“The way I remember it, there was this huge loft in the oldest part of Philadelphia. It was filled with the most splendid shimmering fabrics hanging everywhere . . . from the ceiling drying, against the walls being painted, even from the fire escape. That was in 1997 and it was my first day of work at Kevin O’Brien Studio”, says Angela Romano-Vosburgh, now the Studio Manager and lead designer.
Since those early days KOBS has outgrown that dank loft and has recently renovated an old movie theatre on Broad Street in South Philadelphia. It is beautiful and light filled and spacious and if you come there you will still see freshly dyed fabrics hanging just about everywhere. The commitment to making fine things by hand in Philadelphia has not changed but just about everything else has. There is not as much homemade equipment (although there is still plenty of that as the methods they use are mostly invented by them, so the equipment must be as well) and there is lots of space to invent new techniques.
“I was lured to Kevin’s Studio in 2000 by a scarf I’d seen for sale in a museum gift shop,” says Lee Crane, who now manages all of the company’s product, fabric, and dyeing production. “When I started with the company, they were making mostly fabrics for fashion designers, and their own line of scarves and clothing that was selling at Saks, Neimans, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” KOBS is now primarily a home furnishings company, producing pillows, quilts, duvets, rugs, and a variety of other items all made from start to finish in Philadelphia.
John Loughney, the KOBS Dye Specialist, recalls the beginning of his career at the studio. “I was surprised that right after I was hired in 2003, Kevin took off for Nepal to set up his own workshop in Kathmandu.” Nepal is the one other place that Kevin works. There are some embroidery and hand weaving techniques that can’t be done anywhere else so he makes a few products there – plus Kevin has a soft spot for the people of that wonderful nation.
This is the way Kevin remembers it – “I was just a kid when I started this (even though I had already turned 30) and it was just me, a paintbrush, and a lot of energy, with not a lick of knowledge of the textile business. The energy got me through the first ten years, at the end of which I knew something about textiles but nothing about the home furnishings business. It’s been another ten years and now I know what I am doing in business too. Keep watching our company to see what’s next, as the energetic spirit I started this company with hasn’t faltered, and our employees have the same innovative, creative drive. I still don’t know what I don’t know and cannot wait to find out in ten years.”
As a painter, Kevin’s goals are to add beauty to the world and meaning to his own life. Kevin believes that “with beauty and meaning, inspiration comes naturally, often, and from everywhere,” so it was a natural transition when he made the switch from traditional painting to textiles.
Getting his start in the luxury fashion world selling hand-painted scarves 20 years ago, Kevin’s line today includes handmade decorative pillows, bedding, curtains, scarves, throws, and more. He employs a studio of artists who help create some of the most elegantly unique, plush, and beautiful textiles in the industry, most recently designing a line of rugs for Capel Rugs. Everyone from NYC art lovers to interior designers are gaga over his beautiful artistry, and his following continues to grow among those that appreciate the finest fibers, handmade craftsmanship, and dynamic design sense.
Kevin began what would become Kevin O’Brien Studio over twenty years ago alone in a drafty old barn. However, as his business has grown he has developed a great knack for hiring talented artists and designers. The KOB team consists of a diverse group of strong minded, creative people, most of whom completed their college educations at surrounding art schools, including the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Moore College of Art and Design, and the Art Institute of Philadelphia. Due to the creative minds that make up the KOB crew, the products are the result of many peoples efforts. No matter how busy the studio gets, they work together like a well oiled machine.
ABOUT THE PHILADELPHIA STUDIO
The company began with Kevin, some fabric, and a barn outside of Philadelphia that he used to call his studio. After securing an account with Barney’s selling hand painted scarves, Kevin moved his production studio to a loft in Old City, Philadelphia, which was the company home for many years to come. In 2012, after much company growth, Kevin O’Brien Studio moved to their permanent home, located in the heart of South Philly.
Our new studio was just a shell of an old movie theater when we found it 3 years ago. We spent a year rebuilding it into a modern gem, converted to suit our needs and keep all production under one roof. Now we design, print, paint and dye all our fabrics in this wondrous new location. Then it is cut and sewn there too. Not only can we say that our product is all made in the USA, but we can say we make it all ourselves under one roof. That is a very satisfying milestone to have reached.
ABOUT THE NEPAL STUDIO
There are some things that just cannot be done anymore in the good ole’ USA, so Kevin has set up a small studio in Kathmandu, Nepal. He also happens to love Nepal and the gentle people of that remote nation squeezed between the Himalayas and the northern jungles of India. They live not only a few time zones removed from the modern world, but a few decades too. Like our Philadelphia studio, attention to detail and the importance of the human hand are highly valued in our sister studio. They can do anything we dream of with an embroidery needle and can hand weave a single blanket if we need it. Stay tuned for exciting new bedding introductions we’ll be making soon that has been handmade by this little team.
Our showroom and boutique in Philadelphia:
1811 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
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