US actor and pilot Patrick Dempsey has just taken a new step in fashion. During the January 2019 edition of Pitti Uomo, Ka/Noa, a newborn 100% Made in Italy menswear brand, announced that Dempsey has become partner of the brand.
Co-founders Bruno Grande, an expert insider of the fashion industry, and his wife Valerie Servageon Grande, a Swiss watch industry insider, made the announcement in the presence of their new shareholder and friend.
The brand, founded in 2017, offers a 100% made in Italy high-quality menswear total look manufactured by highly specialized Italian artisans and manufacturers only and employs exclusively Italian fabrics, trimmings and accessories. Its name is a blend of the Grandes’ children’s names, Kaia and Noah, as a tribute and hope that future generations will bring ahead their father’s expertise as tailor for the years to come.
Ka/Noa offers a vast series of timeless high-quality, easy-to- mix (and pack) basic pieces. In addition to tailor-made suits and pieces, it makes knitwear, jeanswear (made with Candiani Denim fabrics), jerseys, leather jackets, outer jackets, footwear and accessories. A pair of jeans is sold at retail for €184 and a lighweight denim shirt at €174. The brand is now selling through Ka/Noa Boutiques in Zurich, Lausanne and Crans-Montana, and online through the kanoaitalia.com or the rake.com websites. A new monobrand store might open in Italy, probably in Milan, after 2019.
Patrick Dempsey explained to SI why he took this new step in his career.
We have just learned you have become partner of the menswear brand Ka/Noa. How did it all start?
As I am also a racing driver, I have been working with Valerie, Bruno Grande’s wife, with Tag Heuer for over five years. Then she brought to my attention what Bruno was up to. We began discussions in May 2018 and, of course, I checked out the line and was strongly impressed by Ka/Noa’s approach and brand values, and was amazed by its quality and attention to details. As a very detail-focused person, I have a strong connection to the brand’s products, philosophy, and most importantly, the people driving it, along with a deep respect for all that has been achieved since its creation a year ago. And as there was an opportunity to come and be a partner, I jumped and took the chance.
Did you always have a passion for fashion, beauty or cosmetics or did that all start only very recently?
Not exactly. Speaking about cosmetics, Jillian, my wife, has her own cosmetics line and I understand what it means to have a family business that we are investing in and is running quite well.
I enjoy being involved in this project this much on a practical level too as I go out, I travel, I check the quality of the material that is durable. I don’t want this brand to offer something that is good for only one season. I want something that has some soul and some craftsmanship.
Through this experience I’m learning. I’m learning a philosophy, I’m learning through different things and through all the expert people I am meeting working at it. And I am growing as a person. And that’s what the brand is about.
You always had a passion for handmade products and care for quality since you were very young. Can you tell us about it?
I was grown in Maine, in Lewiston-Auburn, an area where once there were many manufacturing companies. My mother used to work in a rug company. I liked manual work a lot, that kind of engagement to make products that are unique and highly valuable. That was the first thing that counted for me as a boy growing up. After some years I returned there and found out that that carpet company had closed and that city almost didn’t exist anymore as most of those companies had closed.
When I met Bruno I thought it was a great opportunity that could help keeping alive that kind of craftsmanship, expertise and ability. Plus it was a family business, something I also strongly believe in, something which is characteristic of the European industry and needs to be preserved and supported.
I have always had a dream to make my own brand. When I met Bruno that dream could become true.
I was very fortunate as in the past I worked with great designers, great stylists and I have been looking for doing something like this for a number of years, but I needed to find right factories, taking care of distribution and things like these. By getting in touch with Bruno and Valerie, I can feel there is a kind of chemistry. We spent our Christmas holidays skiing in the mountains and spent great time together with our families. We share many common passions. Plus this project is organic, is authentic and it’s been really exciting and fun.
You are also a race driver. Do you also wear sportswear in your leisure time and life? Is this brand also offering sportswear?
Yes. As we have just spent our recent Christmas holidays skiing, we are already planning ideas for including products that can support our lifestyle. We do a lot of cycling, we work out, we walk, we ski. For this we are studying how our brand can support all that we do. We want to develop clothes that are functional, though fashionable.
Do you also wear jeanswear and offer it in Ka/Noa?
This morning I have actually tried on some prototypes of jeans we have been working on recently and look great. Our aim is to also enlarge our denim offer for next seasons.
In which percentage are you involved in this project and company?
I own part of the company but Bruno is controlling it, because it is his creation and his idea. Though Valerie is the boss!
To me it is right I have a share as Bruno has the knowledge. For me being partner and owning a share is not important. What is important is to support his dream.
Are you also going to design or contribute part of the collection?
I am already designing that, in fabric choices, colors, lines, styles, [and make sure it is] all working together, but, yes, I am very active in that.
Where do you get your inspiration when working for Ka/Noa brand?
Travel, observation, literature, nature...I listen to people and watch what’s going on in the street. I look at what I need. It comes from everywhere. And then I put everything together in a mood board where I keep all my ideas. Things like that are inspiring me. And I also share them with Bruno and Bruno does the same with me.
Could you also start offering womenswear?
This brand has a unisex quality too. The sweater that Valerie is wearing, for instance, is from our collection as well. It’s just a question of capitalizing on our energies. By now we need to focus on one thing at a time and then will look at the next level. That is something we are certainly looking towards in the future, but we are working mostly on menswear right now.