Two years ago Stephen Kenn was living in Echo Park designing leather bags when his wife Beks asked, “what do you really want to do?” Inspiration came in the form of a chair found in a dumpster. Stephen pulled it out and reupholstered it using an old military blanket, and it still has a space in their open-loft home. “Are you serious about getting into this?” she then asked him. Upon confirmation, the two secured a new work-live space in the Arts District and moved in within a matter of weeks.
Stephen’s sewing background began with denim. While in school in Canada studying psychology, he spent his summers mowing lawns. He wanted to fabricate a shirt using what he later realized was a reverse appliqué technique. Upon returning home that evening, he used his mom’s sewing machine to get to work (breaking it in the process), and managed to produce just what he was looking for. Sewing was a tool that allowed him to “bring an idea into reality in a fast way,” he told us—he was immediately hooked.
He began to alter his own jeans, and word spread through his small suburban neighborhood that he could turn an average pair of denim into something more fashionable and unique. Pairs of pants would be left on his doorstep with $50 in the pocket, with a note instructing him to do whatever he desired—taper the legs, splatter some bleach, fray the knees.
It was denim work that brought him to Los Angeles, where he worked for a well-known company for a few years before leaving to focus on his own projects.
He began by making bags, an item he’s incredibly fascinated by. People bring their bags along with them everywhere, and often say they’re something they “can’t live without,” and fill them with their most prized possessions.
His furniture seems to include elements from both his bag-making and denim days. It is all comfortable, functional and versatile. A few new pieces include Swiss military belts as the support systems for cushions on metal framing. These belts also make an appearance in a coffee table collection that he first designed for Venice shop Deus Ex Machina.
Stephen’s studio is his home, working space and a place for meeting other creative-thinking individuals. He and his wife open their roll-up garage door and welcome visitors for coffee (from Handsome Roasters) each Monday morning and serve cocktails on Friday evenings. It makes their industrial space feel like the home of a friend that you can visit on any afternoon after school gets out.
Stephen is wearing the Percey in Charcoal Fade
Photos by Collin Hughes