Nothing inspires us to pack our bags and hop a globetrotting plane more than Job & Boss. The brainchild of Brook Lane and Kirby Mckenzie, this Oakland-based label has put the Japanese shibori tie-dyeing techniques back on the Bay Area map, with an irresistible line of handcrafted totes, purses, and scarves.
The latest collection from the gals was inspired by a sourcing trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, capturing the vivid landscape of the ancient city. So, we headed across the Bay Bridge to check out the duo's sewing and dyeing studios, the latter an eclectic live-in menagerie of vintage gems. And, based on how these ladies put together four outfits apiece, we are giddy with excitement over their latest endeavor: an upcoming clothing line. Okay, fasten those seatbelts for major studio and sartorial inspiration ahead!
Photographed by Eva Kolenko
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Photographed by Eva Kolenko
How did Job & Boss come together?
"When we first met, we really connected over a shared love of textile arts, an appreciation for the handmade, and excitement about exploring new craft techniques. We wanted to see if we could translate this energy into a line of products with a very modern aesthetic that would allow us to continually explore new ideas."
Brook (left) kicks it in the studio in a Job & Boss x Amanda Beane shirt, vintage Levi's, necklaces from Mexico, Lila Rice earrings, and Ann Demeulemeester shoes. Kirby (right) sports a vintage shirt, Dr. Martens shoes, Levi's, and earrings by Adeline Jewelry.
Where are you each from originally and how does your work speak to your backgrounds?
Kirby: "I grew up in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. I have always lived in the middle of a city. I am very much inspired by streetwear and outlandish aesthetic combinations. Brook is more refined and balances me out. This could be from her upbringing in Marin, but it’s probably because she was just born classy as hell."
An overview look of Kirby's sewing studio!
What are your personal style philosophies and how have each of you brought your own personal style to the Job & Boss aesthetic?
Brook: "Both our fashions run the gamut from classic to off-the-wall. We are drawn to things that are simple, unique, and versatile."
Brook relaxing in her living area!
An adorable vignette — complete with stunning shibori wall hangings.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
, Michele Lamy, and teenagers."
Who are some of your favorite local designers right now?
is a fantastic knitwear line designed by two genius sisters. We can’t get enough of the patterned knits, especially in the Bay Area climate. Lauren Wolf
not only makes amazing fine jewelry, but she has a beautifully curated shop called Esqueleto.
We are also super inspired by vintage finds. A few of our favorite key collectors on the vintage scene are Minds Eye Vintage
in Temescal Alley, Mercy Vintage Now
on Piedmont Avenue, and James Rowland Shop
Kirby sitting pretty!
How did you guys get into indigo and shibori dyeing?
Kirby: "We each have some hereditary ties to the process. I am part Japanese and intrigued with basically anything coming out of Japan. I had learned some of the indigo and shibori techniques in the textiles department at CCA as an undergrad."
Brook: "My mom was a textile designer who worked with shibori and indigo, among other traditional Japanese techniques, in the '70s and '80s. She had a line of kimonos and Japanese-inspired workwear. It was the natural choice to apply to our first product."
Come to mama!
Take us through the process of creating a piece. Who does what and how long does each step take?
"Brook heads the dyeing process. Each piece is hand-folded or wrapped, then dipped in indigo. We don’t make yardage, so we do one bag at a time. I sew each bag myself, sometimes bringing in help when we have large orders to fill. But mostly it’s just us. We are currently strategizing how to increase our production while maintaining the same levels of quality and integrity."
Brook (left) wears a vintage dress, Sven clogs, Emily Counts necklace, and bracelets by Lila Rice and Martin Cartagena. Kirby (right) wears a Micaela Greg sweater, vintage overalls, and Dr. Marten shoes.
Kirby hanging out in her sewing studio.
Where are you when you're not at the studio working?
"We work a lot, but we do take days off for adventures both separately and together. Recently, we went to a friend's pool and just worked and swam."
Tools of the trade!
Tell us about the recent collaborations you've done with other local designers.
"Conceptual artist Desiree Holman
recently commissioned us to do costuming for her performance during the closing ceremonies at the SFMOMA
. We designed and dyed 15 bolero-style jackets for the 'Indigo Children,' a young fife and drum troupe that led a procession out of the building. We are continuing to work with Ali Golden
, a designer out of Oakland who creates easy to wear, beautifully tailored pieces. For our first collab, we shibori indigo-dyed some of her more feminine silhouettes. Stay tuned for round two of Ali Golden x Job & Boss."
A slew of ceramics sprinkled in the studio.
We heard you are a Nate Dogg fan — what else do you listen to while working?
Brook: "Well, there is a little group called Bone Thugs-N-Harmony that I’ve been known to enjoy during my 'alone time.' Kirby recently made me an amazing mix that includes the aforementioned Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and segues into De La Soul, Hole, M.I.A., Patti Smith, and even a little Paul McCartney. I suppose that in keeping with everything else in my home, my music taste is eclectic."
Brook with one of her favorite mugs.
First indigo and shibori, then custom-made Oaxacan fabrics. What's next for you guys?
"We are going to start making small micro-collections of clothing, designing, and launching one outfit at a time. Specific people or sub-cultures will inspire the looks. We want to make unisex, practical street wear with the same focus on textiles. It will be a fun way to transition into making a wider range of products."
Loving those Sven clogs.
Your live-in studio is impeccably designed. Tell us about it.
"This building was once a laundry for the Union Pacific Railroad, then an ambulance depot, so it has a lot of utilitarian history. I’ve lived and worked in this studio for nearly a decade, so the décor reflects a lot of time spent collecting: textile art, books, photos, ephemera, a sprinkle of ethnic textiles, sculptures from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and a few oddball items, like a pair of taxidermy cloven hooves that are poised as if they are ready for a manicure. I’ve also managed to fill the space with greenery that I sometimes can’t believe have gotten so large — there are basically a couple of trees growing inside my house. Ultimately, it’s a big potpourri of interesting — some may say crazy — things that I try to arrange in a clean, simple layout so it feels inspirational rather than cluttered."
Can we move in?
What are your favorite places to find home furnishings?
Brook: "I definitely put my time in scanning Craigslist, and I’ve also received some really beautiful things as gifts from dear family friends. Almost everything I have is vintage. I feel like old things have a weight and a personality to them. My home décor feels like an ever-evolving, living collage project. I don’t think I’ll ever really be finished, which is both the curse and the blessing."
A cozy corner.
What was the most inspiring moment of your trip to Oaxaca?
"The weaver that we worked with, Alfredo Orozco, said something when we first met with him that was really beautiful. He had gone through a program run by CCA, Oax-i-fornia, that encouraged local crafts-people to be more playful and experimental, the goal being to set their work apart from the hundred of others working in the same medium. Orozco expressed that whereas before it was just a job, working more creatively has made him excited about weaving, and that now he takes pride in designing unique patterns."
Brook chilling in an Ali Golden shirt, vintage skirt, and Ariel Clute necklace.
How has the departure from shibori indigo techniques affected your design process? And will we be seeing more indigo soon?
"We want to have a repertoire of many unique textiles and design processes. We will never be entirely done with indigo. As it moves out of the spotlight and becomes part of our classic line, we intend to have an indigo-shibori vein running through each collection."
Brook showing us the dyeing technique.
Brook's indigo-hued hands.
How did the idea for the Oaxaca inspiration trip come to be?
Kirby: "I visited there twice in the last couple years to work on various projects. It is a wild place where craft basically runs the local economy. We wanted to learn new techniques, be inspired by other makers, and work in a place that provided a certain set of challenges. So much of what we make is about the process, so designing and sourcing in Oaxaca was exciting."
How will your upcoming line of clothing contribute to the Job & Boss vision?
"We are trying to maintain a fresh perspective by evolving in a playful way and not worrying too much about the fashion calendar. We want these outfits to be creative gestures, so our focus isn’t about taking them into mass production. Above anything else, our company is driven by creative exploration."
Kirby in the kitchen in a vintage shirt and pants and shoes custom-made in Mexico.
Another glimpse at the sewing studio.
What parts of the Mexican landscape inspired the colors and aesthetic of the Oaxaca collection (pictured here)?
"Oaxaca is a sea of craft. Local goods accessorize the landscape. We really wanted to abstract and pare down the exuberance that is in so much of the work there, to make a simple pattern with small splashes of striking colors."
Gorgeous! That's a (indigo-dyed) wrap!