Khu Khu make beautiful and exclusive hand-fans for those seeking style and functionality. We blend British design with Spanish artisanal skill to produce the finest quality hand-fans with a distinctive, original aesthetic. From our popular statement fans seen on the likes of Jessie J and Nicole Sherzinger, to our limited-edition premium collections, all our fans are 100% locally sourced and hand-made in Spain.
Since our launch in 2016 we have enjoyed a wild and wonderful ride. We have loved meeting our customers and have exhibited with Stylist Live, The Hand-Made Fair, Wilderness Festival and many more. We are now stocked in over 12 countries and continue to bloom. We have appeared in several top magazines and newspapers and made friends with some fabulous ambassadors on instagram. We enjoy making fans to order and our clients have included Little Mix and Erdem to name a few. We also love to collaborate and it has been a joy to work with Liz Earle, Ibiza Rocks and Selfridges; we can’t wait to reveal who’s next! Khu Khu believe that each new fan is an exciting blank canvas filled with endless possibilities….
Here’s to the future. We hope you’ll join us.
by Victoria Speyer, Founder
If people had told me i would be the founder/director of a hand-fan business when i grew up, i may have been a little incredulous. I didn’t know a thing about hand-fans 10 years ago, very little of Spain, and even less about business. However, when you piece together my life before ¨the lightbulb moment¨ it befits the path of a hand-fan entrepreneur quite well. My mother was very into interiors when i was growing up, and i think the hours spent absorbing metre after metre of textile swatches at the likes of Colefax and Fowler must have left an impression. Also on my mother’s side, my great-grandfather was a renowned war painter, and while I´m no painter, maybe something of his creativity got through. From my father’s side, I inherited a musical ear and a gift for performing. These two passions have intertwined throughout my life and I graduated with a MA joint honours in Theatre and Art History from the University of Glasgow. All this art and drama (what are hand-fans if not dramatic) and struggling to find my place in the world in my 20’s (I tried jewellery design, retail and sales, photojournalism, teaching, I'm probably forgetting something, all of the above); well they not only taught me some invaluable skills for running this business, but that inquisitive, precarious background made the jump to go it alone just that little bit easier.
But I digress.
THE LIGHTBULB MOMENT
I had the initial idea for the company back in 2012 while living in Seville. In the midst of a fleeting but fascinating Andalucian chapter, it occurred to me just what a beautiful and useful accessory the hand-fan was, but yet I didn’t buy a single one. The problem? The multitude of hand-fan vendors were selling fans that appeared very similar to fans from yesteryear, with pretty laces and delicate hand-painted florals or with tourist scenes imported from China. It occurred to me there wasn’t anything modern or stylish available, the fans were not representative of fashion or trends in any way. I wanted something I could feel comfortable and proud to wear, so that was the light bulb moment. If I wanted a fan that would match my wardrobe, maybe someone else would feel the same.
Traditional Hand-Fans Seville, Andalucia
RESEARCH AND LEARNING
Because fan-making is not an art form you can learn at art-school* and post-graduate business degrees are commonly long and generalized, I knew I would need a more direct, hands on approach. I enrolled in a wonderful course from ¨The School For Creative Startups¨, set up by Dragon’s Den Doug Richards with a very specific angle for small creative business, all the while researching who and where fans are made. I discovered that since the 19th Century when hand-fans faded in popularity, only a small community of fan-makers in Europe have survived, of which a large percentage are based in Valencia, Spain. (The history of fan-making in Valencia is a fascinating one and can be read about in our blog entry here.) I packed my bags and made appointments to meet with whoever would see me, with a notebook of fresh ideas about possible new functionality, new materials, new shapes, lots of ¨new¨ in my pocket, and a lot of enthusiasm. Which was not exactly what I was met with. Several manufacturers turned me away, and a common thread was, ¨we make this, and we won’t change it, sorry¨ but there was hope, and one family of traditional fan-makers were interested to hear my ideas.
HITS AND MISSES
As with any experimental journey, not everything is going to be a hit. With the help of fabulous screen-print studio Insley & Nash in E. London, a wide variety of fabrics were printed and sampled, several that didn´t mount well, a few with potential. Similarly, materials. With the help of 3D designer and technician John Edwards, we looked into other stick options and alternative methods for how to rivet them, again with varying luck. Moulds and manufacturing techniques were interesting, but that meant going down the mass production route, of less interest to me then, and now. The decision was made to start with a pre-treated high grade cotton for the fabric (which helps to keep the concertina folds in place) and both traditional woods and a more modern Swiss acrylic hexaglas with moulded rivet system to launch.
READY STEADY GO
If anyone reading this has ever done a Crowdfunding campaign you’ll appreciate the £15,000 capital raised was no small feat! The Kickstarter crowdfunding film was made in Valencia because I wanted to show viewers the factory and traditional methods used for production in Spain and to explain something of artisan fan-making in general. With this money, Khu Khu were able to launch in 2016 and begin selling our fun and fabulous fans to the world!
Fans are nothing without good print design, and this was indeed the aspect most in need of a refresh. I worked closely with London-based The Creative Arms in the early years to help manifest my vision who also excelled in the branding for Khu Khu. To this day my main passion is making original and exclusive collections. I see each fan as a work of art that can be used or displayed. I’m also incredibly enthusiastic about collaborations. I see the fan- shaped canvas as a wonderful artistic challenge for all artists and designers. The prettiest kind of wind-making window, it’s such fun to see what other people will do with it.
Now with a lovely studio/office in Spain, we can work really closely with our suppliers and have joined the fan-making community here. This is easier for us, and better for our customers as we are able to keep on top of production. We can talk through details and try new things, leaving less room for cross-wires and delays. And all out detailing is done either in house or via a community of small creative businesses here in Valencia. Our business is based on personal relationships with the likes of Rafa and Jussi, our screen-printing allies in Ruzafa, to the Castelló die cutter family at the beach, Jose-Luis the sole remaining leather worker in the old district of El Carmen, and many others. One of our core values is to work with local materials and people, supporting small business and promoting sustainability.