Meet Remnants’ Kayla McGregor, The Matakana-Based Designer Making Jackets As Sweet As Jelly Beans

By Madeleine Crutchley
Designer Kayla McGregor makes candy-ish jackets and more with her brand Remnants.

Kayla McGregor is a Matakana-based designer with an affection for nostalgia. She speaks to Madeleine Crutchley about how her candy-ish, romantic brand seeks to instil hope through eco-consciousness and colour.

The latest collection from Matakana-based brand Remnants recalls the sugary colours of an after-school dairy trip.

Snug plaid jackets, crafted

Kayla McGregor, the founder and designer of the brand, has been selling these one-of-a-kind Jelly Jackets since 2020. The distinctive design, which renders second-hand NZ-made woollen blankets into sturdy and snuggly jackets, has become a beloved piece from Remnants. The jacket is handcrafted and the design originated as a birthday gift for Kayla’s eco-focused partner.

“I had never met someone in my whole life who just didn’t care about material things. He was studying geology and I was studying fashion — the way that we came together was having so much love and care for the environment. I wanted to make him a piece of clothing that would be meaningful and that he would be able to place value on.”

Kayla dons a Jelly Jumper made out of second-hand blankets.
Kayla dons a Jelly Jumper made out of second-hand blankets.

Kayla found a woollen blanket at a local op shop and fashioned the thick fabric into a quarter zip. Her partner loved it. It was the perfect meeting of the sustainable practices they both valued, with a distinct touch of Kayla’s design aesthetic.

“I was trying to change or manipulate someone’s idea of what power comes with clothing and behind clothing. For me, that meant finding a connection to nature through clothing.”

After sharing a picture on social media, Kayla received a wave of positive feedback. She made another, in a purple and orange colourway, which was snatched up quickly. Then, the demand refused to waver. Kayla continued to expand the collection, increasing the volume of her digital offerings and attending local fashion pop-ups.

The Jelly Jackets have become a cult favourite among young fashion fans — the first collection of 2024 sold out in under two days.

“I still can’t keep up with it,” says Kayla. “It’s hard to have a one-of-a-kind item and build that into something bigger. It’s restrictive on how we can grow but also what is so special about it.”

Earlier this year, after years of pop-ups and semi-permanent stores in Auckland, Kayla moved Remnants into a space in Matakana, sharing the shop with Hemy Pottery and Bahatta Hats.

In the shared Remnants space, Kayla retails her handmade clothing alongside a curation of vintage and second-hand pieces.
In the shared Remnants space, Kayla retails her handmade clothing alongside a curation of vintage and second-hand pieces.

With this big move, and her continued expansion of the label (which, at five years old, is almost old enough to make trips to the dairy by itself), Kayla finds herself returning to core concepts to keep Remnants on the right path.

“I always bring it back to three pillars: sustainability, accessibility and inclusivity. That’s the core of what’s important to me.”

How would you describe your style?

Recently, I managed to get this quite concise: I would say colourful, coastal cowgirl.

In saying that, it can completely change. That would be my base style, and then one day you’re going to get colourful hippie and the next day you’ll get a Y2K angel. I am eclectic. I’m a Pilates princess, but I also run this fashion brand and I’m also a surfer. It’s some weird mash of those things.

What is your favourite piece of clothing?

The piece of clothing I probably wear the most is this vintage pair of Acne cargo pants. That’s kind of strange because that is not within my personal style at all.

The second would be a dress my mum made. She wore this little T-shirt shift dress when she was pregnant with me. It’s this horrible polyester fabric but it has this beautiful green floral print. I love it. It’s nostalgic for me. I think it’s nice to have pieces to share with your family — especially as she is such a huge part of my design influence.

The Jelly Jumper is also up there. The original, the classic one, I still have.

This Jelly Jacket mimics the clownish colours of Poppa Jacks.
This Jelly Jacket mimics the clownish colours of Poppa Jacks.

Do you find those pieces from family offer a unique connection?

My mum knits. All of the knitwear that I have she has made me. Everything else travels through and eventually leaves my wardrobe — I’ve never really found something more special than what she’s made me.

Can you talk about some of your influences and the role that nostalgia and memory play in your designs?

Everything that I do comes from what I studied. At uni, I focused on how fashion and people affect the environment.

One of my inspirations was Brandon Sielder’s film photos, which were developed and dipped in polluted waters. When they came out, they would have the most beautiful patterns but they were made in wreckage.

I was diving further into that, understanding fashion and sustainability and going further to understand geology and ecology. I’m very privileged to have people who are experts in those fields in my life, who teach me about that.

I also use a story to explore the idea of Remnants — as I think it’s hard to look at this huge problem of sustainability — to be more hopeful. I like to tell my parents’ love story. They’ve been together since they were 18. I have the most amazing photos of them in the 1960s and 70s. My dad had the classic 70s moustache.

I draw on this romance, imagining my parents’ hope in the 70s and their existence within a pristine environment. In telling a story about them in that time, I feel I’m trying to take you back and encourage aspiration to a better environmental world. All the processes that are used to create the fashion have this element of sustainability, to say it is possible.

And now, Remnants is telling even more stories about grief and healing, and healing through a connection with nature.

How do you source the materials for the Jelly Jumpers, for example?

I have a cool whānau who have been following me for a long time. I have people who I’ve never met and friends who message me when they find woollen blankets in a shop!

Early on, a lady came to me and said, ‘My grandma is moving house and she has these wool blankets’. There was about $300 to $400 worth. I ended up with this massive box of 10 blankets. To this day, the blankets were in the best condition I’ve ever seen.

So, lots of op shops, Trade Me and some stories like that — if I see them, I drop everything.

Could you tell me who some of your favourite designers and makers are?

There’s an Australian brand, Katharina Lou. That’s a really similar vibe to Remnants. There’s a surfing brand too, Climax Surf Wax.

Georgia Alice would be one, even though she’s not open anymore. She had a different aesthetic but the cut and the lines ... I loved her stuff. I was lined up down the street for every sample sale.

I also love Itchy Knits and Monday Journal — I like how they supply the knitting kits as well. And then, Good Lids. We had one of our original stores next to them. They’re a cool group of people.

Kayla on set at a Remnants photoshoot, where the designer and friends wear colourful Dumpling Dresses.
Kayla on set at a Remnants photoshoot, where the designer and friends wear colourful Dumpling Dresses.

What was the last item of clothing that you purchased, and why?

This is going to be really boring but because I’m a Pilates instructor I wear a lot of activewear. I find it hard to find good-quality, sustainable activewear brands. I buy a whole lot of coloured T-shirts from op shops — it’s an easy way for me to find gear for myself. I’ve got baby pink, yellow, blue and green.

What have fashion and Remnants taught you about yourself?

In the last month, it’s taught me that I really, really love what I do. I’ve found that even when it gets hard and I have to take time away, I’m so strongly drawn back.

Remnants has taught me that you can’t ignore some feelings. It’s taught me what I love: sustainability and fashion and expression and inclusivity. I feel grateful for that.

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