After a brief break from retail, Santa Barbara native Kate McMahon can more assertively tell customers that her hand-knit sweaters and clothing are of quality few others match.
McMahon, who closed her former store, Kate, after 10 years on Coast Village Road in Montecito in 2010, has opened a store called kakoon to sell her product lines. The rebirth follows a hiatus in which she focused on her knitting and explored ways to mass-produce sweaters and apparel of the same high quality.
Unsuccessful trips to Los Angeles and Peru proved McMahon was better suited to retail than wholesale.
“I had always done it by myself,” she told Noozhawk, recalling aloud her thoughts. “There’s got to be a way to find somebody to do the quality and not have to do it all myself.”
Unwilling to put her name on questionable quality, McMahon in October opened kakoon in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone at 116 E. Yanonali St., Suite F1, above the Pali Wine Co. tasting room.
She hired back a knitter who’s worked with her for 20 years and has been living in a studio above the shop since July.
Although the second-floor shop doesn’t have a sign, McMahon’s loyal customer base is already making its way back.
Whether it’s by word of mouth or because of the up-and-coming location that gets good foot traffic, she’s not sure.
“People are finding me,” McMahon gushed. “People come in and they end up special ordering custom sweaters. All these little details add time and energy. My sweaters are not that expensive for the quality that they are. It’s been great.”
Casual, classic yet modern sweaters, which range in price from $300 to $700, are mainly knitted for women but can be made for the whole family.
Color, style, length and more can be custom-tailored, and sweaters are knitted from wool, linen, cotton and, beginning this fall, cashmere. The store also sells other accessories and jewelry.
McMahon said she had no intention of opening another bricks-and-mortar store, but kakoon offers flexible working hours. She can close up the shop, which is open Tuesday through Saturday by appointment, and leave her phone number (805.698.7569) and email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) so potential customers can call and set up a time to come back.
“That was part of the hesitation to having another store,” she said. “You can’t take a break.”
McMahon, who has been knitting since she was 16, is looking forward to remaining in her location for a while, developing her own leather bag line, bringing in a summer vintage dress line and regaining her sweater clientele.
“The quality is amazing,” she said. “The fit is amazing. Everybody goes, ‘Oh, my God, this feels so good.’”