Bringing Sustainability to the American Made Movement

1. Where is your brand based? How did your brand develop?
My brand Kathrine Zeren is based in Houston where I grew up. I had moved back home to be closer to family and to take a break from the fashion industry.  Once I realized that I missed designing, I alsorealized that I had this idea for a company that I wanted to try out, and the industry in Houston was largely untapped and full of potential.

2. Who are the key players in your company?
I am the owner of the company and head designer. However, I have collaborated with other artists/designers (O’Douds All Natural, Anvil Handcrafted, and Kari Breitigam) on certain projects.

3. What are your current endeavors?
We currently supply menswear accessories (ties & pocket squares), apothecary products, leather goods, and vintage finds. I’m currently working on my new collection of men’s accessories for S/S 2016, and have some other projects in development.

4. What’s the idea behind your brand?
I partially wanted to start a company so that I would have freedom to create the kind of organization I’d like to be associated with indefinitely.  Sustainability is important to me, so I decided that all of the fabrics we’d work with would be sustainable sourced.  It’s also become increasingly more difficult over the last several decades to produce clothing domestically, which I think is unfortunate, so I decided to keep production in the USA as well.  It’s not the easiest way to go about things, but I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish so far.  If more people take a stand, our resources will only be greater!

5. How is your brand unique?
I am one of the few USA made brands out there to offer menswear accessories that are also made using sustainable materials. Usually, it’s one or the other.

6. What is the timing of your brand development?  
After having almost a decade’s worth of experience in the fashion world, I decided to go ahead and take the plunge a little over a year ago. The economy was looking up, so it seemed like the right time to do it.

7. What motivated you to enter the fashion industry?
Growing up, I was apparently difficult on shopping trips – nothing was every quite right in my opinion.  I would always want to tweak the clothing to fit this idea I had in my head.  When I was trying to decide what I’d like to study in school, apparel design felt like a very natural choice, as it combined my love for art, functional design, and clothing.

8. What projects are you currently undertaking and where do you see yourself in the future?
I would like to expand my product line and eventually be in a position to partner even more with up and coming artists/designers.  I want to create the kind of company that attracts people – not only customers (obviously), but also talented creatives wanting to be part of something that is more than the typical, corporate fashion company – one that is more involved in the community and has a killer workplace environment.

9. Is there someone in the fashion industry who inspires you?
I am still really blown away by the business models of Warby Parker and Apolis. They aren’t just creating cool products, they’re using their business practices to affect real change in their respective industries. They inspired me to think, “Why can’t I do that?”

10. What type of work roles have you enjoyed the most? Why?
I love the creative process the most.  A majority of the time is spent trying to turn my ideas into reality, but it’s that brainstorming process that is the most exciting part.  When I sit down to think about the next collection, anything is possible. That’s an exhilarating feeling to have.

11. Do you have a specific research process when you start a new collection?
I like to collect a lot of imagery – sometimes hundreds of pictures – of anything that piques my interest.  Once I’ve collected a good amount, I step back and try to find the common thread in all of it.  It’s at that point that a theme will begin to emerge. I will then do some more focused research until I have a clear mood board depicting the direction I’d like to go for the new collection.

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Text Editor, L.T. Clayton