Meet Kai Avent-deLeon, Brooklyn native and owner of concept store, Sincerely Tommy – where boutique meets cafe. Sincerely Tommy is a bright, sunshine filled space containing a wonderfully curated selection of women’s fashion and lifestyle objects. A platform for emerging artists, Kai carefully chooses pieces from up-and-coming designers to display in her store. The shop also serves as a cafe, with plenty of seating for neighborhood regulars and freelancers to enjoy the space. It’s been awhile since we did a Retail Therapy post around here and we’re lucky that Kai recently opened up to Apartment 34 about life in New York, the creative process, and finding a sense of self and identity. If you need some serious inspiration and self-motivation, be sure to scroll down!
Tell us about your New York? Is there any other place you would like to live?
I feel very privileged to have grown up in New York. You are exposed to a lot of culture, and you get to be involved in a lot of things that you wouldn’t necessarily have the same ability to do living anywhere else in the world. Growing up I was involved in acting classes, dancing, and really anything creative. I think that definitely contributed to my passion towards what I do now, and being creative in general. Even now as an adult, I have been able to define my taste and interests because of that upbringing, and dig a little deeper.
New York has had a huge influence on who I am as a woman, and who I am as a person. There is a lot to be said about the city in general – finding inspiration in different places and being able to explore. I personally really enjoy the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side for the old architecture, it reminds me of old New York and growing up there. Around the Met too, the Met and Guggenheim are my 2 favorite museums in New York.
I love Brooklyn, obviously, I grew up there. I love the drastic differences between the neighborhoods. Bed-Stuy has a great combination of community and a bit of youth and vibrancy. As I get older and prepare to settle down a bit more, I’m exploring other places. I’m thinking of living in an area that’s more outdoors, with fresh air and more scenic. Maybe somewhere in the desert, or in Africa. This wouldn’t be permanent, but maybe for 3 months out of the year.
What does your creative process look like? Where do you draw inspiration?
I don’t have a set process, I tend to go with the flow in general. When I’m inspired to do something, I just do it. Starting the line for the store, for instance, was just inspired by wanting to wear certain things myself, and feeling like I wasn’t finding those things at an accessible price point. I just started making clothes that were really fun and comfortable. I never studied fashion design or the technical aspects of producing a line, so it was all very new to me. I was just inspired by different textiles I saw in Mexico and went from there.
My inspiration for the store was very similar. There were a bunch of brands that I knew existed that weren’t getting real representation. I saw a lot of talent and not enough opportunity, so I wanted to open a store that allowed those creatives to showcase their design and also be the first store to carry those brands.
Do you have any side projects in conjunction with Sincerely Tommy?
I’m currently working on a website for interiors, where I’ll be doing consultations for people’s homes and businesses. I’ll also have a small shop section where I’ll be selling small objects. I’m hoping to launch this within the next two months.
What are the original influences on your personal aesthetic?
My mother and my grandmother have played a huge role – they have their own sense of style that’s really strong and unique, so watching them growing up, how they would dress and how they would decorate their homes, has always played a really big part in my own style and taste.
Overall, I definitely go for minimalism, and as I get older I want less stuff. If I do buy something, it’s something from a city I visited, and to me it represents that city and the time that I had there, so it has sentimental value. The benefit of minimalism is that the store and my home are pretty much the same. I can always sell something in the store if I choose not to want it anymore. I like natural textures, neutral colors, and things that are very easy to mix and match.
We know you have worked closely with your mother and grandmother on Sincerely Tommy. What pieces of wisdom have you taken away from the women in your family?
To be strong and independent. They both epitomize the concept of taking risks and have sought out ventures, whether career or personal, that are the road less traveled. I really admire that and it has helped me develop my passion and way of living life. I admire them so much – they represent and embody strong independent women in every sense.
We can tell you have a strong sense of self and identity, what advice can you offer to women out there who may struggle with going full force at what they want?
Find yourself first. Having a really good relationship with yourself and understanding that it’s constantly evolving is always most important. Once you are at a point of being comfortable with yourself, everything else comes naturally. As human beings we put a lot of pressure on trying to find outside sources to complete us, but once you have figured out who you are, everything else just comes to you. It’s a never ending journey.
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image 1 via garance doré / photography by apartment 34 by kat harris photography of the refined woman / interview by laura banas
What do you think?