Product and design at Kipling

Denielle is the Global Vice President, Product and Design at Kipling. We recently sat down with her to talk about the work she and her team do at Kipling, both in Antwerp and in New York.

Kipling is part of VF Corporation, a global leader in branded lifestyle apparel, footwear, and accessories, with global iconic brands, such as The North Face®, Vans®, Timberland®, and more.

The company name “VF Corporation” is not well known but its brands such as Eastpak and Kipling are. Can you tell us a bit more about VF Corporation?

Kipling is proud to be apart of VF Corporation’s portfolio of highly respected brands. VF has clearly defined its purpose to power movements of sustainable and active lifestyles, for the betterment of people and the planet. This is our compass to define our own Kipling purpose. At Kipling we believe that we lighten your step, powering your curiosity to go your own way.  The Kipling team really embodies our purpose in so many ways. It may be their curiosity to discover new things, activism on sustainability, freedom to express themselves or simply their light hearted outlook on life.

What is your current role at Kipling / VF Corporation?

I am the Vice President of Global Product and Design at Kipling. The Product team analyzes the global business trends which gives insight to an overall design framework or brief that helps guide the Design team. They collaborate closely with Design, Development, Marketing and the Regional Merchandising teams from brief conception to commercialization.

The Design Team at Kipling creates new design innovations with that casual cool and easy everyday Kipling style in mind. We use solution-based design thinking to assure we are addressing what consumers really need from our bags. We need to insure we are designing in quality and timelessness, but also features that will help people get through their days a little more seamlessly. Versatility that works for the activity rich day, quick access pockets and transformable straps play a key part in how we design.

What kind of people is part of your Product and Design team?

Our Product and Design team is very diverse.

On one side, the product team is more business focused so its members have a background in buying, planning, mechanising or finance.

On the other side, the design team consists of backgrounds in illustration, graphic and industrial design, with a strong love for the bag and apparel industry.

The strength of both teams is in the fact that they all bring something different and unique to the table. Their different perspectives and talents come together in a creative collaborative way which makes their ideas stronger and working together more enjoyable.

What design you and your team are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of our unique collaborations with other companies from outside the fashion industry: for example our Kipling x Keith Haring collection. It’s great for the team to work with other teams: the sharing and learning that happens during those close collaborations always results in something truly wonderful being created.

Kipling/VF Corporation is a very international company. How are the responsibilities divided between the Belgian organization and other countries / central organization?

Kipling is a global brand, with teams based around the world. The Kipling Product team which is based in Belgium and Design teams based in New York and Belgium are in close contact and collaboration with the different regions. We take a global point of view when designing and will also create small additions that specifically cater to regional needs and tastes.

In Europe half of our day overlaps with Asia and the Americas so we can easily interact and collaborate closely with these three regions.

Since the Design team is based in both Antwerp and New York we have a unique opportunity to work as one global team. This means our work ends up being a very dynamic collaborative experience.

How does Kipling look at e-commerce vs the traditional physical stores?

Both our digital and physical sales channels give us a unique opportunity to engage and connect to our customers in a meaningful way, only the approach differs.

Historically, Kipling products have always managed to connect with customers through traditional brick & mortar stores.

Today, selling directly to your customers online means that we have a broader reach and a more meaningful connection with them. We are better able to understand what they like or dislike, communicate with our fans, engage with new brand followers, gather insights. So, we’re working on further strengthening our digital approach to have more authentic customer connections online and create more products that will fit and fill their needs.

What type of profile is best suited to work at Kipling do you think?

Someone who does well at Kipling is someone who loves to collaborate with other talented people in a creative way. You need to enjoy working close with teams operating both regionally and at a global level, and constantly enjoy pushing together for innovation and change.

What is your toolset?

These days one could call Zoom a toolset? Just kidding :).

If we are creating a new bag, hardware or a new print, we sketch out ideas and then spec them out in Illustrator. Later we use both Illustrator and Photoshop for the renderings and print design.

We have amazing development partners in our Hong Kong office that work with all our different suppliers to make these designs come to life into finished parts, fabrics and products. 

Nothing is more satisfying then to see this process go from an initial idea, to a product, and into the hands of an actual customer who then loves it.

© Keith Haring Foundation.
Licensed by Artestar, New York

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