Karen Kane is one of the most respected brands in women’s apparel today – a distinction that comes from the label’s namesake designer. BELLA New York sat down with her to discuss her multi-decade career, and what’s next for her eponymous fashion company. Listen in…
You launched your label with your husband in a Studio City garage in 1979. What inspired you to start your own brand?
Back in the late ‘70s, I met my husband (and future business partner) Lonnie while working at a junior apparel company in Los Angeles. We both felt like there was a void in the market for fashion-forward women’s clothing that was also easy to wear. For our first collection, we decided to screen-print a series of animals on different silk tops. We worked out of our garage, often until 3 or 4 a.m. each night. From that first collection, we had one style that really took off and allowed us to create a second collection. That’s how it all began.
What about starting your own label was most surprising or challenging for you?
The entire process was a challenge! It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. The hours were grueling, the work wasn’t (and still isn’t) glamorous, and getting our first orders was tough. But once we started to get re-orders we knew we had found our customers, and that feeling was incredible. It’s so exciting to work in an industry where trends move quickly and you have to constantly adapt. You know that you’ll never have two days that are the same.
How have your designs changed after nearly 40 years in business?
Our business has changed in many ways. In the beginning, it was a limited offering with a select set of styles. Today, we
offer products in a wider range of sizes and to a much wider geographic audience. Designing for Southern California was much easier. Now, with the Internet and major nationwide department stores, we have to account for weather and lifestyles that are very different than where we live. It’s an exciting challenge to have, and it definitely impacts the way we approach each season. In 1979, every garment we sold was purchased by a customer in a boutique. Today, one out of every four garments we make is purchased online and shipped directly to the customer. That changes the way people discover new products and try out new styles.
What three words best describe a Karen Kane design?
Easy, versatile, and unique.
Tell us about the inspiration for your fall 2015 collection.
Fall 2015 has a nature-inspired mood with details like fringe and faux fur that are reminiscent of the free-spirited ‘70s. There is a lot of romantic allure from that decade – beautifully deep colors, luxurious textures, and bohemian silhouettes. With our jewelry, we played with a lot of new colors we haven’t done before in accessories. We’re also layering in additional textures like glass and new semi-precious stones.
If a BELLA reader were to invest in one Karen Kane design for fall, what should it be?
I really love our Tranquil Water Reversible Pendant Necklace. It’s a long silver tone pendant with reversible white and black howlite stones on each side. It’s very easy to wear and an incredible complement to an endless number of outfits.
After nearly 40 years in business, what keeps you motivated?
Every day is different! I know that I’ll never get bored as long as fashion keeps evolving and changing. That’s the only constant in this industry – change!
What’s next for your company?
We’re really excited about our first fall jewelry collection! Later in the year, we’ll be launching a swimwear collection, and in early 2016, we’ll be introducing our first active and yoga collection.