He’s the owner, designer and janitor, and that suits Kai Fan to a tee. Or a nice blazer or linen tie. Relatively new to the domestic manufacturing market (the shop is about to turn six months old), Kai D in Brooklyn is a supple collection of simple, rugged clothing lines and accessories that seem dipped in the American heritage before being displayed to the local public.

Kai D portrait2

“It’s mainly clothing and accessories from my brand,” says Kai, who opened the store to create a lifestyle shop, and who carries about 75 percent of his personal, signature lines. In addition to himself, he has one full-time employee. “I have grooming, stationery, shoes, bags, rainwear, home furnishing and womenswear.”

“I design everything under the label,” he continues, adding that his work is made in three New York factories. “The first prototypes, we worked with people in Brooklyn and in Queens. We manufacture them in the garment district.”

When Kai started designing he initially manufactured garments overseas but with unsatisfying results. “I’m very particular about every detail. A lot of things get lost in translation, which is easier when you have a person in front of you. We could wait for a month or two, then find tons of mistakes, and it was too late for us to change. In New York, you just go there and talk about the mistakes.”


The end goal of keeping things close to home is simple. “It’s a lot more flexible when you work with people you can meet as opposed to emails,” says Kai. “The lead time is shorter, and you can do smaller quantities.”

To launch his business, Kai says he did research, talked to friends, hit trade shows and relied on word of mouth. “Vendors came by the shop and we hit it off. We collaborate. It’s a combination.”

hudsonmade teatowel

Kai D’s connection to Hudson Made was also organic. “I think I just sent them an email and said I liked the product,” says Kai. “I saw them online. I like that they’re made locally. I like their story. I used to work for Nautica; I used to be in a much more corporate environment. Plus, I really like the aesthetic.”

Kai D has a grooming section, and carries Hudson Made’s Beard and Shave soap, Worker’s soap and shaving mugs. “Together, both brands fit well together. They show the grooming category.”

hudsonmade soaps

Continuing along the ideal of personalized, vintage America fashion, Kai, like Hudson Made, works within his own boundaries of classic style.

“I draw influences from the military,” says Kai, who grew up in Taiwan and moved to New York as an adult “just to be in New York.”

“The 1920s and ‘30s American character is my aesthetic. Tough, casual; my design philosophy is on the American heritage, which is something that a lot of people can relate to.”


“First and foremost is quality,” he says. “I’m very particular about the timeless quality. I like the utilitarian look, classically inspired. The clothing has to be fitting of the lifestyle of what I call modern-day artisans. The customers are in their own business or they don’t have typical nine-to-five jobs. They want to wear something versatile and comfortable while they are working. And presentable for clients. It’s not too casual, like J. Crew, and it’s not a too dressy, snooty look. When I started my own brand in 2009 I shopped everywhere. I couldn’t find the right clothing; casual dressing that was timeless, not trendy.”


To that end, Kai coined the term “Slow Fashion,” and explains it simply. “It means a more conscious way of consuming. Knowing how the products are made. Knowing the method of how they are made. And not buying things by impulse. Not just discarding things.”

There’s a lull, as he tries to sum up what he believes is the traditional American way of life. “Consume less, buy better and for longer.”

Discover Hudson Made products at Kai D., 230 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY, 347-765 2204, www.kaidutility.com.

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