Over the weekend, at a Porchfest gig, I ran into Katie Monacelli, founder of bkindcity, a “sweat to street” athleisure apparel business in Buffalo that is headquartered on Hertel Avenue. I circled back with he after the show, to ask her some questions about the brand, which is making some excellent headway in Buffalo and beyond.
When did you start bkindcity?
Hey Hey! So December 2015, I wanted to do something for my friends for the holidays and I had always messed around making one off’s for myself, so I tried it out. I found a local screen printer, talked to them about what I was looking for and did a small run of maybe 15 or 20 things. I mixed it up, made a couple tees, a couple tanks, a couple sweatshirts and threw them in with my friends’ holiday presents. A couple months later, I started getting messages that friends of friends wanted one, so we did another small run —and then another one. . .
What was the inspiration? Before there was ever a shirt, there was a secret Instagram. I wanted a place where I could speak openly about all the stuff that runs through my head. If you go back back into the beginning days of the BKC ig, you’ll see quotes about love, bravery and how to bounce back from heartbreak. Slowly people started catching on. After a while it became this place to share all the stuff I loved in the world —music, quotes, places, people.
How has it been received? I can tell you from the most honest place in my heart, every so often I have this moment in the middle of a festival or during a busy event, where it hits me. I can hear people around me, I’m watching them smile and I can hear them talking to their friends, and it hits me like a wave and I almost…almost start crying because I realize …it’s working.
We sell online at bkindcity.com, festivals and at pop up shops around town, but our home is 1376 Hertel Ave with Modern Nostalgia and Sweat Society gym.
The CITY OF GOOD NEIGHBORS print was something that I drew out on a sketch pad one night, I actually still have the piece of paper.
Who chooses the apparel? I do. That’s a really fun part of it. I pick stuff out that I would wear or that I would want to give to a friend.
The brand has shifted a bit because when I first started I was inspired by brands like Obey and wanted to have more of a street wear vibe, but as I’ve shifted, the brand has moved with me. I’m more into a west coast retro feel at the moment so I’m finding more influence from brands like RCVA and Aviator Nation. I see us moving more into a sweat to street athleisure.
What is your current aspiration for the line?
At this very moment in time, I see the brand bringing people together, forming connections over the vibe that they’re picking up. That is maybe my favorite part, because if you see someone wearing BKC, I bet you could walk up to them and have a really cool conversation. I know because I get these late night Snaps all the time of two people that know me, but don’t know each other, and bonded over spotting each other in BKC —and now they’re friends. That is the GREATEST. That’s what I want to keep happening. I’d also like to see us move into large scale music festivals.
The line is directed towards anyone. I have photos of a daughter and dad on longboards both wearing BKC. We have guys and girls sharing the same sweatshirt and today someone told me their grandma loves our stuff. WIN. I can honestly say our customer is kind, cool, and likes comfortable stuff. If I could describe the vibe of a BKC person, it would go something like this: authenticity, kindness, music, movement, travel, dance, write, read, rest, love thy neighbor and love thyself and thou shalt change the game.
What’s the hot seller?
I’d say the thing that put us on the map is the Softest Crew. Its a super soft comfortable raglan style crewneck sweatshirt with the BKC CITY OF GOOD NEIGHBORS QUEEN CITY STRONG print.
We have a ton of really cool stuff in the works, but for the immediate future, we’re looking into cool festival items. Personally, I love a good trucker hat so I’m working on that.
Who is the photographer that shoots your line?
I shoot a good bulk of the photos, but I love working with Ryan Kell of Seek Axiom. We have a very similar style so its always a fun effortless move when Ryan’s in the building. One of my favorite aspects in the music industry is the constant collabs, so to parallel that, I bring guest photographers on whenever possible.
Where do you draw inspiration?
Oh man, let’s see… ALL of the music. Part of what shifted me towards the beach vibe was the music I’ve been listening to. Festivals for damn sure, those things are a mecca of inspiration: the music, the people, the art installations, the vibes, the outfits. Traveling is a big one. The people you meet along the way, being open and finding art everywhere, seeing what’s coming up in other places. But a lot of it, is where my heart is at the current moment. Am I brave? Am I strong? Is my heart happy? Is it breaking? Do I feel free? You’ll see me come through in the quotes if you look closely.
Athleisure, the concept of sweat to street. A style that speaks to the free spirit, the adventurer both in concept design and in functionality. I read an article recently that cited why and where trends were coming from, which I think is interesting, because I used to look at what’s coming up for next season and always wonder, who decides that? I’ve learned that fashion trends are influenced by economy, technology, politics and art. Health and fitness are one of the largest contributing factors in the industry at the current moment. We want something we can move in, something that’s comfortable, something that makes us feel good. We love brands that give us the feels because of who they are and what they represent.
Every sale benefits a local organization?
We live in a city, in a world, where you’re going to be asked for money on the street. I’ve learned that most people would buy someone a meal. We want to help, but we’d like to know that what we’re doing is in fact helping and where the money is going. So, for every sale, we donate a meal to The Buffalo City Mission.
Oh jeeze how do I pick? I get feels when I see strangers wearing my stuff. I honest to God almost crashed my car one day when I saw a guy running with his dog in a BKC crewneck and beanie. If I saw someone in the media wearing our stuff I think I would pass out and pee my pants a little bit. All that being said we’ve had some pretty incredible people in our stuff: Dom Dolla, Illenium, Autograf, Subset, AC Slater, Destructo, Tchami. If I had to pick, I’d say Jennifer Lawrence because she seems like the down to earth kind of girl you could walk up to, who’d crack a joke, have snacks in her purse, speaks her mind and stands up for what’s right.
What has surprised you most since launching the brand?
That I get to lead my dream life. All of the incredible people I’ve had the chance to meet. That people have been so open and welcoming to jumping on board and being a part of this whole movement. Its an “us” thing, it was never a “me” thing. bkindcity for me, was creating what I wanted to be a part of.
Is this a full-time undertaking?
Yes sir! I quit my job in November and went full speed into bkindcity. The hustle is real.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I want to be a major player in the sweat to street apparel world. I want to be at every major music festival, every major yoga festival, maybe even creating our own. I see us having a different kind of presence, more than just retail. Picture walking into a huge geodome. It’s part art installation part retail, all feeding back into the concept of putting love and kindness back into the world. I want to bring the concept we have in Buffalo of “The City of Good Neighbors” to other places.
Lead image: Katie with friends Jeff Kress and Jamie Catania aka Jacebeats