An Exclusive Interview with Kenneth Yeung
An Overview of Kan Supply
An upcycled apparel brand that provides vintage and street-inspired clothing to the streets of Ithaca, KAN. aims to inspire sustainable fashion in people’s everyday lives. KAN. strives to provide consumers with high quality clothing items at affordable prices — without the negative environmental impact associated with fast-fashion brands like ZARA, Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters.
On your website you mentioned that you transformed self-doubt into action, which, in part, created KAN. How did you go about such change and how did it shape your life into the way it is now?
Throughout my life, I’d always been so afraid of taking on leadership roles, participating in large group meetings, and being at the center of attention. When I was younger, I merely attributed that to the fact that I was introverted — but, in retrospect, that conclusion was short-sighted. After being devastated by countless rejections from clubs, programs, and internships during my freshman year, I finally realized that my self-doubt wasn’t rooted in my introversion — it was the product of my perfectionism. I realized that I had been so afraid to speak my mind, fight for what I believed in, and truly commit myself to my passions because I couldn’t risk shattering the perception of myself that I’ve been purporting all my life. A paradigm for impostor syndrome. I wanted to fiercely cling on to this image of myself, without realizing how this has limited me from realizing my dreams.
That realization changed the game for me; I began running for executive positions in my extracurriculars, throwing myself into my academics, and committing to opportunities that I could have never even dreamt of doing a year prior. It was as scary as it was liberating — to allow myself to not only conceptualize but reach for my goals, with the looming presence of failure haunting my every move has given me, at times, extreme anxiety. But this anxiety has been so necessary — a part of the growing pains symptomatic of outgrowing adolescence. And it has been so, so worth it in the end.
What (or who!) are your main motivators in creating this brand?
One of the main motivators for creating this brand has been the potentiality of enacting change within the Cornell and greater Ithaca community. The reason why I centered KAN. around its mission of environmental stewardship is that most brands in the industry today do not hold themselves accountable for the destruction of our natural world. After taking an ecology class at college, and researching more about the textile industry, I became more and more disillusioned. To address this while combining my love for fashion and thrifting, I conceptualized KAN. in the Spring of last year, and the rest is history.
What has been the greatest challenge with creating and starting your own company?
One of the most important things I’ve learned through the process of creating and starting my own company has been the importance of a contingency plan. In trying to launch a physical pop-up store in Collegetown means that, operationally, there are a lot of moving parts. In having these dependencies, if one piece of the system pulls out, the whole plan for the pop-up had to be modified to accommodate for the change.
I had this idealist notion that everything would work out as long as I started early enough. And so I did. In the beginning of the summer I launched into planning the physical event from choosing and making alterations to the apparel to reaching out to organizations for clothing racks, mannequins, tables, among other pop-up paraphernalia. Knowing that the whirlwind of Cornell would leave me barely any time to spend building KAN., I tried to lay down as much infrastructure for the upcoming semester as I could. But most of these efforts were in vain, as almost all permutations of potential issues that could have arisen, did.
The pop-up this semester did not come to fruition. But I’ve realized that this is what managers are for: anticipating and accommodating for blips in plans and being able to pivot at any step of the implementation process. While we’ve faced a bevy of challenges this semester, I have full faith in the team in learning from this past semester and bringing the store to market by next semester.
Given that you and Courtney hand-select each item in your brand, what is the thought process that goes behind the thrift stores you explore and, ultimately, the clothing you choose?
The thrift stores we source from are super varied. There’s no set agenda when we walk into a thrift stores, but when we look at an article of clothing, the first thing we look for is whether the piece is inherently interesting and good quality. We look for on-trend clothing items that deliver great value for their sale price. As a whole, KAN. clothing items are meant to be integrated into simple pieces — as most pieces are loud in some way.
Where do you see KAN going in the future?
I see KAN. expanding to more universities besides just Cornell. I’ve been in contact with several students at nearby Binghamton University that have expressed interest in developing a pop-up at their university. In regard to different products, we are looking to branch out into tote bags, in-house designed shirts, reusable water bottles, and embroidered patches.
Additionally, I see KAN. hosting on-campus events centered around fashion and environmental sustainability and generally contributing to campus-wide discourse about environmental justice.