Joanna Williams, Founder, Kneeland Co.

Stepping into Joanna Williams Atwater studio in Los Angeles is like stumbling upon a mythical market. This lady is the proud owner of Kneeland Co., a visual resource of rare textiles. Scouring the world, Joanna provides inspiration to many a well-known creative company. Luckily for us, she realized that individuals wanted a piece of the pie too and has thoughtfully curated a magical blend of vibrant treasures - all available for our purchasing pleasure online at  Kneeland Mercado. Today Lisa Says Gah brings you inside the mind, and vibrantly colorful studio of Joanna Williams. Enjoy! 

LSG: Hi, Joanna! Can you share the basics of your educational and professional background with us? Where are you from? How long have you been in the LA Area? 

I went to college in Houston (where I grew up) and received a degree in PR from the University of Houston in 2001.  I thought I wanted to work in PR or advertising for fashion brands until I actually started and quickly realized that it wasn’t creatively fulfilling enough for me.  I moved to LA almost 14 years ago and after a brief stint in advertising I started to work for a trend forecasting company that was based in NYC. I was the West Coast Trend Correspondent for three years and traveled all over the West Coast and around the world reporting on fashion and lifestyle trends.  I then started working freelance, doing some consulting for various brands and got into a little bit of fashion and culture writing for different publications.  While I was consulting 3 days a week for a big corporate company I decided to launch my business, Kneeland Co., specializing in vintage textile sourcing for designers.  That was five years ago!

LSG: Tell us a little bit about Kneeland Co. and branching out into Kneeland Mercado. What drives you to take on so much creatively and professionally?

Kneeland Co. started as a vintage textile studio and has since grown into a consulting business that includes a research library for designers and a vintage shopping service for major brands and designers. In the beginning, I was scouring the globe sourcing everything from vintage prints to embroideries and embellishments for companies and I wasn’t selling anything to the public; only to the trade. I started bringing back all kinds of objects and home goods for myself and I had the idea to start an online store that could be available to the public. While I do enjoy having Kneeland Mercado, the textile and consulting business takes up the majority of my time. I wanted to create and build a business doing what I’m good at, which is discovering beautiful things and having an outlet to share them with others whether it’s creatives or anyone wanting something special to display in their home.

As far as what drives me to take on so much creatively and professionally, I think part of it just stems from a natural ambition I’ve always had. From a young age, I knew that I wanted to do some something creative and I was always very interested in both fashion and music. Those two things along with an older brother and a very influential older cousin are what had the biggest impact on me. I also find it very inspiring to live in this day in age where you can create any kind of job or career that you want. The sky's the limit! And of course once you have been operating and running a business for a while you want to push yourself into new territory and dimensions.  

LSG: Travel is obviously a huge part of your inspiration. Where did you last visit and what's next on the list?

I mostly travel for client appointments, but I do get to travel for the store and to source for the textile studio. The last place I visited was NYC and I’ll be going to Mexico City in September as well as Paris.  

LSG: Can you speak to your relationship with History and the way objects can connect us to it?

Working with vintage and antique textiles definitely gives me a sense of appreciation for history and craftsmanship. I think it’s important to preserve these truly special works of art, especially because they are unique and will never be made again! The same can be said for objects. It’s important to know where things come from - how they originated, what their influence was, and how they will continue to influence and inspire creativity.

LSG: As an independent business owner, what advice would you share with someone interested in starting a company?

Don’t let yourself be influenced by how someone else is doing something. The way someone runs their business has nothing to do with you and your vision. Stick to your instincts. And do something that scares the shit out of you at least once a week. Perseverance is key.

LSG: What skills would you recommend mastering before becoming your own boss?

Master the skill of learning how to deal with rejection.

LSG: How do you think San Franciscans and Los Angelenos approach style differently? Weather is a factor, but what about the general ethos of each city?

I love both styles equally! I love seeing a cool girl in SF who has a good sense of layering because it’s all about the layering in a city with erratic weather. I think San Franciscans have a looser attitude about getting dressed whereas Los Angelenos like to impress people. It makes sense considering the history of Hollywood and the influence it still has on fashion.

LSG: Is there anything in LA you recommend we check out while here?!!?

Casbah cafe’ in Silver Lake for a cup of chai; Taix in Echo Park which is an old school French restaurant with the best martinis in town; Collection LA - my favorite vintage store; Jon & Vinny’s in West Hollywood for a mind-blowing breakfast; and Arcana Books in Culver City.

LSG: What is the last book you read and loved?

Kim Gordon - Girl in a Band

LSG: What are you obsessed with right now? (Anything! Food, shoes, music, exotic carnivorous plants...)

Mint green nail polish, vintage music t-shirts, the band Thee Oh Sees, the television show Friday Night Lights, an incredible Italian interiors magazine Cabana, and I’m always always always obsessed with shoes.

INTERVIEWED BY OLIVIA LA ROCHE 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANNA-ALEXIA BASILE