Story By Kerry Ssemugenyi
Kennedy Velikonja’s work sits somewhere between the fields of craft, fashion and Illustration. Born and raised in London, Velikonja now spends most of the year in New York where she attends Parsons School of Design specializing in Illustration. She has recently merged her love for drawing with her love for fashion to create Kenny Veli, a brand of colorfully printed Italian silk scarves. While still nostalgic of the past, the scarves carry a refreshingly modern twist. Characterized with shapes and spirited colors that are ultimately vibrant interpretations of everyday life. The “Luck Of The Draw” scarf is a translation of a pool table in her family home, “The Picnic at Noon” scarf is inspired by her summer days spent on the beach in Port Franks. Her approach to drawings is fresh, uninhibited, and almost always joyfully quirky in subject matter. Here, Kennedy recalls her discovery of illustration and how she made the leap from college student to entrepreneur.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME AN ILLUSTRATOR?
I have always loved art growing up, even in kindergarten I had a space labeled “Kennedy's Corner” covered in drawings that my teacher would hang up. I’ve always loved to draw but had never thought about art as a career. When high school came along and I needed to apply for post-secondary, I was drawn to graphic design but found it a bit too structured in contrast to my love for free drawing. I never had a moment when I felt I wanted to be an illustrator, I just fell into it, guided by by my love for art.
WHAT INITIATED THE SCARF CONCEPT?
I had the idea for about a year ago. I have always loved fashion but never thought fashion design and illustration could be combined. I started thinking about patterns and I started drawing them. Ever since I was little I was stealing my mom’s scarves – I loved just tying them up and creating outfits. A year ago I made one scarf for myself. This summer I didn't want to get a job and work for someone else, so I decided to start this business and see where it goes before I graduate.
WAS IS SCARY TO PUT YOUR WORK OUT THERE?
Kinda, especially because I didn’t show anyone my designs while I was making them. The first time everyone saw everything was when I launched. Hopefully it's something I can continue. I want to expand into fashion but also home goods. A little bit of everything. I feel like illustration can be applied to almost anything, so i'm excited to see what that would look like for me.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST UNEXPECTED REWARD FOR PURSUING THIS?
The most unexpected reward for me has been the genuine support and interest my family members and friends have shown me. It can be scary when you decide to do exactly what you want and send it out for the whole world to see!
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CUSTOMER?
Anybody – depending on how you style the scarves! It can be muted – just around your neck – or you can create a whole patterned outfit. Even my boyfriend wants one of my scarves; I don't know how he's gonna style them but maybe he'll make an appearance on our Instagram!
I’m really excited about styling the scarves. I think I have planned out 100 different ways to tie them, wrap them, and wear them. That's what I what to share, ideas. I also want people to post how they wear them. I feel like the go-to is wrap around your hair or wear around your neck, but then you only wear it once every month or so. I think it's something you can style into a skirt or shirt, or even wrap them around your bag.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS ABOUT LONDON?
I used to not like it very much when I lived here full time, but it’s always nice when I come back. There's a familiarity. It's nice and serene to come back to from the bustle of New York. I love it most in the summer because I get to go to the beach, it’s so close.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT ILLUSTRATION?
I love the freedom that comes with illustration; the humour and quirkiness.
I’m also interested in creating children's books, but I’m intimidated by the idea because I've never considered myself a writer. I took a a children's book writing course and it kinda forced me to explore the idea a little more.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU THE MOST?
It's always changing! Recently we got a pool table, so one of my scarves is game themed. I love playing cards and pool. [Inspiration] is always something that I can definitely relate to, something that I find beautiful. I love drawing shapes. Sometimes I like to draw detailed things and sometimes I just want to draw big dark circles.
WHERE ARE YOU LOCAL? (FOOD/DRINK,ETC)
Sushi for lunch – always – at Ozen or Sakata. I like to go to Locomotive for espresso. I also just discovered Rebel Remedy this summer and they have amazing juices and smoothies. I’m big on liquids.
WHAT IS ONE QUESTION YOU WISH PEOPLE ASKED YOU MORE OFTEN?
I’m pretty shy and quiet, so my first instinct is to say I don’t wish for anymore questions from anyone! However, I do love when people take an interest in my work and ask me about something I’ve made or what I’m working on.