Olia Kerzhner wasn’t having any luck finding the perfect hoodie. As someone who moved to the Pacific Northwest to be closer to the rain and overcast days, she was hunting for a daily staple, …
Olia Kerzhner wasn’t having any luck finding the perfect hoodie. As someone who moved to the Pacific Northwest to be closer to the rain and overcast days, she was hunting for a daily staple, and coming up empty.
“I just couldn’t find like a nice, simple, classic, hoodie,” she said during a recent conversation.
Her criteria? “100 percent cotton and high quality.”
Unable to find something she wanted to wear, in 2016 Kerzhner decided to make her own.
A friend and former colleague, Brendan Melville, who had also worked at Google as a software engineer, was immediately curious about the process.
“I was really passionate about it, and he was really supportive,” Kerzhner said. “We kinda took the designer approach to hoodies,” she said, laughing.
Kerzhner had never sewn a stitch until she started Kiss the Rain, her hoodie business.
“That’s my personal love letter to the Pacific Northwest,” she said of her choice. “I moved here for the rain.”
Determined to understand the process from the pattern up, Kerzhner actually bought multiple sewing machines and taught herself sewing while her hoodie prototypes were in the works in Los Angeles.
“We’re very committed to ‘Made in the USA,’” she said. The zippers are made in the US too, and the garments are made and dyed in LA before being shipped to Port Townsend, where Kerzhner has lived for six years now.
For such a basic wardrobe essential, the process of building a hoodie from scratch was time-consuming. “How is any of it even done?” she asked herself.
She had no idea.
Off Kerzhner went on an information gathering mecca. She headed to Seattle, her former home, where she paid a professional sewer $200 for three hours of non-stop questions. Then she headed to LA in her camper van with her beloved French bulldog, visiting fabric mills, zipper studios, designers, and dye houses.
“Garment dyeing,” she said, “is a whole other layer of complication.”
Just as she’d find a cotton fabric she liked, the garment wouldn’t survive the extremely high temperatures needed to achieved the Kiss the Rain lived-in look.
Around four different prototypes were mailed to the creative duo from LA, with another round of edits each time.
“I have expectations,” Kerzhner said, admitting with a laugh that she’s a fiber snob.
In 2018, one year after Kerzhner decided to create her own design, she had a prototype.
“Our styling is kind of classic,” she said. Instead of making an entire clothing line, she and Melville were focused on providing “just one really good hoodie.”
She and Melville launched a successful Kickstarter in 2019 to help fund the project.
While Kerzhner initially set up at outdoor markets, the whole business has moved online because of the pandemic.
Melville taught himself photography and put together a marketing resume for the business.
Watching the hoodies sell well, Kerzhner is plotting expanding, just a little.
“My partner [Melville] has been campaigning for sweatpants,” she said. While she’s made him a few pairs, she still relies on a remote day job.
“It’s so much work and we just can’t help ourselves,” she said joyfully.
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