Kestan Designer and Founder Stephanie Lin Talks Ethical Fashion

Wearing sustainable brands doesn’t mean losing style. With the fashion industry shifting gears toward a more eco-friendly approach, we’ve been on the hunt for contemporary cuts that fall in line with this movement. Fortunately for us, we recently chanced upon the Kestan flagship store in Costa Mesa.

Co-founded by designer Stephanie Lin and her brother, Kestan is an ethical clothing and accessories label. Combining elegant, modern designs with high grade fabrics, we’ve found a solid womenswear label that doesn’t sacrifice style for ethics or vice versa. Being extremely mindful of who produces their line and with what factories, the Lins keep a very open book for their consumers.

They continually visit their factories and atelier in China and Taiwan to ensure safe working conditions and fair treatment, and to provide opportunity for growth among their employees. Being an ethical brand doesn’t just focus on the people, it also means taking into account the type of fabrics they create with. The Lins use natural fabrics and safer dying processes that save time, water and energy.

We were able to catch up with Stephanie to learn more about her history with fashion, style inspirations, and why creating an ethical label was important to her.

When did your interest in fashion begin?

I’ve always enjoyed exploring and creating with my hands, so my mother bought me a sewing machine as a birthday gift in high school. From there, I taught myself to sew and fell in love with how tactile and three-dimensional fashion design was. I felt like it was an art form that was special, because we live our lives wearing it. There was definitely a learning curve though (such as a brown corduroy vest that will never see the light of day). Eventually my parents helped me realize that I could make a career out of design, and through their continual support, I was able to attend Parsons School of Design.

When did you first launch Kestan?

My brother/co-founder and I spent six months sourcing and researching for Kestan before officially launching in April 2016. From there, we grew the brand online and through pop-ups before opening our flagship location in November of 2017.

What are some of the challenges you face as a sustainable label?

In the scheme of fashion history, sustainability and ethical labor is a relatively new concept. Because of that, we find that we have to be incredibly mindful when balancing our ethos along with a sustainable business model. Additionally, we work hard to educate our customers and help them understand why supporting ethical brands is so important, and why things are priced a certain way. Our fabrics and construction is quality and made to last — and that’s something worth investing in.

Kestan flagship store (Courtesy photo)
Kestan flagship store (Courtesy photo)

A visit to your website allows anyone to view your entire production process, something we hardly get to see with many brands, how important is it for you to be completely transparent?

We’re incredibly passionate about ethical production and eco-fibers, and we want to share that passion with others. By being transparent and sharing our journey with others, we believe that it can help increase awareness and interest in what we’re supporting. Not only that, but we truly love our suppliers, and we hope that our customers will fall in love as well!

What inspires your designs?

When designing, I always think about the incredible and unique women I know. I like to create clothing that is not only beautiful, but functional as well. I think it’s important to feel elegant, even in your everyday life. So, I like to imagine how the clothing fits into diverse lifestyles, and how it can serve different purposes. In terms of aesthetics, it varies from season to season. I’m currently into cinema from the ’50s, and I’ve been having fun balancing the idea of nodding to the past in a current and more relaxed way.    

What would your say your signature style is?

I’m a huge fan of modern minimalism with a twist. I love clean lines and sleek silhouettes, but always with a feminine touch or fun detailing through seams, hidden pockets, or layering. Minimalist dressing definitely doesn’t have to be boring!

Your flagship store in Costa Mesa is beautiful. What made you decide to open a brick-and-mortar store?

The nature of our eco-fibers is so unique, and there’s just something so beautiful about the tactile nature of fabric. After working online and doing pop-ups for so long, we realized that the act of trying on clothing was so important, and that it was important for our customer base to feel the quality to understand why eco-fibers were so important. We also love the personal connection of having a physical space where customers can visually see what our Kestan lifestyle is, and to meet us as well.

Southern California is known for its multitude of skate wear and denim brands. As a contemporary womenswear brand, how has it been for you here?

It’s actually been great! We feel like the brand brings freshness, and people have been supportive and interested in our aesthetic and ethos. It really helps the brand stand out, and we love providing Southern California with a different point of view.

Finally, when you’re not designing how do you like to spend your time?

Does sleep count as a hobby? Because I could definitely be getting more of that! In all seriousness, I like to spend my free time either pursuing other creative hobbies such as writing or knitting (terribly, I might add). Other than that, just spending time with friends and family, and constantly being apologetic for being such a workaholic.