A self-described “blues, hip-hip, Southern soul, R&B, brown liquor- and hat-loving Texan,” clothes designer Keith A. Brown is a walking advertisement for his cult label, KAB. Launched in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1994, KAB kept a low profile for some years when Brown and his microbiologist wife, Karen, opted to live overseas. Toward the end of their five-year stay in Geneva, however, Brown felt that it was time to resurrect his brand. “That was 2016,” he recalls, “when the calling to return to fashion pulled me back in. So here we are.”
Home for Brown and his wife – whose mother is Filipino – is in Makati City, where the couple live in a newly refurbished condo while they build another home in nearby Poblacion. “I’ve set up a temporary workspace in the condo. Those who want to visit can view our offerings and be presented with ready-to-wear, custom or bespoke options. But we’re not a retail store that’s open to walk-ins, nor a shop where people bring fabrics for us to make into clothing,” he explains.
His primary focus is to scale up production for his ready-to-wear line, working closely with tailors from Cavite and Mandaluyong. While he drafts the patterns for KAB’s off-the-rack line, a tailor makes the patterns for custom pieces. Brown’s creations are available online.
Brown’s degree in fashion merchandising, coupled with a natural talent for pattern-making and years of experience with ‘80s fashion brands Marithé + François Girbaud and Esprit de Corp, come in handy as KAB is reintroduced to a bigger audience. It’s his courage to dream big, though, that will drive the brand to new heights. “Growing up in a small rural town in East Texas didn’t present many creative options. That can make you settle for the status quo or become hungry for more. More is what I wanted,” he says.
For KAB’s stylistic identity, the designer drew inspiration from his childhood in the South. KAB’s elegant lines, exuberant colors and patterns evoke the imagery that captivated the young Brown. These include bold prints, often seen in handmade quilts, that are transformed into beautifully tailored suits. “Families going to church in their best attire inspire the eclectic nature of my creations. The flavors of Southern cooking – a mélange of colors, textures and aromas – are the hallmark of my style,” he says.