Feeling defeated in the search to find great fall pieces, I decided to search online in hopes of finding some vintage sites to upgrade my closet. At first the results proved disappointing mirroring the same luck I and others I know were having in the stores, boutiques, and even vintage shops in the city. There were numerous sites charging way too much for things I find in my Grandparents basement. As is the case with the web, I did find one nook online that led me to what many industry folk will be raving about next year. There were mini-mod dresses and baby doll tops that any of our style icons would have to include in their wardrobes. The site is http://www.kateandkass.com, and the designer Anya Teresse.
This young designer, who named her line after her parents, is equally as obsessed with vintage styles and wears mostly vintage clothing herself; having it tailored to her small frame. This obsession has manifested itself into a delightful line of clothing using those styles of the 50’s and 60’s with a modern twist.
Lucky for me, as soon as I discovered Anya, we were able to set up an interview so we could introduce this dynamic designer to you. Soon to be picked at some of the most honored department stores, Kate and Kass is sure to be a favorite among woman looking for a fresh look.
Doing a search for Kate and Kass on Google will net you only a handful of results which probably means the secret’s not out yet, speculate for me, what do you think will happen when it does get out?
You know I don’t really know, because I’ve never done a search for Kate and Kass, but I imagine you’d see more results on celebrities, because I’m finding that celebrities are interested in wearing the line. I know that with very little marketing the line has gone from 2 stores to about 50 in one season, and I get calls and emails all the time from people who heard about the line. My guess is that by Spring you’ll see a lot of hits on Google.
What made you realize you wanted to become a designer?
Fashion was something that I was interested in and enjoyed. I’ve always expressed myself through what I wore. But I’m so much more creative and less business-minded, so I spent a few years doing costume design on films. Then a friend of mine convinced me that there was a way of doing my own line without getting too involved with the business side. Just to focus on the design. She’s my closest friend, she’s kind of an entrepreneur, so she said that all you have to do is design a few pieces on paper and the business stuff will falls into place. It was just kind of on a whim, and next thing I knew the first dresses were on Robertson.
Do people ever get the Rudi Gernreich and Pierre Cardin comparisons and did they influence your style?
Yes. For these collections, yes I was pretty much obsessed with Peggy Moffitt and Rudi Gernreich and that era. I don’t know what it is about that time or those designers. I think the style then wasn’t overtly sexual but it was still sort of sexy; and I was really was drawn to not showing so much body, but still looking so unbelievably sensual. That era reminds me of a kind of feeling, where it was a little bit of playful innocence. I had a very strong emotional reaction to those pieces I saw and the movies from that era. The women seemed a little bit classier than what I see a lot of out there; classier, but yet so stylish at the same time. I think I fell in love with that era and based my entire first two collections on that.
Seeing as how your designs seem era-inspired, do you ever worry about keeping the line fresh?
No. I’ve been wearing clothes from the sixties and seventies since I was thirteen. I don’t get sick of it, and everywhere I go people comment on it, for the past … well, how ever many years it’s been. I figure people will be reflecting on that era for a long time, not only in fashion but also in music and film. I think people, especially women, are just drawn to those two eras. I don’t go to the eighties. I don’t think I ever will. I think there is a lot more exploration to be done by pulling from the sixties and seventies and mixing in contemporary inspirations, like new materials and printing technologies.
That was a time about changing the world, about women’s lib, about defining womanhood.
Have people started calling you Kate thinking you’re some sort of design duo?
Yes, yes they, have and they say hi is this Kate? I definitely didn’t want to name the line after myself. I wanted to name the line after my parents. I wasn’t too concerned about brand identity, I wanted to make it mean something to me.
Other than yourself, name the designers you love.
My favorite designers right now are Balenciaga, Chloe, vintage Pucci, Missoni and Christian Louboutin shoes.
When is a design complete?
Once the buyers have settled on it and have bought from me or my sales rep. Then I know they’re counting on getting exactly what they ordered and I can’t change it. Up until that moment, whether it’s a sample at a show or being purchased, I feel free to make last minute changes. Something will come up, or I’ll see something new in the style, and I will change it.
You don’t do a lot of embellishments, why is that?
For me design is a very simple, instinctual process. It’s 123. I don’t hesitate or say to myself ‘well maybe I should add it here’. I just decide ‘that’s where that’s going.’ And you’re right, I don’t do a lot of embellishments. I like clean and simple. That’s what I wear, and my designs are always pieces that I want.
How are you modernizing forms using current fabrics?
Well, I think that the fabric changes everything. Just changing even from a woven rayon to a silk changes the entire body. Since I was thirteen, I’ve been collecting vintage clothing. I’ve worn my vintage dresses for so many years that they seem like a second skin. I brought them in as much as possible but they still weren’t comfortable, so when I created my line, the fabrication changed everything. I’m not saying all my dresses are babydoll or empire waist but even when the cut is in the middle, the waist line is airy. I don’t want it to fit like a glove. The dress should be free and flowing.
As a designer what would be an absolute nightmare when you are designing something?
There are so many. And they’ve happened already. I’ve made dresses that lost their direction and come out as tunics. I mean, what do you do? What do you say? Another nightmare is a bad fit. I mean I am 5’2″ and 93 lbs. I’ve always been just a waify, little girl. I haven’t changed much, or grown much, and so a lot of that had to do with my line. I wanted pieces that I can look good in too.
How important are the names of the designs in your collection?
The names of my pieces are very important to me. The names come from characters in movies that I’ve seen. I fall in love with the character, and there’s something about their costume that inspires me; a zipper, or a pocket, or something. Somehow I get inspired to put the energy of whoever they were in the film to create my designs. I was a costume designer, and I usually reflect back on that for designs. You’d be surprised how much thought goes into a pocket, or a particular shirt that a designer chooses. The backstory behind these decisions is unbelievable. I am a film nut. I sometimes watch 5 old movies a week. It’s just relaxing for me. And each character I fell in love with I decided a to name a dress after.
Who’s your favorite fictional character?
Andy Walsh in Pretty in Pink.
Your designs from your first collection seem more in the vein of costume design as opposed to ready to wear. The second collection changed that dramatically, where was the transition?
The ideas that I had didn’t always look good on the female form. The second became more about what was going to flatter a human being as opposed to conceptually what I imagined to be a really interesting shape. Now I think of what I actually would want to wear outside the house to a magazine interview. I feel that in the second collection I found what represents me in the truest sense. I realized that I didn’t want to make costumes, I wanted to makes clothes that women can feel comfortable and sexy in at the same time. Fit has gotten better over the years. Aside from the fabrication, fit is a big thing as well.
Barring no expense and featuring anybody in the world what, where and how would you hold a fashion show?
It would take place at a drive-in theater on Park and 77th. I would project my personally edited movie montage on the movie screen behind the built in runway. Daisies would be planted to outline the runway. The inspiration for each piece would be projected behind each model as they walked. The seating for the audience would be built into the interiors of vintage ’67 white Mini’s with matching white leather interior. Crystal would be provided in the cup holder of each car. The Beatles and Justin Timberlake would do a live performance of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and FutureSex / LoveSounds. Justin would dance. The models would be Gloria Steinem, Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenburg, Jane Fonda, Jackie Onassis, Peggy Moffit, Twiggy, Penelope Tree, Jane Birkin, Sharon Tate, Mia Farrow, Bridget Bardot, Julie Christie, Diane Keaton, Gena Rowlands, Audrey Hepburn, Lauryn Hill, and Kate Moss.
Does emotion get involved in your design process?
Emotion gets involved with every aspect of my life. I come from a family of actors and singers and dancers. I am just driven by emotion. I am moved by women who are complex. These women, these characters, inspire.
Elections are around the corner, would you design for the first lady or try to create a style icon in the mold of Jackie O, would you take the challenge?
Yes, I would definitely do something in black, it would be simple, it would be clean, it would be formal, but in the most casual sense of the word, and it wouldn’t be taking the attention away. The focus would be the woman and not the clothes.
What are you wearing?
Jeans flip-fops, black wife beater, white wife beater, trench coat tan and black a lot.
Any Specific designers?
Marc Jacobs, cashmere sweaters, vintage cardigans. I wear only vintage dresses. I don’t really wear any designers. I wear my own designs. I go to the flea markets a lot. Marc Jacobs flats.
What are you most vain about?
My independence, that’s the most honest answer I can give.
Tell us about your significant other or lack of one? Does he/she get involved in what you do?
I am currently single. So nobody has influence over my design. Let me correct myself. Any beautiful man or friends of mine that I find to be attractive from a distance may have a certain amount of influence. But no, no love interest at this time.
Besides everyone, who should buy your clothes?
Kate Moss, I love her. I think Nicole Ritchie; I think she has a really good style. Gwyneth Paltrow.
What do you think of project catwalk reality fashion show number 17?
I don’t watch because I try to stay unaffected by my environment when I’m designing. It’s kind of like when an actor is about to go do a scene or is in this really intense movie where they have to stay in character. They’re not going to walk around and chit-chat with everyone who is on set. I don’t want to be distracted by whatever nonsense is going on. I don’t want to think about what someone else is doing or the drama, I just want to stay clean and simple.
Would you ever design for a major brand and if so who’s phone call would you be taking next?
Any Reason why?
She’s just so cool. I just like her as a person. I don’t know what it is about her but I feel like it would be totally comfortable working around her. I mean I could be totally wrong but it seems as if she always maintains this kind of it seems as if she’s not caught up in all of this as opposed to some of the other people.
You’ve been to Parsons and Otis College of Art and design, what’s right/wrong with fashion education today?
My experience at Parsons and in Paris was very positive because I was in a different environment and I was seeing all these new things and getting a different perspective on things. My experience at Otis was also positive but I felt that the workload was almost overwhelming and I know that they’re setting you up for the workload I have now, but it became a negative as opposed to a positive. It seems as if it’s a push as a opposed to being natural. It made me anxious and it made my work not as good as it could be because I was working with this deadline. I have more time now in the real design world than I did when I was at Otis.
Do you value your freedom?
Yes! Oh my god, in all shapes and forms, not just creative. There’s nobody that can tell me in business I can’t do something with my line or how to use my hours. I mean I can sit and absorb an environment for a day and that’s work. That’s freedom to me. I’ve been working for “the man” for awhile and it’s really nice to just be able to have the freedom. There are other things I want in my life of course, like babies, but this is pretty good for now.
You can view more of Anya Teresse’s designs at http://www.kateandkass.com