing around that. I had no idea what grain, bias or salvage of fabric was. The next four years led to many tears and panic attacks! Stopping and starting again. Google and YouTube became my best friends and I was obsessed with teaching myself everything I needed to know to facilitate my creative outlet.

 

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It is only these past two years that I have not needed another job. I have worked in bars or cafes full time and pretty much spent all my money on Kahe because I loved doing it so much. If you want to be a designer and don’t come from financial security, then you absolutely have to do it for the love. You are tricking yourself if you think you are going to make money. That comes later… like 10 years later. 

What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has this evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now? 

 

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My first ever collection was called Return Investment. It was based on the idea that there is no such thing as true altruism. I also wanted to provoke thought in the consumer [to consider] why they are consuming. What is their return going to be on purchasing a Kahe piece?

As time has gone on the philosophical side has died down and the more pragmatic approach to creating a collection has strengthened. For example, I am passionate about fits, quality of fabrics and also [the] duality of the garment. This ultimately will give back more tangibly and hopefully lessen consumer waste

How would you describe Kahe to someone who’s never seen it before? 

Kahe is a predominantly womenswear label that focuses on practical beauty. Pieces are inherently inspired by the working class, using mainly suiting and denim. 

Where did the name come from?

KAcy HEywood 😉

What are you most proud of in your work on your label? 

 

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The tailoring. I worked really hard to make a unique piece to flatter a body comfortably. 

What do you wish you knew when you started? 

I am happy [with] how everything went. If I knew how hard it was going to be I would have never begun. If I went to uni and was taught their way, I feel I wouldn’t have acquired the intimate knowledge of construction I have now. 

Who do you think is most exciting in Australian fashion right now?

Dion Lee and Laura and Deanna Fanning are cutting some serious international recognition at the moment and they deserve it! 

What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change?

 

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Tough question. I feel like I am such a tiny tiny part of the industry and I am not too sure if my perception of it is correct. I do think, like any industry, it is linked with social and economic issues and can be used as a platform to guide change. However, I also think Australia is a backwards and stubborn country that tends to give way to conformity. 

Dream Australian collaborators? 

I would really love to collaborate with Qantas and design the flight attendants’ uniforms! 

Who is in your wardrobe right now? 

 

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I love discovering independent low volume and locally produced designers that are in different countries. At the moment I have a few pieces from Serapis Maritime which is a label from Athens, 604service which is a label from Seoul, Vitelli from Milan and Jimmy D from New Zealand. I also wear quite a bit of Kahe because essentially I do design for myself. I also wear local labels Posture Studio, AMC, Polychrome, Veils of Cirrus and Be Right Back. 

How can we buy one of your pieces? 

I am stocked at Error 404 which is in Fitzroy North, Melbourne. Otherwise, Fysika in Ishikawa, Japan and That Looks in Auckland, New Zealand. 

Check out Kahe’s designs here.

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