silk textures and prints | Kostome fall 2014
one of the best things about running les anti-modernes* is the opportunity to meet and interview brilliant and creative women from all over the world. recently, a mutual friend and former professor of mine invited me to the trunk show and launch of Kostome. i was intrigued and excited to meet Kareen Smith, the creative force and one-woman atelier behind the designs.
read on for the interview!
Kareen Smith Design was founded in 1997 – a New York City designer focusing on the clothing you love to wear. I mainly focused on designing with natural fibers for an emerging sustainable clothing market. The collections were sold wholesale throughout the U.S. to specialty boutiques that specialized in natural fibers and hemp clothing.
Fashion is usually based on trends and not individuality. I think clothing should reflect the woman. She should feel as though her clothes are a second skin. In 2005, I opened Smith On Sullivan catering to such a woman. All of the garments at my boutique were produced on the premises – I specialized in one of a kind recycled cashmere and wool sweaters. The customer response to these designs was overwhelming, and it was difficult to keep up with the demand. As a designer, this was a great problem to have! In 2008, I closed Smith On Sullivan for personal reasons.
pieces from the Spring 2014 Kostome collection
2. what is your design philosophy? who is the Kostome woman?"I think clothing should reflect the woman. She should feel as though her clothes are a second skin."
Kostome is a combination of Kareen Smith Design and the services offered at Smith on Sullivan. The client is the same: a woman who cares about quality, fit, sustainability and individual style. Kostome dares you to be different, to be yourself. By making limited edition pieces you can choose the piece that speaks to you. I like my designs to be timeless and to be worn with other designer pieces.
We now live in a world where everything is done online. Dating, shopping, communicating and a host of normal day to day activity are now done online. Most people are now buying cookie cutter clothing online, it's all the same. Our society has become uniformed and stepping out and looking at style through a personal lens is frightening to today's young women. I would like to change that.
"Kostome is a combination of Kareen Smith Design and the services offered at Smith on Sullivan. The client is the same: a woman who cares about quality, fit, sustainability, and individual style."
3. retail and tech-wise, the fashion industry has transformed so much in the last decade. what is your ethos behind creating a collection by hand?
Couture is still being created by hand. Creating by hand is not just a skill; it is an art, like painting, sculpting, or writing. The connection between hand and brain is not interrupted. The result is truly superior and far more rewarding to the creator and the client. We are what we eat, but we are also what we wear. Even though I make all my collection pieces by hand, I don't like to use the term 'couture' when I describe my collection because of the price point that is usually associated with couture.
The fashion industry is a mess right now. Everyone is trying to sell online, with sales before the season even starts. I am not a big fan of fashion industry right now, too much of the same. Throwaway fashion is not my thing. I am not against technology, but must we do everything online? Taking away hand work, which builds on our skills, removes what fulfills us. We are social animals. The lack of human contact isolates us from aspects of life that gives us meaning.
4. what is the inspiration behind your fall collection?"Creating by hand is not just a skill; it is an art, like painting, sculpting, or writing. The connection between hand and brain is not interrupted. The result is truly superior and far more rewarding to the creator and the client. We are what we eat, but we are also what we wear."
My Fall 2014 collection is about walking, being one with the elements. How to look beautiful but staying warm. Layering correctly. Light silks, soft cashmere, loose tailoring, an emphasis on pants. The denim revolution I hope is coming to a close and we can wear something other than skinny jeans. There is also an homage to the 1940s in this collection. Women on the go. Women who were starting to be seen more in pants. For me, tailoring is a must for fall. A well cut coat and jacket is a must in every woman's closet.
Fall 2014 lookbook | Kostome
5. what fabrics / textiles do you like to work with?
I like to work in natural fibers. Natural fibers feel better to the touch, are more comfortable and allow the body to breathe. Synthetic fibers are harder to work with when designing by hand. The clothes must have a good handfeel. I particularly like to work with cashmere and wool sweaters. Designing new sweaters from vintage knits has its challenges, but I love it. Each one is a work of art.
Fall 2014 fabrications: wool suiting, Japanese plaid flannel
6. how would you describe your personal style? what are your go-to essentials?
I don't have one style. I have many depending on the day and my mood and where I am. A personal specific style is too regimented for me. A diverse wardrobe is essential for me. I have to be able to be comfortable in any situation. Most days, I am in relaxed clothing so I can come and go easily. If I don't wear a garment in 6 months I get rid of it, this way I can have a fresh perspective. I really don't have any go-to items. I try to rotate and reinvent my clothes. I am always playing with new combinations, so I rarely wear the same combination of things.
I do believe the most essential things for fall are great coats and boots. For spring, the perfect jacket and dress.
7. what are you passionate about? who / what inspires you?
I am a passionate person, it's not one thing. Passion also changes with experience. I am passionate about clothing design. Each collection feeds into a fantasy of mine or a previous era.
"Inspiration comes to me in various ways and is fluid. I don't have a particular person who inspires me. I can be inspired by a color, a place, an object or an experience, anything and everything. Sometimes my ideas are a reaction against a current trend. We are all individual beings and artists, and designers have taught me to follow my own beat. I am happiest trying something new. I don't care if I look different from everyone else."