For those of you who have been living under a rock for the most part of 2015, let us introduce you to Catherine Quin, a young British designer making waves in the fashion scene with a collection consisting entirely of black, black and some more black. By eliminating any distraction of colour, Quin draws attention to the quality and craftsmanship of her garments, cut and fabric take centre stage as the understated black provides a chic canvas. Catherine’s is a collection almost made entirely of staple-items, and while timeless is an over-used word in fashion, you can’t deny the financial investment you would make in buying a Catherine Quin LBD, or LB-Jumpsuit, or LB-Jacket: wardrobe life-savers.
After talking with the designer you can sense a true passion for what she does, and what she believes in is a quality garment for the modern-day woman. Orange may be the new black for now, but I see a definite comeback in our horizons, or should that be come-black?
Could you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m a British womenswear designer, based in LA. I’ve been in LA for three years now and I’ve been manufacturing Downtown since I started my business last year. My brand is built on minimalist design principles and was inspired in particular by Dieter Rams’ ‘Ten Principles for Good Design.’ With an aesthetic of considered simplicity and refined elegance, the brand focuses on clean silhouettes and architecturally inspired, geometric details.
How did your fashion label come to be? I have read that you initially studied and practiced Law…
I used to work as a lawyer in a very structured corporate environment in London. Some people really thrive off this high-pressure environment, but I found it suffocating. With my law offices almost next door, I began taking design classes at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design. A few years later, I moved to Los Angeles to gain hands on experience in the fashion industry. I began working for Vena Cava, where I was involved with various aspects of the business such as sales and marketing. I quickly became fascinated by the manufacturing process and how a garment went from concept to creation. I began working with production agents for various brands where I spent my days visiting factories and overseeing the manufacturing process on the ground. With this experience I then felt ready to start my own brand.
It’s clear that craftsmanship is particularly important to your designs. I’m interested to know how involved you are in the creation process of your garments.
I’m incredibly involved in the creation process of my collections. Living in the same city as my factory enables me to be extremely hands on at every stage of the production process. The quality of the garment construction is so integral to my brand that it’s imperative that I’m heavily involved and have a good relationship with all of my team to make sure things run smoothly. My close proximity allows me to visit my factory daily, communicate directly with my production team, review the quality of the garments as they’re being made and ensure any issues are dealt with quickly and effectively. This hands-on approach also means that ethically I’m able to personally ensure that the people involved with or employed by my brand have a decent wage and a good, safe working environment.
Has relocating to LA and the lifestyle that follows affected your aesthetic in any way? How does the management of a brand in LA compare to that in Britain?
Travelling between LA and Europe exposes me to many of the women I’m inspired by –woman of substance, sophisticated global travellers, and those who lead purposeful lives around the world. The clashing cultures enable me to better understand the varied demands and needs of my customers. My desire to create versatile and pragmatic collections that transcends occasion, weather and culture emerges from my own, personal experience of bridging life in both LA and Europe. Having never managed a brand in the UK, it’s difficult to comment on the difference, but my constant travel means that managing a brand across continents and time zones is a 24 hour job.
In your opinion, what qualities of the colour black make it ideal for design and womenswear?
Using an unwavering palette of black allows me to explore the relationship between cut, silhouette and texture without distraction. The qualities of black mirror the inherent values of the brand: both are timeless, understated and versatile. Black transcends seasonal trends and its versatility allows the pieces to be worn in any environment, in a variety ways and seamlessly incorporated into a woman’s existing wardrobe. Eliminating fuss and frivolity also focuses attention on the woman, enabling her personality and natural beauty to shine through.
If you could replace the LBD with any other garment, what would it be?
A minimal black jumpsuit.
Who has been a style icon to you?
Carolyn Bessette Kennedy.
Who or what continues to inspire you?
Each season I draw inspiration from modern artists, using shapes, texture and form as a starting point for my collections, whether it be architecture, sculpture or paint based mediums. For Autumn/Winter 2015 the monochrome mobiles of Alexander Calder became a source of inspiration. Intrigued by the concept of clothing as ‘kinetic sculpture,’ I wanted to create garments that embody a sense of movement and lightness, that drape and skim the body. My collections are for modern women who lead active lives and the fluid shapes compliment the body of the wearer and adapt to her needs and environment effortlessly.
And if you could dress anyone in your designs, who would it be?
Tilda Swinton.
What’s next for Catherine Quin? Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?
I plan to expand Catherine Quin into a lifestyle brand over the next few years. I’m looking forward to applying the brand’s minimalist, elegant aesthetic across different disciplines. So much of my collections are made up of pieces I want to wear but am unable to find and this extends beyond clothing. Starting with accessories such as handbags and jewelry, eventually I would love to eventually expand into home-ware and interiors.
In the meantime, I am focusing on developing ecommerce, which launched last month on my site.