Intuitive Reality. Khaite Pre-Fall 2021

It’s quite incredible that Khaite, a relatively young and small brand, has such distinct signatures and a loyal clientele. I bet many, much older and famous labels dream of credentials Cate Holstein‘s brand can boast with. The pre-fall 2021 collection sums up Khaite’s biggest hits and classics, but it didn’t lack novelty. With a basic QR code, you can beam Lia Pavlova into your living room. It takes a minute to get the hang of “placing her” in the space, but then she’s walking, posing, and giving you multiple angles of Khaite’s new collection. The augmented reality experience is an evolution of the one Catherine Holstein launched for spring 2021, which included only shoes; now we’re getting the full look, and it’s surprisingly realistic. What makes this particular AR experiment successful is that most of these clothes will, in fact, look right at home in your apartment. Holstein is an intuitive and product-oriented designer who cares about how her clothes are worn and lived in, not just how they look on a catwalk or in a moody video. For the new season, she was especially focused on comfort, practicality, and ease – “nothing frivolous,” she said. Floor-sweeping hemlines felt excessive, so there were boxy peacoats and ’60s-ish miniskirts instead. The stronger, tougher feeling of spring 2021 carried through in the combat boots and patent over-the-knee styles, shown here with voluminous evening tops, cozy knit dresses, and narrow jeans. Even her signature bubble dresses felt casualized and couch-friendly, whipped up in crinkled viscose and styled on Sasha Pivovarova with a shrunken blazer, black tights, and no jewelry. Holstein said she wasn’t really thinking about the quite abstract “re-emerging” many designers are talking about lately; she prefers to design for the moment she’s living in, not for some hazy future. Still, she hopes her clients will  likely be in the mood to dress up, but with items that feel comforting and sensitive to the year we just endured. You’ll notice there are exactly zero stilettos for pre-fall, and little in the way of flashy embellishments. The androgynous, hardware-free leather and suede jackets and flat knee-high boots – including a pair in burnished gold – will offer a just-right balance of excitement and ease in 2021.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Sober Classics. Khaite SS21

While it seems that most of the designers in New York take the escapist route this season, Khaite‘s Cate Holstein chooses to embrace sober classics. “What does it mean to feel simultaneously paralyzed and galvanized?” reads a line in Khaite’s press release. “Growth is never easy,”  Holstein told Vogue on a Zoom call. “We’re going through one of our collective nightmares as a society. They’ve made horror movies about this. It’s mind-blowing, but it also gives me a renewed strength. Living through it has been so challenging, but on the other side, it’s so invigorating and inspiring.” Her collections had taken on a darker, moodier tone before the pandemic; she was craving a uniform of jeans, leather jackets, and combat boots. No frills, no fuss. She said she was thinking about the New York she inhabited as a college grad in the early 2000s, when the city had an “element of menace” that has since faded. “But now, there’s a bit of that industrial feeling again,” she said. It’s a survivalist one too. New Yorkers are in the streets (there’s nowhere else to go), linking arms (metaphorically, that is) and getting through this together. How do you dress for that? “I think women are going to want to look strong.” Holstein worked with director Hanna Tveite to distill that feeling of New York into a look-book and film. They also created 100 “presentation boxes” to send editors and buyers, packed with blown-up look books, fabric swatches, and an augmented reality experience that beams Khaite’s shoes into your living room. Holstein was surprised to report that shoes were among her top sellers this summer, despite the fact that most of us hardly left home. Also surprising: Women bought Khaite evening dresses, and Holstein could hardly keep her leather moto jackets in stock. The former speaks to the “fantasy shoppers” dreaming of future events; the latter illustrates a growing interest in timeless, keep-forever investment pieces. Holstein’s word for them: “cherished.” When we can’t predict tomorrow’s headlines, there’s a comfort in buying something you can see yourself wearing and loving 10 or 20 years from now.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Daring and Sexy. Khaite AW20

Cate Holstein’s Khaite had a similar turn as the boys at Proenza Schouler. Her woman is much more daring than usual this season. While many know and love the label for its soft minimalism, occasionally beautified by tulle and pearls and toughened by suede cowboy details, this time Holstein let some danger in. The effects? Some of it is convicing, some got lost in the messy styling. The designer wanted to embrace the word „sexy”: dramatic cut-out backs of the evening dresses, leather and cheeth prints went with signature tulle, vintage-looking horse-rider motif came across the silks. Models wore chunky knitted scarves or bandanas. Girls just wanna have fun.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The New Sexy. Khaite Pre-Fall 2020

For pre-fall 2020, Catherine Holstein tweaked some familiar Khaite hits – Victorian blouses, romantic tulle dresses,  Western skirts, timeless denim – and sprinkled in a touch of 1960s rock & roll glamour. That said, the designer felt her greatest departure was in the ultra-short minidresses and body-hugging ruched gowns. “I’ve always avoided using the word ‘sexy’ to describe the clothes,” she said. “I would call them ‘sensual,’ which sounded more modern, or maybe more feminist. But I really wanted to embrace the idea of sexy and what that means for our woman right now.” Beyond the sheer blouses and minis, even the suits had a curvier, more womanly fit, with narrow, high-rise trousers and snug blazers. The sexiest look of all might have been the ivory pantsuit, shown with a black leather belt and nothing else.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Urban Romance. Khaite SS20

Khaite had the best possible breakthrough moment to the wider audience about a week ago, when Katie Holmes wore that cashmere bralette-and-cardigan look and everyone went crazy. But the label’s founder and designer, Catherine Holstein, doesn’t rest on laurels and isn’t planning to sell knitted bras for the rest of her life. The spring-summer 2020 collection was all about urban romance, full of contrasts: suede fringed jackets and sheer tulle dresses, rhinestone embellishings and denim, sharp tailoring combined with sarongs. “I wanted it to feel more sensual,” Holstein said. “It’s a riskier take, especially for a line that’s kind of synonymous with ‘easy.’ But there’s a side of me that loves a sense of gaudiness and flash . . . I’m so much more into that than a minimalist approach, so I want to start incorporating those aspects into my work.” Khaite isn’t a brand that will shock you with something new (I wonder who does so today…), but it’s the place to look at when you’re not sure what’s relevant now. Looking at the brand’s new season, keep everything you’ve got in your wardrobe for the next summer – lace, tartan plaid, florals, ripped jeans, big shoulders, cowboy jackets, everything will work.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.