Exclusive interview with American fashion brand Cat and King.
Q: What’s the real meaning of the name “Cat and King”?
A: Literally speaking, Cat and King are our nicknames for each other. Cat is short for Catherine and King is Shannon’s last name. Being lifelong friends, our nicknames have always stuck with us, everyone knows us as Cat and King. But beyond that, Cat + King represents so much more. We feel it is our mission to bring awareness to more ethical fashion practices and to promote sustainability through our collection, across the globe. We want the focus to be on a beautifully handcrafted collection that has an impactful message behind it. Our ultimate goal is not about fame or making millions of dollars, it is about bringing joy to those who need it – such as empowering underprivileged women around the world. We want to bring them a piece of hope that has been lost; this is what motivates us as designers. Fashion has a powerful platform in the world and it can be the cause for great change. So as designers, we want to use our industry to bring awareness to various issues we feel strongly about. We support fair trade fashion practices and sensible sustainability, meaning our products are created cruelty-free. We hope by spreading the word of Cat + King, that we can make a change in how our clothes are made and where they are made. We plan to carry out our fair-trade commitment into future missionary work. We want to connect artisans, from the developing world, to the profit chain of fashion and make the part of the Cat + King community. A community working toward a greater, more unified tomorrow.
Q: How near or far is fashion in the sustainability idea?
A: Sustainability isn’t a new idea but it’s definitely where the future is heading. The more support and awareness we bring to sustainability as fashion community, the more we can control how and where our clothes are made. We have social responsibility to change how our population affects the environment and with the fashion industry being the second leading cause of pollution worldwide, there’s no better place to start. It is only a matter of time before we see more designers making sustainability an identifying factor of their brand. Sustainability is a part of our brand’s identity. It’s important for any brand to have an identity and stay true to it. All of the well-known fashion houses that have been around for years are easily identified by aspects of the brands that have become iconic or synonymous to the name. That’s what we hope to accomplish through our made-to-order model, offering only high quality and timeless designs. Especially in a media driven world, the message has become just as important as the product. We stand by our message to bring handmade back to the U.S. through ethical and fair production practices and to provide women with unique, tailor-made pieces. That’s what makes us stand out as a brand, we’re not just another fashion collection for women, we are a premiere atelier service for tailor made to order women’s clothing. Historically speaking, there have always been custom clothing services available to men. For example, if a man wanted a new suit for work he has access to multiple tailor shops or stores that provide custom suit services. However, from a women’s point of view, there is really nothing out there that is easily accessible for a custom made garment and we’d like to change that. In doing so, we also want to eliminate other deviating aspects of shopping such as finding the right size or the perfect party dress. Women come in all different forms and we are here to accommodate each and every one.
Q: If you could collaborate with another brand, who would you choose and why?
A: It would be great to collaborate with a brand like Donna Karan’s Urban Zen mostly because we share a lot of the same ethical and philanthropic views and I think we could learn a lot from them. Their commitment to bring education, wellness, and financial opportunities to third world regions of the world is both admirable and inspirational for the two of us who dream of something greater than just designing clothes. We want to revolutionize the fashion industry in a way that Donna Karan along with our other fashion predecessors have, promoting sensibly and sustainably made clothing. One of our other favorite revolutionaries, Vivienne Westwood, once said, “buy less, choose, well and make it last”. These are the guidelines our brand foundation was built on.
Q: Will you design also accessories or homeware any time soon?
A: We would definitely like to expand our brand into accessories and homeware by incorporating a non-profit aspect to our brand. We’d like to open these future departments of Cat + King to global artisans who specialize in the indigenous crafts of their region and connect them to an international platform for a better opportunity. We love learning about people and experiencing other cultures beyond our own. We are really inspired by helping others and bringing hope and opportunities to people around the world. Our time spent studying in Europe, allowed us to experience many different cultures first hand. While we saw a lot beautiful regions of Europe, we also saw many people and places in need of restoration. What motivates us and the Cat + King brand is our goal to bring hope to the less fortunate around us.
Q: What does it mean to live and work in NYC nowadays?
A: The hustle and bustle of New York City is still alive and well, although a lot is changing. Working in the New York fashion center, it saddens us to see the dwindling garment district. Once home to the city’s largest manufacturing industry for clothing, the garment district continues to dissipate as production is outsourced to overseas factories. Buildings once filled with sample rooms of skilled workers are now emptying out as rents become unaffordable. Fabric and trim stores that once supplied big corporations are now relying on hobbyists to keep their businesses up and running. As emerging designers, it is frustrating that our resources are becoming limited in one of the greatest fashion cities in the world and we want to change that. Our hope is to start the trend and bring handmade back to New York and back to the U.S. while supporting fair trade fashion manufacturing. By spreading our message, we hope to encourage other designers to do the same and give their support to the few surviving resources that are left in the area and throughout the country. Let’s collectively, as a fashion community, build the garment district back up to the to the fashion epicenter it once was and prompt the change needed to support U.S. made products.
Q: What is “Italian classicism” for you?
A: To Cat + King, Italian classicism is the tradition and values that have been upheld by the fashion houses of Italy for years and years. We admire that Italian design houses are still run by native Italians, some of which still withholding the “family” name. (i.e. Donatella Versace or Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana). By doing so, the authenticity and essence of Italian craftsmanship has never been lost. The same techniques, that have been passed down through generations, are still being used today giving each piece a timelessness and quality comparable to none. We want to mimic these efforts by incorporating this great attention to detail and artisanship in our own collection and make Cat + King a household namesake just as the Italian brands that inspire us. Modern American meets Italian classicism is the perfect description of the Cat + King style and aesthetic. We balance our custom feminine pieces with exceptional tailoring, clean lines, and authentic classicism recognized from Italian old-world couture. A lot of our inspiration derives from Italy, where we studied and truly fell in love with our craft. It has been and always will be a very special place to us.
Q: What are you future plans?
A: We see a future of missions work through the fashion industry in our path. Our hope is to start a foundation that provides support to disadvantaged children, women, and families in underprivileged communities around the world. We want to work directly with these individuals and bring their craft and skill to an international market. By doing so, we will create better opportunities and a greater quality of life for these families. So far we’ve been blessed with a lot of great opportunities and we’re excited to see where everything takes us. At the same time, we just want to continue to grow as a brand and focus on our next collection, always keeping our innovative, tailor made-to-order model in mind. You can see our upcoming collections premiering at Feeric Fashion Week this July in Sibiu, Romania!
For more info visit www.catandking.com