Keneena of Kablooie Store – Be Bold

Keneena wearing one of her dresses from “The Eyes On Me” collection

These Pretzels Print Dress

Saying I’m a huge fan of Keneena from the Kablooie Store is an understatement. Her bold, unique and colourful designs adorn classic silhouettes and easy to wear garment making us feel uplifted and happy. I can guarantee you are going to get noticed if you’re wearing one of Keneena’s creations. Running a small and expanding business with three kids is a challenge many of us are intimidated by, however Keneena gets on with it balancing all things that need to be done between school hours. I adore Keneena’s collaborative vision to work with different designers and creatives to create prints and accessories which are for the bold at heart and wear their heart on their sleeve.

I’m intrigued by the brand name Kablooie Store, how did you come up with that?

Ha, well when I first started my business I had the picture of clothing that was an explosion of colour and fun. Kablooie kinda means an explosion, a splat or a splot. You would say ‘It went Kablooie!!’, if something exploding or went crazy. This is reflected in my logo too, which looks a bit like the aftermath of a colourful explosion, a splat of rainbow colours! I wanted to evoke the feeling of a wild explosion of colourful fashion for people who loved bold, quirky clothing and loved having fun with fashion.

Tell us a little about your background did you intend on having a print-based fashion brand?

Ha! No. I always loved art and design, and I learnt to sew with my Mum, but I studied economics and business at Uni and spent years working in the public sector in strategic financing and budget negotiations. But, after I had my three children, during a break from work, I bought a sewing machine and started rediscovering my love of sewing again. I started Kablooie purchasing fabric from retail stores but my brand quickly evolved into what its becoming today, a fashion brand showcasing independent Australian surface pattern designers in really big, bold crazy prints that I love.

What is your working day like, how do you balance all the small and large tasks required as part of running of a small business?

Wow, well each day looks different, and I try to squeeze the main part of my work into the school day, after I drop off my three young kids. These days it often starts with admin, emails and bookkeeping, following up customer queries and checking supplies, the essential behind the scenes stuff of running a business. Up until this year I worked completely solo, but business growth has meant I have someone help me remotely for a couple of hours a week with website admin and postage, as well as three wonderful seamstresses who work with me every week to get orders completed from the fabric I hand cut myself.

Some days I’ll spend the entire time cutting fabric for orders and others I’ll be checking completed sewing, packing it up and getting it in the post. I try to squeeze time out for strategy and planning, collaborations, social media and email marketing, connecting with my customers in my facebook group, and also helping to admin the Mums with Hustle biz club, a fabulous facebook group for mums in business on facebook and I’m always researching and developing my next round of designs, products and collections. I often use a timer for 25 minute sessions so that I stay focused and don’t get lost doing one thing over another (And yep, I’m using a timer right now, hehe!)

Can you tell us a little bit about your design and manufacture process?

I have a range of collections, and some of those are made with pre-printed fabric that I choose and purchase wholesale.  My main collections though are created using surface pattern designs that I commission for my brand or purchase outright from designers. I love working with Ellie Whittaker, who has created many of my most popular designs. We start with a concept and style and colour swatches, and end with an incredible set of designs that are beautifully on brand for me. It can be a difficult process to work through but it’s amazing seeing something become reality from swirling ideas in your head!

I aim to keep an Australian feel to my collections, and to be on brand, the designs must be big, oversized, gigantic even! as well as full of vibrant, full colour and quirkiness. I then work with Next State (Fatima is amazing!) to test the designs on fabric, then print what I need to fill orders.

Your Instagram is so fun and full of life, your ability to engage with clients directly creates a real sense of excitement for your brand, how important do you feel that connection to your customer is?

It’s so so crucial! One of the primary aims of my brand is for people to walk away happy, for their clothes to make them smile and give their mood a lift. Being able to understand what people love, and provide them with friendly, professional customer service is a huge part of running my business. I see social media as a way to connect with my community, to learn what they love, hang out with them and enjoy connecting, and entertain and delight them (as well as tempt them with fabulous things, hehe!)

Your garments are adorned with prints by some of our best local textile designers, you must feel like a kid in a candy store with the amount of great design out there, how do you narrow it down and what makes a particular print speak to you?

That’s EXACTLY how I feel! One of my favourite things to do is gaze at designs and colours and fabric for hours in the name of ‘research’! Narrowing it down has happened gradually, and as my brand keeps evolving, I choose designs that fit what I’m trying to create. I very quickly learnt that what I wanted was really noticeably oversized designs, often everyday objects and food, in bright vibrant colours, that make people look twice because they’re something they didn’t expect to see.i search for a particular colour palette, strong, bold designs, and I don’t bother looking at anything that doesn’t fit my scale preferences.  I tend to love prints that are not too vector based, they are more complex or appear more random in their groupings rather than all set out in a grid. Again, chaos and colour!

What’s next for Kablooie?

More, more and more! My focus this year is to consolidate my suite of designs, particularly local designers, while continuing to have fun in the side with custom, limited edition creations that indulge my love of vintage fabric and hunting down fabric treasures. My custom work also really helps me connect with my customer base and gauge what they love. I’ll continue to work on selecting incredible designs and I’d love to explore a wider variety of fabric types over the next year.

Head over to Keenena’s Kablooie Store here to see her wonderful range of garments and accessories.