Dissecting the design language of New York label Khaite

Dissecting the design language of New York label Khaite

As Khaite presents its A/W 2022 show during New York Fashion Week, we speak to founder Cate Holstein about the importance of physical connection

‘We’re craving deeply sensory, in-person experiences,’ says Khaite founder Cate Holstein of a portfolio of new physical shopping spaces.

When, on the one hand, certain brands are doubling down on the metaverse, anticipating a purely digital future, others are leaning into personal connection. Holstein has a foot in both camps: her New York brand Khaite has utilised AR for its hot-ticket fashion shows – most notably for its Pre-Fall 2021 collection, when, mid-pandemic, models were transported into your home, walking as high as a teacup across your desk or larger than life in your living room. In June 2021, Holstein introduced BODS, a cutting-edge technology allowing customers to create an avatar by simply uploading two photos of themselves, allowing them to try on different styles and sizes before ordering.

Khaite: a design language that embraces in-person experience

Khaite Harrods pop-up space
Harrods. Image courtesy of Khaite

But of late, Holstein has been captivated by the IRL human experience, cementing Khaite’s footprint by way of a series of pop-ups and shop-in-shops. ‘Following the pandemic I think we’re all craving deeply sensory, in-person experiences more than ever before,’ she says. ‘It’s the perfect time to bring the world of Khaite to life in an immersive space where our customers can engage with the collection and feel our fabrics and textures.’ Holstein asked the Stockholm design studio Halleroed to work with her on creating a tangible vocabulary for the brand, reflecting the late 1970s glamour and early 1980s decadence that the label has become known for. 

While each intimate pop-up space had different dimensions, light, access and so on, Holstein and Halleroed developed some key elements that would appear in all of them: a large free-standing mirror framed with high-gloss tineo wood; polished stainless-steel shelving; and a woven zebra-patterned rug, all fabricated in northern Italy. Each space would be furnished with a unique chair, sourced from across Europe. ‘I wanted the pop-up spaces to reflect and complement the collection by playing with scale, shapes and multifaceted materials,’ says Holstein. 

The portfolio of pop-ups and permanent shop-in-shops includes Harrods in London; Le Bon Marché in Paris; Tsum in Moscow; Babochka in Saint Petersburg; Bergdorf Goodman in New York; and The Webster in Miami. The rollout started in September 2021 with Harrods, which proved so popular its tenure was extended. A permanent space in the impressively renovated Printemps in Paris will open in early March 2022.  

How did building a physical space compare to building a collection? ‘With every project I take on, I want to keep pushing and pushing, to try new concepts and new materials, and to continue to embrace the challenge of making them my own,’ says Holstein. 

The Khaite A/W 2022 show will take place at NYFW on Sunday 13 February at 1pm EST. §

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