Jesse Kamm and her beloved waist-hugging, wide-legged “Kamm pants” embody minimalism. A proponent of producing fewer, better things, Kamm has committed to supporting local craftspeople by making all of her garments in Los Angeles and prioritizing the use of environmentally conscientious materials. This all makes sense within the context of Kamm’s upbringing in a farming and manufacturing town in Illinois, where she was raised by her mother and father—both curious and creative hippies—in a passive solar house they built themselves. The former model turned fashion designer, who spends time in both L.A., where she works, and Panama, where she surfs, lives truly luxuriously by being hyper-protective of her schedule.
Kamm maintains that the currency she trades in is freedom, but her life hasn’t always been so balanced. After arriving in L.A. in her early 20s to pursue a modeling career, she quickly lost control and felt stripped bare by the pressures of the industry (and a consequential eating disorder). Living off of cottage cheese and cigarettes, and unhappy with who she had become, she stepped away from the runway and decided she instead wanted to make something. Kamm signed up for sewing classes, started producing her own clothes, and taught herself the ins and outs of running a business. Soon after, she was selling pants for $500 to women in line at a local coffee shop. Since unveiling her first collection, in 2005, she has created a bubble for herself by abstaining from fashion blogs and fancy industry events. Instead, Kamm focuses on her own projects; she spends time with her husband, Lucas Brower, and their 10-year-old son, Julien; and hangs out for three months a year by the Panama ocean, where she and Luke have built their own home.
On this week’s episode of Time Sensitive, Kamm talks with Andrew Zuckerman about the essential quality of being a present parent, explains how she has hit upon a sustainable work-life stride, and discusses why she has no intentions of expanding her business beyond its current scale.