Dissecting the design language of New York brand Khaite

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Dissecting the design language of New York brand Khaite

As Khaite presents her A/W 2022 show during New York Fashion Week, we talk to founder Cate Holstein about the importance of physical connection

“We crave deeply sensory, in-person experiences,” says Khaite founder Cate Holstein of a portfolio of new physical retail spaces.

When, on the one hand, some brands are redoubling their efforts on the metaverse, anticipating a purely digital future, others are leaning towards the personal relationship. Holstein has a foot in both camps: His New York brand Khaite has used augmented reality for his successful fashion shows – notably for his pre-fall 2021 collection, when, amid the pandemic, models were transported in your home, walking as high as a teacup on your desk or larger than life in your living room. In June 2021, Holstein introduced BODS, cutting-edge technology allowing customers to create an avatar by simply uploading two photos of themselves, allowing them to try on different styles and sizes before ordering.

Khaite: A design language that embraces the in-person experience

Harrods. Image courtesy of Khaite

But lately, Holstein has been captivated by the human experience of IRL, cementing Khaite’s imprint through a series of pop-ups and shop-in-shops. “In the wake of the pandemic, I think we’re all craving deeply sensory, in-person experiences more than ever,” she says. “Now is the perfect time to bring the world of Khaite to life in an immersive space where our customers can interact with the collection and feel our fabrics and textures.” Holstein commissioned Stockholm design studio Halleroed to work with her to create a tangible vocabulary for the brand, reflecting the late 1970s glamor and early 1980s decadence for which the brand became known.

While each intimate pop-up space had dimensions, light, access, etc. different, Holstein and Halleroed developed key elements that would appear in each: a large freestanding mirror framed in glossy tineo wood; polished stainless steel shelves; and a zebra-patterned woven rug, all made in northern Italy. Each space would be furnished with a unique chair, from all over Europe. “I wanted the pop-up spaces to reflect and complement the collection by playing with scale, shapes and multi-faceted materials,” says Holstein.

The portfolio of permanent pop-ups and shop-in-shops includes Harrods in London; Le Bon Marché in Paris; Tsum in Moscow; Babochka in Saint Petersburg; Bergdorf Goodman in New York; and The Webster in Miami. The rollout began in September 2021 with Harrods, which proved so popular that its tenure was extended. A permanent space in the impressive Printemps renovation in Paris will open in early March 2022.

How does building a physical space compare to building a collection? “With every project I take on, I want to keep pushing and pushing, trying new concepts and materials, and continuing to challenge myself to make them my own,” says Holstein.

The Khaite A/W 2022 show will take place at NYFW on Sunday, February 13 at 1 p.m. EST. §

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