There’s nothing better than feeling like you’ve stumbled on a secret surprise. That’s what it feels like when you first see Designer Kathrine Zeren’s neckties. An industry veteran now living in Houston, Kathrine Zeren is a strong believer in paying attention to even the smallest of details and it shows. With fabrics that are sustainably sourced and designed alongside artisans like Kari Brietigam and American made by expert craftsmen, Zeren’s collection is a menswear dream. Brides and grooms will be happy too Today, we chat with Kathrine about finding production, her philosophy, and being classic – not boring.
How and why did you start designing?
I have always been passionate about art and spent most of my childhood and teen years painting and drawing. When I started thinking about college, I knew that I wanted to stay in a creative field, but realized that I wanted a little more structure than being a fine artist would offer. I had always felt very opinionated about my clothing and what clothing could or should look like, so I took that as a cue to pursue a degree in apparel design.
What is your fashion philosophy?
I think that clothing should be practical and flattering, but not too serious. I like to play with color and textures in ways that aren’t overwhelming, but rather in ways that add interesting details to things that might otherwise be simple.
How would you describe the Kathrine Zeren brand aesthetic?
Classic – but not boring.
How has your design changed over time and why neckties?
Before designing neckties, I only focused on womenswear. I spent years as a women’s woven shirts, tops, and dress designer when I was at Abercrombie (and Fitch). Before that, I was in school and had done a lot of tailoring. I don’t think that my overall style has changed all that much, though. I find myself still being inspired by the same things that inspired me in my early 20’s, I just have more experience now.
What inspired your latest necktie collection and how did you meet the textile designer you are working with?
Kari (Brietigam) and I met at a holiday show at which we were both vendors. She had these beautifully hand-dyed scarves that I thought could translate into a collection of neckties. When I later approached her about collaborating, she thought it could be fun, and we developed some custom fabric color ways together.
What is your biggest hurdle building a brand today?
Being in Houston has presented an interesting challenge. I’ve had to work with factories in other parts of the country, which isn’t really ideal, but it’s really better to work with people who know what they’re doing, especially because ties are so niche. Not every factory is willing or has the capability to make them due to the amount of handwork that is necessary.
What do you think about fashion today?
I believe that the fashion industry is changing at a rapid pace. I graduated from college almost 10 years ago, and it’s a completely different industry now, due to technology and social media. Fast fashion is as strong as ever, and yet there is an increasing amount of startups trying to disrupt the industry. When I started talking about sustainability being at the core of my business, most people didn’t even know what that meant or that it mattered. Now, sustainability has become a major buzz word, and I think most people (in the fashion industry, at least) are aware that fashion is the second leading cause of global warming. It’s becoming more difficult to remain ignorant of our carbon footprint, which is a good thing, I think.
Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?
I like to travel. I go to art museums. I watch period films or films from the 30’s-70’s. I look at fashion from the 20’s-70’s. Really, it’s about getting outside of my everyday rhythm and seeing new things that inspire new ideas. Traveling is also great for that.
Any tips and tricks of the trade?
Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. Get enough sleep. Work hard, but allow time to take breaks; it can help keep you more objective.
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