In 1980, Oakland ballet dancers David Lee and Tricia Kaye made knit footless tights that could be folded over at the waist, starting a revolution in dancewear and workout wear. Their tights were like sweaters for legs and were made with the same yarn commonly used at the time. Instead of thick and bulky like sweaters, though, these tights, other legwear, and fitted one-pieces were thin and soft.
In 1983, the brand moved to New York, the dance capital of the world. Their first workspace was a studio in lower Manhattan where they made their pieces on hand-flat knitting machines. KD New York regularly sold their products to leading dancers in the New York City Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre, as well as to Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham, Rudolf Nureyev, and Mikhail Baryshnikov and his dance partner, Gelsey Kirkland.
KD New York moved to a Chelsea loft that doubled as a retail space and showroom in 1985. Two years later, growing demand for their dancewear led them to the Bronx where they opened their own factory. In 1990, they began using computerized knitting machines, allowing the line to introduce more styles and develop new yarns. KD New York is still based in the South Bronx and employs nearly 20 in a state-of-the-art factory where they design, knit, and manufacture all their products using yarns sourced worldwide. Their products are sold in over 200 stores around the world and regularly featured in fashion and dance magazines.
In 2019, KD launched a kickstarter campaign to bring Vegetable Cashmere™ to market, after years of development, testing, and refining. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, production of the Vegetable Cashmere collection has been postponed to Summer or Fall 2020.
To replicate the look and feel of animal cashmere, KD New York developed a fiber blend using soy to create Vegetable Cashmere. This plant-based fabric is composed of soy protein and a proprietary blend of fibers. The plants used in the blend are all certified organic, and the soybean fiber is made from reclaimed byproducts of tofu production. Vegetable Cashmere is available in a number of colors.
Production process: Mechanical/Chemical
The primary fiber for Vegetable Cashmere is soy protein, which is in a pulp state before being blended and spun into yarn. It is unclear how the material is dyed, but according to KD New York, Vegetable Cashmere is 100% plant based and certified organic.
Traditional animal fiber cashmere comes from the soft neck hair of specific breeds of goats, mostly bred in China and Mongolia. No goats or other animals are used in the production of garments made from Vegetable Cashmere. Vegetable Cashmere is also biodegradable.
KD New York states that Vegetable Cashmere is soft and silky. Products made from this yarn are said to keep the wearer warm in cold weather and remain cool and comfortable in hot weather.
DANCE AND YOGA WEAR, ACCESSORIES
Images from KD New York.