Buying fast fashion can be satisfying, sure. It’s a quick and affordable answer to a fashion need or want. But in many cases, the feeling’s fleeting as poor quality doesn’t warrant its cost (no matter how low) and designs seem more high-fashion-knock-off than high-fashion-inspired. Kitri is positioning itself to help break this cycle.
The direct-to-consumer U.K line launched about three years ago under the direction of founder Haeni Kim, and expanded to the U.S. market last summer. Kim, a South Korea-born and London-based designer was inspired by a common frustration. “I felt like there was a gap in the market: On one hand you would aspire to these high ends design, but not all of us can really spend $800 per dress,” she says, explaining. “Kitri hits that sweet spot in the pricing and also offers a little extra in terms of quality and designs.”
With monthly collection drops, Kitri is not following old-school, seasonal retail patterns nor is it looking to fill a void as far as fashion basics. Instead, it’s setting itself apart with stand-out prints, colors, textures, and embellishments that look impressive but don’t require a ton of time or thought to style. Ahead, we spoke with Kim about how she continues move her brand forward, while playing by her own rules.
Tell us about the impetus to start Kitri.
“When I created Kitri three years ago it was basically out of frustration to find well-made, design-forward items that didn’t break the bank. There were a lot of really amazing high street brands that do chic off-fashion really well, but I felt like that didn’t really represent my friends and myself. We wanted a little bit more of a brand story as well as better quality, better fabrics, better thoughtful designs, and something that wasn’t immediately copying what was on the catwalk. Basically we wanted something that was a bit original but wasn’t too recognizable that you wouldn’t only wear it once.
So, then how would you describe Kitri’s design POV?
We are very much in tune to the current designs and runway—it’s very important to us to keep an eye out on what’s happening around us. We love to design for the urban professional and creative woman, whether that’s someone working in fashion, tech, art, etc. Also we take inspiration from vintage but make it more contemporary and wearable, and also try to translate tricky trends into something that is every-day.
What does the name Kitri mean?
Kitri actually means a lot to me personally because I came over to London when I was 12 to be a ballerina and one of the first roles that I danced was the role of Kitri which comes from the ballet, Don Quixote. When I was thinking about what to name the brand I was thinking about all the women I wanted to dress and the spirit I wanted to embody in the brand. And when you think about classical ballet you think of princess, damsels in distress, or a dying swan. But Kitri is very feisty, has amazing stage presence and costumes, and embodies that modern spirit. So, I really liked the idea of naming it after her.
What sources of inspiration inform Kitri’s most recent collection?
We don’t really tend to follow the traditional fashion calendar because I don’t think that’s how women really shop these days. For us, it’s about what we like to wear at this particular time. Currently we have a lot of floral pieces, transitioning into warmer weathers, spring and summer. Prints clashing is always key for us. Jumpsuits are a key trend of us that have already sold out immediately when it hit the site. We have a really tight edit of styles that drop monthly that are relevant to that time of year. We keep refreshing each week and try to give her options that she can fit into her wardrobe.
How does being a direct-to-consumer brand benefit a brand like Kitri?
We take great care in building a very engageable community. I think everyone’s seen this gap in the market and have been very supportive from the beginning. So, how we talk to our customers is very much direct. For example, at the beginning we were more shy when it came to prints and colors—it was a retail restraint thing—but we soon very quickly found out the our customers really love color and print. You can react to that in a very meaningful way, by going directly to the consumer.
We agree, color and print are what we associate with the brand. What other trends are you currently backing?
I think a lot of people associate Kitri with color and print but also just pretty good dresses. And jumpsuits have been one of the key categories for us in the beginning something that’s really make you feel put together, it’s really easy to throw on and go, and also it’s very versatile in a way that you can wear with trainers or heels. It really shows that women are looking for easy solutions to dressing. You don’t have time to be able to really think about that outfit too much. I think the most amazing outfits always come together when you throw it on and it happens, it gives you confidence, and makes you stand out from the crowd, and jumpsuits and dresses always do that.
And finally, having expanded into the States last year, what’s been the biggest learning so far about U.K. versus U.S. shoppers?
One of the biggest differences is that there isn’t so much price sensitivity for customers in the US. She’s sure about what styles she likes and buys, regardless of price or special promotions. She knows what she wants and she goes after it—that’s amazing.