Kaleb Duncan is changing up the status quo. The 23-year-old designer, more commonly known as Kei Ai, is carving his own path in the fashion industry, and it’s already taken him as far as New York Fashion Week.
Kei Ai showcased designs at the fall 2021 event’s Small Boutique Fashion Week. He says the experience of seeing so many designers’ work in one place was amazing. The creatives he met offered crucial advice: Stay focused.
This is what motivated him to pursue his newest endeavor, he says. That new project combines his love for clothing with his passion for filmmaking. His looks are primarily inspired by anime, cartoons and Asian cultures. The designer, whose work is mainly womenswear, is beginning to branch out into menswear and children’s clothing.
While Kei Ai works on his new era of designs, he’s also re-enrolling at LSU in the fall in the textiles, apparel design and merchandising program.
How will he balance it all? “One step at a time,” he says.
Kei Ai spoke with 225 about his design process and what’s next.
When did you know you were first interested in design and fashion?
I was in advanced art in (high school in) Texas and everybody had to pick a medium. Some people chose sculpture, some chose film, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My teacher told me to go home and rest on it, and when I woke up, I realized I wear clothes every day and I don’t know how to make them. So I started that.
You describe your current work as erratic. How are you changing your design process?
My path is now leading me more to visual storytelling. I decided to use fashion as more of an art medium because I want to do a bunch of concept videos. I want to combine my love for TV and my love for fashion into one thing.
Tell us more about that.
I’m creating different collections, which are also going to serve just like short films. I’m going to post to different video-sharing platforms and then take photos of the clothing and upload them as collection graphs on my website.
Will people be able to purchase the clothing shown in the concept videos?
Yes. It’s going to be a mix of streetwear and luxury.
This Q&A was edited for clarity and brevity.
This article was originally published in the April 2023 issue of 225 magazine.