The dawn of a new day beckons better beginnings, as the world embarks on an endeavour for healing and harmony. The year ahead for Kailand Morris is fruitful: ripe with the bloom of fresh releases and custom creations. As the son of the legendary musician Stevie Wonder and fashion designer Kai Milla, art and soul are encoded in his genes. But it’s clear that Kailand’s legacy will be his own, built upon the lessons from those who inspire him.
Conscious of the consequences of our endless appetite for the earth’s assets, the 19 year old is embarking on his quest for renewable convenience at a time when the planet is plagued by pandemonium. Humans have a habit of complicating matters, so maybe it’s time we surrender to simplicity and renew our promise to protect and preserve.
Photographer Renée Parkhurst captures the crux of Kailand’s core, bold but immersive; at one with his surroundings. Golden hour glistens as the LA sun traces Kailand’s face, refracting fire-like embers which burn in the bliss beside him. Stylist Luca Kingston frames Kailand’s architecture in fabrics and fibres which fit with the flare of his fearless faculty. For now, we look ahead, but soon we’ll look up as Kailand continues the climb to the peak of the mount of his impending monopoly.
2020 was a pretty crazy year to say the least, how have you been holding up in the midst of COVID-19?
For me, 2020 was a lot of things. I would say you had the good and the bad. I was trying to focus on my goodness and optimism, but the year was definitely difficult. I could probably speak for a number of people as almost everybody in the world was hit with the whole virus and it really shut down the planet in a completely different way than I would have ever assumed. This is all just nuts to me, especially being kind of young. I mean, with kids, don't get me wrong, we love staying in the house but at the same time, we want to go out and enjoy ourselves, do our things. It's just been really tough.
Have you found yourself down any unexpected paths since the pandemic started?
I feel like more or less I've been focusing on the same stuff, or the same scope of things. Every now and then when I have a sit down with my team, we have a very broad spectrum of different angles and opinions on things we want to tackle. It’s a very diverse demographic of paths that I'm interested in so I feel like I was able to tackle the little things a bit more since I wasn't really able to travel much for fashion week, or for jobs in Italy, or to New York. I've been painting a lot though, I really enjoy painting. I don't know what happened or where it came from, but I have a lot of artistic friends. I guess one of my homies, Sean Koons, painted something for my birthday as we’re super tight so maybe that sparked it? I don't know. But I've been getting a lot of canvases and just having fun.
What would you say your "COVID canvas" looks like?
My COVID canvas, for me... This year has just been rattling, I guess. We have our good moments, but then something else happens. So it's just a back and forth. A really unfortunate event that happened last year that completely devastated me was that I lost one of my good friends, Ryan, in a car accident. He was in a horrible car crash and he lost his life, which was so unfortunate so rest in peace to my boy Ryan. If we call it the 'March 2020' canvas, there would definitely be 'hurt'. But at the same time, there would be an optimistic joy towards it.
You’re just finishing an internship with Kim Jones. Why Dior?
I love doing my research on people I'm inspired by. I would say with the new creative scene that Kanye kind of brought up is now the scene - you have the Virgil's, the Jerry Lorenzo's, the Don C's of fashion - a lot of their inspiration was sparked from Kim Jones. There’s a YouTube video of Kanye and Virgil talking about how they would have Kim mentor them and they would literally be begging him to teach them his ways. But ultimately everybody is inspired by everybody which is a super cool thing. I just feel like the source that Virgil, Don C, Kanye, went to for guidance is the same source that I would like to be at. It's Kim and he’s Kim and Kim speaks for himself. He’s a great guy.
Who are your biggest creative inspirations?
When we talk about creative names, I could go on and on - I'm inspired by almost anything. Kanye is a great name, Virgil, Kim, all great names. Then I would say, Elon Musk, Iron Man, we can go all day long.
What has been the greatest lesson or piece of advice that you’ve learnt so far?
Fortunately, through the opportunities I've been presented with at my age, I find it very important to do things on my own. My mum, she's a fashion designer. So growing up, I was always around designer shoes, womenswear brands, I would always be at Fashion Week even before I knew I loved Fashion Week, I was just there at the shows.
I would say, a valuable lesson I've learned is just to experiment and be open-minded to how you design or what you like to design because, you know, things change. For myself, I've really been going through the process of being a sponge around all the mentors I have, whether it's working with Kanye or Kim. I'm just the biggest sponge, trying to soak up all the knowledge I can so when I do branch off and begin my own journey of design and other artistic fields, I have as much backing from the people that mentored me as possible.
Do you think the perception of masculinity is changing within the fashion industry?
Yeah, definitely. People are becoming more open to trying new things, which in my eyes is always a beautiful thing. Like I said, being open-minded. A lot of the very influential fashion heads in the game, a Luka Sabbat, a Harry Styles, one thing I like about their styles is they're always super experimental. Okay, it's a womenswear piece, but so what? Just dabbling in those different fields that people may have been afraid to, or would previously be considered "unmasculine" or "feminine" or "culturally unexpected". It's breaking boundaries.
Where would you like to see fashion go for 2021/22?
A big thing for me when I'm designing, whether it's a garment, putting sketches up for house furniture, anything really, I always have to cross off 'convenience'. The reason I’m literally giving up my car now for Tesla Model X is because Elon’s designs are perfectly convenient. I feel like right now the fashion industry is designing with super inefficiency, being that there's millions and millions of textiles being dumped, and all this waste that is messing up our planet for the worst, the absolute worst. And it’s on the rise. So where do I want to see fashion? I want to see fashion completely sustainable, eco-friendly. That's why with my brand, every item and fabric thread I use is eco-friendly and sustainable. You're not really losing anything. I think it's cooler the fact that you're wearing something that's recycled or sustainable. If it’s for saving the Earth, who wouldn't want to do that? My homie Jaden out here, he has his water bottles - I'm not sure what the percentage is, it's like maybe 80% renewable, that's the direction I want to see fashion in 2021.
You’ve teamed up with the Italian brand Iceberg to do a charity project to raise money for the youth of LA. Tell us about the story behind this?
So some background on the Watts Empowerment Centre. My older brother Kwame introduced me to the co-founder, Justin Mayo. He and my older brother go way back to when I was a kid, like my baby days. From there when I was 12, instead of having birthday parties, I would just hold an annual event to give back to the community and just raised money in order to send these kids to this super cool camp in Malibu. I was working for them for maybe 3, 4 years. After that, I wanted to branch off on my own path and I felt like I was ready to work on my own. So with KOM Worldwide, which is my non-profit, I was just like, yo, I need to do a project, and it was just a blessing that Justin and my older brother knew each other so closely. So I reached out and Justin is the coolest guy ever and was super open to my ideas. I did two projects there before, then brought on Iceberg. For me, I just love brands that get involved in things you wouldn’t expect. You know, a huge fashion house in Italy coming to the Watts Empowerment Centre in LA is just so powerful to me, even for the kids at the centre. Anything is possible - if you can have this amazing fashion house that's all the way on the other side of the world come here support us and donate custom-made T-shirts, you can do anything. It was a really cool and beautiful moment.
You have also just released your capsule collection with Iceberg for Men’s Fashion Week. Tell me about this?
This is my first collaboration with a fashion house. We worked nonstop just getting this collection ready for the peoples to enjoy. The experience for me, like I said when we go back to just soaking up that wisdom from when I was at Dior - applying that knowledge was super important. So I went in there and did my thing and the clothes look amazing. I honestly can't wait to see what people think, get some feedback, and just keep moving. 2021. Top it off with Iceberg x Kailand Morris!
Who is Kailand?
I feel like I have two answers to this question, but I'm going to steer towards the second. I feel like people look at celebrities or public figures, or just people who have some sort of status, as unachievable or unrelatable. But you know, Kailand is just like any other human being. We all bleed the same blood, we are all the same people, except for the core of who we are as individuals. But I would say for everybody reading this, don't think that anything is unachievable. Kailand is the same as everybody else. Anybody can truly do it. It might sound like all this corny and yadayada... but it's facts. Anybody can do whatever the hell they want to do in the world. There is no reason why if you want to be a race car driver, you won’t be a race car driver. That’s facts.
Where is your happy place?
I don't know if I have a happy place. No - that sounds very bleak. My happy place is just wherever, honestly. I feel like I can make do wherever I am, whatever situation. There's actually this place in LA that I always go to just to clear my head. I feel like my happy place will probably be or have something to do with nature. I feel like whenever I'm in nature and I’m away from my phone or social media - just all the craziness that's going on in the world - is a super happy place for me.
Do you consider social media a force for bad or a force for good?
Like with all good things, there are always two sides to it - it can be used for good, but at the same time, it can also be used for bad. Personally, I think social media is a great thing to an extent, with moderation. I'm not going to be on Instagram or TikTok for 12 straight hours because you're literally disconnected from what's going on in the world. When I speak with my pop about it, you know, just being on your phone or social media, for him, times were completely different, social media wasn't a thing at all. And aside from him being blind, his time was spent completely differently. I couldn't even imagine Michael Jackson or Prince just scrolling through Instagram for 12 hours a day, but it's just a completely different time and I don’t think that there is a clear comparison.
What is your favourite quality about yourself?
I think my favourite quality about myself is just giving back. That same passion I have for design and just being creative, I have that for giving back to people who are less fortunate. We once did this big project and then we were like 'cool, now we're going to go donate a new PlayStation to the Watts', it's just stuff like that. I think I got a lot of that from my parents, so shout out to them. They raised me well.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you've faced so far?
I feel like the biggest challenge for me would probably be paving a lane for myself. I have to acknowledge who my parents are which is never a problem. But, you know, with that - I wouldn't say shadow - but with those huge shoes to fill, paving your own lane is a little bit of challenge, but nothing I can't overcome.
Growing up in such a celebrated creative family, have you ever felt an added pressure or expectation from the wider world to maintain a career in this industry?
Yeah, all the time. People think I look at it in a bad way when actually I think that it’s a blessing that my parents are who they are and I was raised the way I am now. Don't get me wrong, I'm super grateful for everything. But for me, I really don't listen to a lot of the noise and just do my thing. I do have to say though, when the family is together and I'm playing piano, I do feel pressure because when my pop’s around I really mess the piano up, that's facts. So, I mean, that's the only pressure I would say, but nothing external like social media etc.
Can we expect any music from you soon?
Oh, of course. Right now, I've been working a lot on my guitar, piano, just perfecting my skills. Drums were one of the first instruments that I ever started playing when I was like 4 or 5 years old. So I just feel like continuing to practice and work on those gifts that I was given, rather than losing them and becoming super dusty at it. But as far as music, I definitely think that's something that I'll be working on in the near future and I'll be putting out.
Besides fashion and music, what else are you passionate about?
I love acting, movies. That's always been a thing. It's something I'm really passionate about it. A lot of people don't know that I'm a super huge comic book head, Marvel, like bro - you don't even understand, I literally went to the comic book store the other day and I just went frickin' ham. This is just something that not a lot of people know about. I love Marvel, like everything. I'm like a geek. Don't make fun of me. I'm a geek.
What’s next for you?
Oh, my gosh. I see myself building an empire, honestly. House of KOM. Next 10 years, I would say. I don't want to call it a monopoly. But, you know, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk level in 10 years. Those types of vibes.