Meet Kevin Kafesu — Head of Buying and Communication at Norse Projects
Based in Copenhagen with his partner and son, Kevin Kafesu is the Head of Strategic Buying and Communication at Norse Projects. Here, our Marketing Manager David catches up with Kevin to discuss his career journey and delve into his love for menswear and storytelling.
Tell us a bit about your interesting career journey, from the early days at atoo in Birmingham to working at Wood Wood and more recently as Head of Buying and Communication at Norse Projects in Copenhagen.
After graduating from University, I didn't quite know whether to pursue a career in Spatial Architecture or Design Management? At the same time, I worked part-time at atoo, a small menswear store in Birmingham, and it was here where it all started on the buying front, thanks to founder Ming Nham. A few buying trips later, I discovered myself in a place where I wanted to get more into menswear. I continued to work under Ming's wing, listening and learning to develop an opinion, an executive one at that. In time, my best friend and I started a blog called arewu.wordpress.com, and we used this as a platform to discover and connect. We published a lot of content, including exclusive mixes and interviews with like-minded folk and took advantage of the perks of being an early so-called "fashion blogger." We were young, curious and just wanted to get the scoop first.
Fast forward to 2014, and an exciting offer to join Norse Projects came up, where I'd lead e-commerce merchandising and some creative content development, which led to buying for the digital platforms. I had gone from hybrid store assistant, buyer, e-commerce guy to being tossed into the deep end, where I had to channel my strengths. I had to jump on a moving train, where the team was established and was already working perfectly together. Everyone was full of energy and passion, and they just had their thing going, and I had to figure out how to fit into the equation. Luckily, the team was welcoming and, in no time, saw how I could utilise my skillset and be an essential player to the team. In four years, people came and went, and I am still in contact with some who have all gone to do great things with their careers. And that's what Norse does to you; it gears you up for the most challenging of tomorrow.
I then went on to work at famed Danish Knitwear aficionados, Andersen-Andersen. The experience was exponential, and I learnt a lot from the concentrated time, having worked across Retail Management and Marketing to Wholesale. And dabbling into a bit of distribution and how the Japanese market works, a topic I am curious about.
The last stop was Wood Wood, a fun, creative powerhouse that I enjoyed working with Brian and Karl, whom I'd looked up to in the earlier days of fashion interest. And one of my best and considerably stressful recollections was working on the Wood Wood AW20 runway, which briefly ensued after many activations, namely Ellesse, Timex and the opening of Wood Wood Soho, London. Talk about being thrown into the deep, having started only months before. It was an all fun, challenging and action-packed chapter.
The latest chapter at Norse brings us back to the top. It's great to be back in a different breadth overseeing the buying across our online and offline channels, both mono and multi-brand, as well as comms; it is nice to work hands-on with the product again. I have always enjoyed storytelling and creating a red thread from conceptualisation, whether in the design or buying. I enjoy a challenge, especially when required to be imaginative within guidelines; in my creative studies, I've always been told to always start with a brief and then a specification before getting to the end product. I think it's also fair to say the role of the buyer in this day doesn't finish at the end of buying appointments; it's an obligation to partake throughout the whole product journey, ensuring a read thread across conceptualisation to the customer journey and user case.
What are your favourite places to go to in Copenhagen?
Since having our son, my go to's have changed. My close friends and I usually catch up on Wednesdays to drink at Gaarden og Gaden, a lovely spot known for its incredible natural wine selection and vermouth offering. I don't drink alcohol, but they're so accommodating with the tonic and grapefruit, or tonic and apple juice! After drinks, we usually head over to Kösem; they make a furious Adana meat skewer, slowly cooked on the coal grill and chucked on fresh bread with a medley of freshly cut vegetables, tzatziki and feta cheese. The only thing is you have to get there before 9:00 PM before they shut the coal grill.
Aside from the above, I still go around Copenhagen like a tourist, and most places are pretty interesting. I would love to say I go to all the cool bakeries and drink mochaccinos at the hippest cafes, but, honestly, that doesn't rouse me, and that stuff is all a bit too VSCO cam, and I'm past that; I wanna go where the locals go!
What are you currently wearing? I noticed you have a soft spot for Japanese labels like tss and and Wander.
At the moment, I'm wearing a few pieces from ts(s)'s Fall '21 collection on rotation. My favourite pieces are a chenille cotton knit in a slouchy fit and a pair of brushed flannel fatigue pants. I've got a lot of ts(s) going back SS15, and I usually buy four to five pieces per season as it wears well together. I also picked up the Visvim Wallace Deck Folk from fall, and they just about go with anything, and the cork footbed makes the shoes just as comfortable as wearing a pair of sneakers. Last but not least, I picked up a Visvim Valdez Kampah coat in a mud dyed olive, which is incredible but draws a bit of attention. Besides the mentioned, my Veilance Altus, Frame merino tees, Mionn jacket, and Align pants are go-to's for my daily nursery run and commute to the office.
There are some real gems in your items for sale. Any interesting stories to share on any of the items you have for sale?
Each piece holds a soft spot in my heart; for example, the Visvim Deck Folks are my first ever Visvim purchase, and I remember wearing them out of the store. Considering their condition, They've been to Pitti and Paris buying trips. I think the way they've aged is both testaments to the materials and craftsmanship and the rigorous care regime I developed from an upbringing of not having any fancy things. The needles rebuild vest was my first purchase from the Bureau Belfast! I remember having written blog posts about Needles before they hit European shores, and this was my time to get a piece. I was so excited to get it, and I wore this vest so much. I even have an image on my Instagram from a New Years party some many years back wearing it atop a Wings and Horns white Oxford and what I am sure was a pair of grey wool flannel Our Legacy trousers!
You recently collaborated with digital product archive Otto Resource. Can you tell us a bit more?
As with most great collaborations, it all starts with a simple conversation. Adam and I worked together at Norse many years before my initial departure, and we've stayed in contact since. We share a passion for menswear and storytelling and relish in the intricacies of what shape the culture we so dearly love. I was truly honoured to take the seat with Adam via Otto to discuss the recent Junya collaboration with Supreme, and that's because in this digital age of fast impressions and swiping up, down, left and right, no one takes time to digest what information they're being fed or products their being sold, and we end up with this collective consciousness. For example, nowadays, a general release sneaker is not attractive unless it has a sign-off?
You're also into art. Is that anyone in particular that is currently inspiring you?
I love art, it gives me peace, and it inspires me a lot. The complexities of line work, depth of colour, the organic shapes. Art is like the printout of the mind, and I'd probably go as far as saying it gives you a glimpse into the creators head.
At the moment, the Molasses Gallery, founded by my good friend Tanaka Saburi and its efforts are inspiring. It's great to see such a focus on black art communities, and just through the platform, I've discovered talented artists Hilda Kortei and Khari Worrell. Additionally, I've been a part of the BORCH Collective here in Copenhagen, which is a platform for art enthusiasts to be a part of a collective that allows six individuals to experience art through a means of hanging an edition for a month before passing the work to the next person in the cycle.
What are you looking forward to this year?
I am looking forward to taking a break from work, renting a beach house somewhere, taking our son for a run in the sand. I don't know when? I just know that's all I am looking forward to.
Take a look at Kevin Kafesu' selection of special pre-owned pieces from the likes of Visvim, Needles, ts(s) and Veilance.