While the term quiet luxury might already be wearing thin, arguably laissez faire luxury has a lot more intrigue. It is what Catherine Holstein at Khaite has made her calling card since setting up her label in New York in 2016. She serves up a cocktail of NYC born glamour and edge devised from a love of macabre cinema, urbanity, and a mastery of couturier skills. The upshot is the picture of a woman that signals frisson in a style world besotted by the superficial.
In developing her SS 23 woman, she drew on the character of Laura Dern as Lula Fortune in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart declaring “This whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top,” as she escapes her psychopathic mother. How the allure of dark secrets and the underbelly gets translated into clothes is via Holstein’s sleight of hand as she draws up cult items with evergreen staples with exaggerated proportions and plenty of tactile peculiarity. Find an outsize python print leather blouson slipped over a ruched mini dress or a nude boned corset top emerging from a flounced little black skirt – a combination that turns the dial on cocktail chic. Khaite (meaning flowing hair in Greek) delivers a good blazer (with outsize Talking Heads shoulders) and has a seductive line in slip off the shoulder evening wear.
Khaite FW23 Runway
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The Colleen Dress
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Holstein draws up cult items with evergreen staples with exaggerated proportions and plenty of tactile peculiarity.
A love of old-fashioned dress making techniques – ruching, smocking, tulle, embroidery, macrame – capture the brand’s twisted charm. The make-up free, chestnut maned Holstein is she admits “very, very sensitive” to line and mood which can be a double-edged sword when working in the tough cookie world of fashion. She started out young having graduated from Parsons with a collection of sailor dresses that Barneys picked up, but the recession hit and the nascent brand shuttered. She restarted with the help of retailer and investor Vanessa Traina.
After winning the CFDA Young Designer award last year, the designer and founder, now in her late 30s, has succeeded in spellbinding actresses (remember Katie Holmes in the latte-coloured cashmere bralette and cardie?) and captivating creative types and it sure helps that Kaia Gerber, Lily Aldridge and Lauren Santo Domingo are fans.
Now, Holstein is also a retailer having opened a flagship on Mercer Street as an homage to the area she made her stomping ground as a student. “Every element of Khaite is shaped by New York, and we set out to make this space a tribute to the cultural legacy of Soho,” says Holstein, of the 371 sq.m store she designed with her husband, the architect Griffin Frazen. Originally built in the late 19th century, the interior now boasts cement mouldings, and giant elliptical burnished steel walls hung with Holstein's tactile ruched and draped silk jersey dresses. Minimal furniture is placed throughout, such as a Sing Sing chair by Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata that sits beside a twisted, low-lying shelf used to display the brand's accessories: rose embellished Lotus bags, Davis sparkly boots included. An evergreen Bucera (or Shady Lady) tree that reaches up to the sky light adds a burst of living green to the bold industrial space.
As a new mother, Holstein’s life will be evolving, changing. She remains elusive but her sideways skew on contemporary luxury is right now, beautifully arresting.