Nothing like a cash injection to make you think big, like at Khaite, which this season moved location from an intimate Soho boutique to the Uptown Armory on Park Avenue.
In March, growth equity firm Stripes announced it was investing in Khaite, founded and led by Catherine Holstein, to power future growth. The deal reportedly valuing the brand in excess of $100 million. Funding this Sunday’s cathedral-sized space and the most perfect show light in New York in a decade: two 60-yard gantries high up in the armory, timed to envelope each model in a rippling column of light.
Most importantly this show was also an important fashion statement – about empowerment, steeliness, poise and grit.
Holstein’s DNA is fundamentally New York, and the women who successfully wrestled their way to independence in life, love and career.
“This season, the word that kept on coming up was ferocity. With everything that is happening in the world and in America. We’re seeing things happening to women that we had not seen in a long, long time. So, to handle yourself as an independent woman, you have to have a real fierceness and ferocity, to be sharp. To be the last man standing if you have been here a long time. Come to think of it, maybe I am not independent anymore because I just had a child,” she laughed.
Holstein opened with ruched gazar tops and columns. And cut lots of tough chic leather coats, her cast looking like mysterious heroines. Holstein is also undeniably a great tailor: oversizing black biker jackets, spy coats, and trenches in arty volumes that never overpowered.
Her coolest idea was making the same garment in very different clothes. Like a brilliant ruched power shoulder trench, first in beige gabardine, then in black leather and, finally, white glove leather. For evening, vivid red gazar flared sheathes, ballgowns or Flamenco blouses kicked in some pep, ribbed as corset-style midriffs added a suggestive soupcon of style.
The Khaite creator dissected a slew of looks with buckles made of clasping golden hands and trimmed cuffs with smaller versions, symbolizing the social norms holding women back, Holsten explained pulling her own stomach back, while her handbags looked light golden bars from a sci-fi heist.
She showed big roll bags, large enough “for your whole life,” she laughed. Adding: “That’s what a New York woman does, she goes straight from work to dinner or a drink and carries her life in her bag.”
With her new partners, she has stepped down from her role as CEO to concentrate on creation and shows, and enjoys “not having to be on a million phone calls about finances and with lawyers… while doing a show.”
“They are wonderful partners, they believe in creative first and they trust me wholeheartedly,” chimed Holstein, who in a couple of years has become the defining designer of women who conquer this city’s concrete jungle and the world’s imagination.
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