Step into KESTAN at Irvine Spectrum Center and you just might see fashion designer Stephanie Lin fitting her latest design on a customer.
“I love being at the store and connecting with women,” says co-owner Lin, whose fashions have been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and New York magazine.
Since launching KESTAN in 2016 with her brother, Kevin, the Irvine siblings have earned acclaim for their original designs that use “eco-fibers,” such as brushed bamboo, to create soft, flowing and luxurious fabrics.
“We’ve evolved our line into a marriage between clothing that’s well made, well tailored, well designed – and good for the environment,” Stephanie says. “They’re not mutually exclusive anymore.”
The brother and sister grew up in Irvine’s Northwood village, where their parents still live.
“Mom still brings us lunch to the store,” says Kevin, 33, who attended Northwood High before earning a master’s degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Supply Chain Management and Logistics.
Stephanie was so good at drawing and sewing that at age 17, she entered Parsons School of Design in New York (the choice of Donna Karan, Kay Unger and others) and then Central Saint Martins in London.
“It’s great to help women transition from work-at-home back to the office because people are ready to go back out again.” – Stephanie Lin
From there, she’d study under the most famous designers and design shops in the world – Diane von Furstenberg, J. Mendel and Armani Exchange – before moving to Germany to design womenswear for Esprit. It was during a vacation with Kevin, traveling the route of the old Orient Express, that she realized her destiny.
“I was kinda being an annoying young sister, complaining about my job,” says Stephanie, 28. “I had these big ideas about how women dress, how fashion should meet our needs and how fashion is changing.”
Finally, in a bar in Vienna, Kevin turned to her and said, “Hey sis, either stop complaining about your job or quit and do something about your passion.”
He also said he believed in her vision. So she started sketching ideas for their own shop on napkins. Before leaving, they even had a name for their new venture: KE for Kevin; ST for both Stephanie and dad Steven; and AN for mom Annie: KESTAN.
“We’re very family-oriented, so we decided to come back home to Irvine,” she says.
Conscious about community
From the start, their goal was to bring compassion to fashion.
Not only do they use sustainable fabrics made with natural fibers, they use fabric mills with ethical labor practices.
“We’re super community-oriented,” says Stephanie, who also hosts mixers, speakers’ panels and art classes for women at their shop.
The siblings feel lucky to have landed at Spectrum Center.
“We’ve always loved this center,” Kevin says. “There are a lot of young professionals in Irvine that love Stephanie’s designs. And we’re right next to Nordstrom, so it’s a great opportunity to be next to some giants.”
Even after the pandemic closed shops in early 2020, the Lins were among the first to reopen.
“Indoor malls opened much later because they had more restrictions,” Kevin says. “Spectrum Center was able to reopen quickly.”
Who does Stephanie design her clothes for?
“She’s someone who wants to achieve things in her life, but she has an outside life as well,” Stephanie says. “She enjoys dressing up and feeling good in what she’s wearing. And she enjoys effortless, elegant, easy-to-wear clothing.”
Her new spring and summer collections focus on soft, breathable fabrics.
“It feels like you’re wearing your pajamas at home,” she says, “but it’s a really elegant, beautiful blouse.”
As things open up again, Stephanie has noticed just how much people enjoy the art of dressing up when they go out.
“It’s great to help women transition from work-at-home back to the office because people are ready to go back out again,” she says. “And you want to look good.”
A MASTER CLASS
How I Designed The Belvedere Dress
The Belvedere dress. It’s one of our best sellers this season, which is themed “A Walk In Vienna.” I felt that after last year, a lot of women were looking for a fresher, more upbeat perspective on dressing. A lot of us were looking forward to having fun with our looks and rediscovering the joy in dressing up. Vienna’s the city where Kevin and I decided to found KESTAN, and since I couldn’t travel, I thought I could go there via my collection!
This dress was inspired by the beautiful gardens of Schönbrunn Palace. I wanted to capture the essence of spring florals but elevate it with a modern take on florals. This is a limited-edition print crafted from the softest cotton that we developed with our Japanese mill. Although certain details of the dress (such as its ruffle detailing at the sleeves and hem) evoke a sense of whimsy and romance, the core silhouette is still timeless and perfect for any occasion.
Other details, such as a generous wrap design and pockets, were put in so that women can enjoy a functional garment that looks and wears beautifully. My goal as a designer is always to
find the meeting point between form and function – to design garments that are stunning on the form while being effortless to wear.
All in all, my goal with this dress was for women to feel beautiful in a way that’s truly natural and effortless.
– Stephanie Lin, KESTAN co-owner