The hands-on dyeing process means each indigo and leather bag, clutch, and scarf is one of a kind.
Brook Lane’s 2,400-square-foot home and studio was formerly an ambulance depot and a laundry facility for Union Pacific railroad.
Kirby McKenzie (left) and Brook Lane in front of samples from their upcoming collection, a collaboration with an artisan weaver in Oaxaca, Mexico
The pair bought these hand-painted skulls on a recent trip to Mexico city.
The cotton-canvas fabric is folded and wrapped around a pole before being indigo dyed.
“Every surface in my dye studio—and often my hands and face—gets covered in blue. Kirby’s sewing studio is strewn with scraps of indigo fabric.”
McKenzie sews the canvas to swaths of leather, much of it from the hide house in Napa.
Lane models a completed scarf.
Most new independent designers struggle for years to distinguish themselves from the pack. But Brook Lane and Kirby McKenzie’s debut line of natural indigo dyed bags and scarves was met with unexpectedly quick success. Though their label, Job & Boss, is just shy of a year old, it has already been snapped up by four Bay Area boutiques, including Gravel & Gold and Accident & Artifact. Still, despite growing demand, the cofounders emphasize craftsman ship, laboriously creating each item by hand from their home studios in West Oakland. The pair met through mutual friends last year; both are graduates of the California College of the Arts, where Lane majored in film and McKenzie studied textiles, fashion, and sculpture. They began experimenting with shi bori, an ancient Japanese resist-dyeing technique that can include folding, twisting, and clamping the fabric before immersing it in a dye bath. The inherently unpredictable process translates beautifully to each one-of-a-kind piece, revealing mutable patterns and wavering hues of blue. Lane is the dye master (a room devoted to the step is tinged with indigo), while McKenzie is a virtuoso on the sewing machine, incorporating locally sourced leather. Though the duo employs long-standing methods, the resulting totes, clutches, and scarves are infused with a contemporary sensibility. Their next project is a collection of handwoven textiles inspired by a recent trip to Oaxaca, Mexico.
In The Make is an online arts journal featuring studio visits with artists and designers. This is the latest in a monthly series appearing exclusively in San Francisco.