Hi everyone! You can’t believe how thrilled I am to see your entries popping up on the monthly Stitch! FYI you have until 24:00 UTC on 25 October (what does this mean?) to post your entry… good luck!
Today we’re talking to Kati, the designer and mastermind behind Kate and Rose. She’s been keeping up with us on TMS by posting her own little series on her blog of Giselle hacks… I’m full of ideas now! Thank you for joining us Kati!
First up, tell us all a bit about your label. How did it all start?
A few years ago I had to make a career change. I left academia after getting my Ph.D., taking time off to have my daughters and be with them while they were babies. When my younger daughter was a year and a half old (my daughters are exactly 2 years apart), life suddenly became so much easier, and I felt like I had all this time and energy to do something for myself. So I picked up sewing. Or, rather, I returned to it: my grandmother taught me to sew when I was a teenager back in Hungary in the 1980s, and I made much of my high school wardrobe myself.
A couple of my friends and my sisters were just as into making things as I was and we often shared patterns, mostly from Burda magazines. We also went to summer camps with folklore themes, mostly because of the music and dancing but partly also because there was a lot of making going on: beading, felting, basket-weaving, embroidery. Hungarian folk music, and Roma music, and Klezmer, and a lot of the people who played in the bands there played all kinds of music. And then there was the folk art – everything Central European and passed down from people’s grandparents, no matter what their ancestry. Hungary is nowhere near as tolerant or integrated today. The point of folk art was sharing crafts and techniques and enjoying the company of others with the same passion and interest in making things.
I live in New York now, and having children really made me think hard about how I could show them the culture and traditions I grew up with, but in a way that makes sense in the world they live in now. (Luckily, it’s turning out that both my daughters enjoy dance and making things!) So I wanted to build a new career that included a creative community, along with a sense of taking things from the past, from tradition, and from other cultures and places, and making it possible to place all those things into the world today, and the here and now.
Clothing is such a great canvas for that. It’s so personal: our clothes touch our bodies all the time. They’re a constant reminder of all the people whose work went into designing and making them, not least because even the most widely distributed mass-produced garment only exists because of all the work performed by the hands of real, living people, on sewing machines not that much unlike what you have at home.
I started out doing a ready-to-wear and sewing kit line that included some traditional embroidery. I had a business partner at the time but the partnership did not work out, I now think mostly because our interests and vision weren’t really aligned. I think I’m too much of a tinkerer to be truly engaged by organizing the production of a ready-to-wear line. So we split up, and I went on to take some courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York in patternmaking, because I also found out patternmaking was something I really, really enjoyed. This is how the Kate & Rose line of patterns for sewing and embroidery was born. The ‘Kate’ part comes from my name, and ‘Rose’ stands for the most frequently embroidered flower in Hungarian folklore, and my great-grandmother’s given name, which was ‘Rózsa’ and means ‘rose’ in Hungarian. Another version of the same name is ‘Róza’, which is what I called the first pattern I released.
How would you describe your style/aesthetic?
My husband calls my personal style Star Trek folklore. Not sure that’s completely accurate in terms of aesthetics… but I suspect it does describe me!
We’d love to know the story behind your dress design. What inspired it?
The Giselle dress was partly inspired by silhouettes common in the early 1940s, with the spare lines designed to be economical to sew and wear. But the Giselle is a bit more folkwear-of-the-high-Alps than that, which is a really feminine style, but with a practical and tough edge. The midriff piece is more pronounced than that of a 1940s dress: the Giselle’s is more pronounced and corset-like, i.e. more supportive while moving around and doing things. It’s also easily embellished with embroidery or interesting pattern placement. The maxi version came about as a nod to the 1970s (I could never leave the ’70s behind!). I also wanted to keep the construction as simple as possible, and gave the dress waist ties rather than a zip closure. This was done partly to eliminate at least some potential fitting issues while remaining true to the spirit of folkwear: practicality and easy fitting.
How did your come up with the name for your dress design?
My former business partner had a degree in garment manufacture from a Hungarian institution, and she told me that in Hungarian fashion schools, dress forms were usually called Gizi, which is short for ‘Gizella,’ which is Hungarian for ‘Giselle’. Also, the wife of one of the founders of Hungary, an ambitious queen in the Middle Ages, was named Gizella, and she went down in Hungarian history as a particularly important figure… but I can’t imagine this would be interesting to anyone besides crazy history buffs like me! Because the Giselle dress’s design was inspired more by the folkwear of the high Alps than of Hungary, I decided to use the name’s international version.
What’s your favourite part of your dress design?
I love the way the midriff fits, especially the waist-length version. It’s flattering on a variety of figures because it leads the eye vertically, up to the face while also creating a nice waistline. And (speaking personally), I love that it looks good on large-busted women who may not like any emphasis on their post-children belly.
Are there any fantastic versions or hacks of your dress that you’ve seen that you’d like to share?
I’ve been pleased with every version I’ve seen so far! I love inspiring others to design and make a dress based on a pattern I came up with.
Do you have any new patterns coming out soon? Any hints you can give us? (We’re so impatient, haha!)
No exact dates have been set as of yet but I’m working on three new patterns, to be released over the course of the next year. I don’t want to give too much away, just that there will be knits and pants involved.
Thanks so much for joining us Kati! It’s exciting to hear what’s coming in the future, and I’m sure they’ll be just as charming as your current collection!