Meet the Maker: Mandy Kordal

BY Taylor Rebhan

Three years ago, Brooklyn-based designer Mandy Kordal of Kordal Knitwear, was making her entire collection by hand. Today, she meets growing demand by partnering with a small circle of skilled knitters, helping to keep this trade alive. Since partnering with Mandy last year, we’ve created several hand-knit products together, and have watched this inspiring entrepreneur’s business grow while still maintaining the principles her company stands for. 

“In the next three years, I would hope to expand the product line even more and bring on another team member,” she says. “Lately, I’ve been more focused on understanding how to stay true to what brought me to start this business in the first place — having some kind of domestic production, working with manufacturers and making sure workers are paid an ethical wage, and using fabrications that I think are really amazing qualities and are also good for the environment.”

Before launching her own brand, Mandy graduated from the University of Cincinatti and moved to New York City. Her first job in the fashion world was at Betsey Johnson as an assistant designer. She then moved on to work for Doo.ri, and later began freelancing in the studios of established brands like J.Crew and Club Monaco. 

“I would design collections, work with production, make sure products were up to their standards, sourcing textiles — a little bit of everything,” she says. 


Shinola + Kordal Knit Scarf

With lots of experience under her belt, Mandy decided the corporate fashion world wasn’t for her. She launched a Kickstarter campaign fund to help launch the brand and ended up landing in an article written by the New York Times about fashion brands raising capital through Kickstarter. 

Mandy raised nearly $12,000 through the campaign with most of the funds coming from people outside of her personal network, and even outside the United States, she says.

“I used the initial funding to pay for my first trade show, for my first round of samples and for the production materials,” she says. “It was a really small first line and I was very new to all of it, but the campaign helped to get things going by giving me a deadline and a project to work towards — it was also great to get some really good press right off the bat.”

Read more about Mandy in the interview below. Shop her products, here.

Do you have a mentor who inspired you to create your own line?

The most impactful experience was when I worked for this designer, Doo-Ri Chung. She was a Korean designer. It was really inspirational for me when I was in school to see the way she worked her way up to creating her own company. She was in this documentary called Seamless, and it follows her getting her collection together and launching it at the CFDA. I really value that she worked really hard and was an intelligent and thoughtful designer.

It was great to work for her because it was such a small team. I was the assistant to design, assistant to production, and then also doing domestic and overseas sweaters. It was a really great to just jump in and get a lot of hands-on experience. Working for her helped me decide to try and launch my own company.

Through that experience and then also freelancing for some bigger corporations, I got a little bit jaded about the amount of waste and general direction that it seemed the industry was going with. There was lots of over sampling and no concern for what happens to the end product. Today, I’ve even realized for myself there are things that could be done better. It’s definitely something that takes a lot of thought and effort. It’s a constant project for me to produce the highest quality product, while also taking into consideration the environment, the waste, and the people making the product. Our resources are literally being depleted, so for me, in the future I would hope that there are more sustainable designers. Ideally, one day in the future, everybody will take the environment into consideration.


Shinola + Kordal Wrap Scarf

How would you describe your entire collection?

When I first started out, Kordal was a completely 100 percent knit collection — my specialty and my interest has always been in textiles. The collection revolves around having a really easy, very wearable feel. To me, something that’s even more interesting is the fact that these pieces are made with the highest quality materials. I’m learning more about sourcing, and we recently added woven fabric pieces to the collection last season. It’s been really exciting to explore. I enjoy sourcing fabrics.

The more that I look into working with local mills or working in the cottons and qualities that are cared for — it’s obvious that the vendors making these fabrics care about them as well. You can really feel the difference. Kordal Knitwear uses textiles, shapes and silhouettes that aren’t really trend focused. The collection includes things you’re going to feel comfortable in, that you keep for a long time, and everything has a special stitch detailing or something that makes it truly unique.


Shinola + Kordal Wrap Scarf

What has it been like working with Shinola?

I started this company when I was 24 years old, and honestly, I thought I would make some things and see how it goes. It’s been exciting to work with a company that has such an influence and also has such high ethical standards. I’m so glad that they are interested in working with domestic designers and artisans to expand their product line, too. The team is incredible to work with. This collaboration has taught me a lot.


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