Kris Cody: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Sweater designer, mandolin virtuoso, entrepreneur, electronic music producer. We explored the many talents of this UVA student.

In September, Kris Cody may or may not have snuck backstage at a Flume concert. In October, he arranged a meeting with Chance the Rapper. Cody is a musician himself, so you’d be forgiven for thinking he wanted to speak with the two artists about music. The reality? He wanted to show them some sweaters.

This past summer, Cody – a second year at the University – booked a one-way ticket to Peru, one of the many countries through which he traveled during his gap year. As spur-of-the-moment as the decision was, Cody’s plan was clear: he wanted to create a sweater company. He worked tirelessly in Cuzco to design a stylish and functional product, and establish a network of local partners that could realize his vision. In September, PAKA Apparel launched.

With no prior experience in entrepreneurship, Cody started not just a business, but a business that employs over 20 Peruvian women, practices fair trade and uses natural materials and dyes. And in just a few months, PAKA has attracted influencers ranging from Chance to pro surfer Leah Dawson.

As if running a transcontinental venture wasn’t enough, Cody is still producing electronic music out of his bedroom. Growing up in a home where bluegrass was the dominant sound, Cody’s first experiences with music came on a mandolin – not a computer. Now, he leverages his acoustic background to create unique cross-genre tunes influenced as much by his parents as by Flume.

We sat in Cody’s apartment while he recorded upcoming tracks, talked about his creative process and explained how he sometimes leaves class to voice memo the melodies in his head. We also discussed PAKA, Cody’s travels around Peru and the treatment of alpacas in the Quechua community. In talking to him, we’ve realized the depth of his ambitions and the drive he has to fulfill them. Kris Cody is a pioneer, and a dual-pioneer at that.

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