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Exclusive – Kailand Morris is showing the world what it means to be a modern creative

The Gen Z fashion designer, artist, and influencer discusses how giving back has granted him a new outlook on life, why the fashion industry needs to do better, and his perspective on BLM.

Forging an independent path may seem like a challenge when born to parents whose names exude fame, but Kailand Morris – son of legendary musician Stevie Wonder and designer Kai Milla – is certainly making a name for himself on his own behalf. At just 19 years old, the modern creative (with his remarkably knowledgeable and mature style) has already graced the runways of some of the biggest names in the fashion industry, turned heads with his charitable efforts, and founded an entire clothing label by himself.

Frankly, it’s unsurprising that a Gen Zer introduced to the arts from the get-go should be so heavily involved with creative innovation, but not only is Kailand setting a significant example for others pursuing similar passions, he is determined to do good, using his 234K-strong (and counting) platform to promote equality, conscious consumerism, and empowerment. ‘I hope to influence people around the world to do better, especially at the time we’re in now’ he tells Thred. ‘I feel as though our world is in serious need of leaders who will guide people on the right track, particularly the younger generation.’

Inspired by his mother’s work and fuelled by a heavy involvement with popular culture, Kailand launched House of KOM last year. The brand, which focuses on the different narratives of garment design through high quality experimental pieces ‘in a sustainable manner,’ is evidently Kailand’s calling, his first foray into running a business, but it doesn’t seem that way.

‘The future is not about erasing our past; it’s all about evolution, adaptation, and respect,’ he says. ‘We must be conscious of what everybody needs. Truly good business, after all, is not about the bottom line.’ 

A second-nature of sorts, Kailand possesses a multi-faceted approach to his career, understanding exactly what it means to front a brand in 2020. He acknowledges that his primary demographic seeks a great deal more than just clothes these days; Gen Z consumers are determined to reshape brand objectives, valuing those that stretch beyond product sales and comment on societal issues.

‘I want House of KOM to be more than just clothing because I feel a strong need to raise awareness about what’s happening in the world right now,’ he explains, referring to the social injustice t-shirts he designed earlier this year as BLM protests unfolded across the globe. ‘Living in the US as the movement grew was a beautiful experience, but it’s taken a lot of force and momentum for people to actually start taking the right action, to change a situation that should have already changed. That’s why I’ve taken it upon myself to show support.’

For him, fashion and philanthropy are inexorably linked, a mindset he’s held onto since childhood. ‘As a kid all I wanted was to be able to provide and give back to communities on a global scale,’ he adds. ‘It’s something that moulded my whole outlook on life and now, being able to do so through a work field that I’m also inherently passionate about is a dream come true.’

A sentiment echoed by his brother, the two Gen Zers are clearly united in their belief that with a large following, comes the responsibility to enforce change. ‘I use Instagram to shine a light on the systemic racism that still prevailing worldwide,’ says Mandla. ‘It’s essential we come together now to make a stand and show solidarity for those fighting for basic human rights.’

It’s this innate perception that galvanised Kailand into collaborating with redeyeinc (a corporation helping the less fortunate) on KOM Worldwide, the non-profit division of House of KOM.

Though currently still in the works, the organisation has already donated all proceeds from the BLM tees – as well as a selection of bags, face masks, and water bottles – to the Watts Empowerment Centre, a foundation with the largest youth population from ages 8 to 21 in America. ‘I wanted to provide them with the resources they so desperately needed so they would feel that any dreams they hope to accomplish in the future are absolutely achievable,’ he says.

Kailand has also joined forces with Italian fashion brand Iceberg on a range of 175 limited-edition t-shirts to be donated directly to the Watts Empowerment Centre following the label’s generous pledge to donate an undisclosed sum to the charity. Standing in solidarity with those most affected by the pandemic, Iceberg is aiming to support the redeyeinc network of non-profits that’s currently housing an outdoor learning hub to help children without Internet connection or technology resources attend virtual classes during lockdown.

‘The Watts Empowerment Centre was brought to our attention by Morris and we at Iceberg felt as passionate as he does to support the work of this incredible and important charity. Our collaborative T-shirt is a symbol of family and positivity,’ says Iceberg’s creative director, James Long, who met Kailand in 2018 when he modelled the brand’s clothing at its London Fashion Week showcase.

Praising Gen Z’s unrelenting involvement with social change, Kailand stresses the importance of giving young people an opportunity to have their voices heard. ‘It’s so necessary we maintain these conversations so that genuine change can be established. So far we’ve witnessed this huge domino effect that shows no signs of stopping, but our next obstacle is getting the older generations on board.’

Alongside his admirable philanthropic endeavours, Kailand’s unique way of drawing upon his surroundings for creative influence is tantamount to how Gen Z is looking outside the contrasts of the norm.

‘I would just say people can expect some revolutionary, never seen before ways of creating in terms of fashion design,’ he says. ‘One of the backbones of House of KOM is that everything we create is made from 100% sustainable, re-usable, recycled fabrics. I want to eradicate this idea that using eco-friendly materials means sacrificing quality and a high-end luxury feel.’

Striving to tackle the stigma that sustainability isn’t accessible, Kailand explains that what it comes down to is a lack of research.

‘A lot of brands haven’t even explored the potential of these materials because they don’t know where to start looking,’ he says. ‘But given how the internet has played such a pivotal role in the development of my creative process, it shocks me that some of the industry’s major players aren’t using it to do the same.’

Kailand Morris. | We're Losing Our Minds Over the Incredible Outfits at Men's Fashion Week in Paris | POPSUGAR Fashion Middle East Photo 69

Despite how he has positioned himself as an individual force of change, Kailand – and Mandla with him – is well-aware that togetherness and human connection hold the key to a better future. Crediting their parents for instilling a desire in them to embrace activism, the brothers are now turning their attention to proving the unlimited prowess of their generation.

‘I have no doubt that if we work together, we can bring about real change,’ finishes Kailand. ‘These are things that not one person can fix or two, nor a hundred thousand or even a million – all of us need to unite in order to transform our world into one we are truly proud to be a part of.’

Although there’s no way of saying exactly what lies in store for Kailand and Mandla, one things for sure, the future is definitely in very good hands.

And finally, a big thank you to Shawn Mann for making this exclusive possible.