There are a handful of themes that Kelly and I talk about over and over again: collaboration, natural deodorant, routines, coffee, mothers. There's so much that's rich and messy and confusing in our relationships with our own mothers. And then there are the easy metaphors that link birth and mothering to the creative process.
Randi and Marlene are our first mother and daughter pair. I met them when I was living on Martha's Vineyard, and their studio and shop space—called Kenworthy—was still new. They were welcoming and generous, excited to share their work, from the process to the finished product. I loved how Marlene described their partnership originating when Randi was a toddler, just old enough to dress herself and design outfits that Marlene would sew.
In this interview, Randi and Marlene talk about the unique qualities they each bring to design and business, and they offer bits of wisdom that are useful to any successful relationship—the importance of space, flexibility, and remembering not to "let the little shit trip you up."
Can you describe how Kenworthy came to be?
Marlene: Randi and I have been working together since she could talk. She always had a concept of what she wanted to wear and I was the production team. When she was studying fashion in NYC a group of people got together to produce a fashion show on Martha's Vineyard. I thought it would be a good opportunity for both of us to help and become more involved in the Martha's Vineyard fashion world. As the planning stages went on we started looking for local designers. At one point we looked at each other and decided it was our time to try to design a line. The show was a great success and we felt triumphant for both the show and ourselves. We decided to keep going by renting a studio and shop space. Travel has always been a passion of ours so we incorporated that by buying our fabrics in interesting places, it also enlightens all of our senses—color, design, movement and architecture.
How does your family relationship (as mother and daughter) impact your creative partnership? And vice versa?
Randi: it seems to me that a lot of people assume that since we're mother and daughter we would constantly be at each other's throats; I find exactly the opposite. We know each other so well we are usually finishing each others thoughts or giggling over some silly inside joke. As for impacting our creativity as a team I think that this is when being so in tune comes in handy. Marlene usually knows where my head is at aesthetically and adds the perfect touch that I hadn't thought of. She has been a seamstress all her life and I have obsessively studied clothing and fashion so we each bring different skills to the table. We bring different experiences and eras and we trust each other's judgement—I think this makes us a powerful team. We take on the role of coworkers probably better than mother and daughter a lot of the time.
We bring different experiences and eras and we trust each other's judgement—I think this makes us a powerful team.
What unique skills do each of your bring to this partnership?
Marlene: We definitely have our own skills, but I do think they overlap, I think that is part of the beauty of the relationship. Randi is definitely the captain of the ship, she has a look and feel she wants represented. I always add in my two cents, but when decisions are to be made I acquiesce to her. She is also the one to do all the photography, web site design, and social media, where as sewing and construction is more of my department, but that is also a shared responsibility.
The biggest thing I have learned about conflict in relationships is to give each other space and time.
What have your learned about dealing with conflict in your relationship?
Randi: The biggest thing I have learned about conflict in most relationships, especially this one, is to give each other space and time. If you really believe in a decision or design you won't bend to accommodate the other, but with time we will always come to an understanding. I personally have a hard time with flexibility but I have come to the realization that sometimes it is the only choice if you want to work with a partner. There are usually more pros than cons in having a partner, you just have to have a little flexibility and pick your battles wisely.
Kenworthy needs both of us to thrive.
How would your work be different if you did not have one another?
Marlene: Speaking for myself there would not be a Kenworthy if we were not together. Through out my life I have been making and designing fashion for kids and adults and selling it at various times. Now I have a small business doing floral design and my work with clothing had taken a backseat, I was just doing it for family and friends. Randi's great energy and insight has excited me to join that world again. Working with her is a driving force.
As a team you can make things happen, two minds are greater than one. Don't let the little shit trip you up.
Randi: I don't think there would be a Kenworthy without Marlene. She has really been a huge drive to the business in the four years we have been working together. She is such a hard worker and puts in so much time to make Kenworthy a reality. I think my work personally wouldn't be this far along if it wasn't for her. I would be working in fashion but I don't think I would have my own business and be living this life I love so much. Kenworthy needs both of us to thrive.
Do you have any advice for people who are working with a creative partner?
Randi: My advice would be use each other, inspire each, feed off of each other. There is a reason you ended up paired together. As a team you can make things happen, two minds are greater than one. Don't let the little shit trip you up.
Kenworthy is a mother-daughter collaboration that spun into being after countless trips throughout Asia, Central America, and the Middle East. Inspired by the textiles from our travels more than what's leading the current trend, we look to personify the laid back island lifestyle that our home practically breaths.
Each piece is hand sewn at our studio on Martha's Vineyard and purposely designed to outlive fashion cycles, in our attempt to create garments that are both timeless and constantly relevant. Each and every fabric used is hand picked during our travels, chosen amongst the many all-natural fibers we encounter. We scour the marketplaces everywhere we go, searching for just the right colors, drape, and textures. It is our belief that the rise of "fast fashion" has brought with it some inevitable negatives: massive waste, over-production, and an overall culture that promotes indistinguishability.