Photo above: IMPERFKT, an on-line clothing brand based in Wise, Va., was the recipient of a recent VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Grant. Pictured, from left are IMPERFKT Owner Holly Kiser; IMPERFKT Model Meagan Caldwell; Wise County Industrial Development Authority Director Carl Snodgrass; and Small Business Development Center Director Tim Blankenbecler.
What’s in a word? Even more important, however is what’s behind or within a word, according to Holly Kiser, owner of IMPERFKT, a new fashion clothing brand and screen printing design business located in Wise, Va.
Kiser is the majority owner in the business which she co-owns with her sisters, Starla and Amanda. The online clothing brand celebrates human imperfections and diversity and features designs which send a message. From changing the word “Depression” by removing a few letters to “Press On,” or changing “Disability” to “Ability,” or a simple phrase that says “IMPERFKT, Because Perfect is Boring,” there’s a message in the t-shirts and sweatshirts Kiser, a former model, designs.
“It’s all about being vulnerable and having the courage to admit your imperfections” Kiser says. “One of the downsides of the rise of social media has been the promotion of unrealistic livelihoods, unattainable portrayals of beauty, and increasing ideological divisions. IMPERFKT wants to use technology to unify humanity instead of divide us, by celebrating our flaws and imperfections, and championing beauty in all its unique shapes and forms. We spread this message through our online apparel business, social platform and modeling agency.
Kiser was one of the recipients of an up to $10,000 seed capital matching grant recently awarded by the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA).
“Helping entrepreneurs such as Holly Kiser is what VCEDA’s Seed Capital Matching Fund is all about,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “If we can help people to start and grow new small businesses in our region, then that is going to help the economy of our region and create new jobs.”
Kiser noted the VCEDA grant was what made it possible for her to move forward with the project. Equipment to do the printing was needed and has now arrived on site.
“It helped immensely,” she says. She also credited Tim Blankenbecler, director of the Small Business Development Center at Mountain Empire Community College, with helping her in the development of her business plan and the application to VCEDA and Carl Snodgrass, director of the Wise County Industrial Development Authority for assisting her and her sisters in locating a place for the new business.
Currently, the clothing brand is primarily available online through IMPERFKT’s website at www.imperfkt.co and through promotions carried on its social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Recently, the brand began being available in several shops in the Los Angeles area of California.
“For the past year we’ve been working on securing trademarks and copyrights for our brand,” Kiser says.
The Dickenson County, Va., native grew up in Dante and went to the former Ervinton High School. She then went on to UVA-Wise, but her life took a turn when she was on vacation in Miami, Fla., and on a whim went to casting call for models. She finished the semester she was in, but then moved to South Beach, Fla., where she began a modeling career which led her to Bravo TV and the Make Me A SuperModel TV reality show. She auditioned for the show and got the callback and for three months lived in a house with seven guys and seven girls vying for the title of Supermodel. Kiser won the show and that launched a successful modeling career which saw her travel around the world – to China, New Zealand, Korea, Italy, Japan, Greece and more. For three months at a time, she would move to a foreign country, model there and then move on to the next country.
She modeled for more than a decade, based in New York City and Los Angeles. She appeared in campaigns and commercials for various brands and companies, including GQ, Vogue Italia, Cadillac, Adidas, Nike and Apple. She walked the runway for Jason Wu, Zac Posen and Gwen Stefani.
She tried her hand at acting and made an appearance in the movie “The Other Woman” and the TV shows “The Ellen Show” and “Project Runway.” She most recently worked in Los Angeles at Abrams Artists Agency and Rat Pac Entertainment.
She says she spent the majority of her modeling career struggling with a healthy body image and low self-esteem caused primarily by the pressures of the fashion industry, a story she tells on her website as well. She talks about how she developed an eating disorder early in her career due to the unrealistic expectation to be thin and later, determined to change society’s view of perfection, she founded IMPERFKT where she encourages everyone, not just the fashion world, to embrace their imperfections.
“I struggled with low self-esteem and figuring out my purpose in life” but ultimately, it’s what led me to create IMPERFKT,” she adds. “IMPERFKT was the answer to that. I had a voice and this was a way to use it.”
She went to a conference for entrepreneurs and it was after that conference that she began in earnest to work on her new company idea. She returned to Southwest Virginia and began to work to launch that dream. When her sister, Dr. Starla Kiser, also returned to the region to open up her medical practice, Healios Health Center, the sisters chose office space in the Wise Industrial building to house both businesses.
She got in her first screen printing equipment earlier this summer which will now enable her to both design and make the IMPERFKT line of shirts and sweatshirts in-house, allowing her to increase and better respond to inventory needs. She plans to hire a graphic designer and already has some part-time local models working with her.