When launching her first line, Kiki Lynn, in her Georgetown showroom this summer, designer Kimberly McKinley's mission was to bring the all-American wardrobe to the on-the-go Washington woman. She focused on creating the perfect made-in-the-USA shirtdress, and that silhouette is the cornerstone of her spring/summer 2015 look book. As she moves into a new season of designs, we caught with this her to get the scoop on where she sees the line going in the future.
How did you get your start in fashion?
I received what I call my “retail education” as a buyer at Bloomingdale’s in both Men’s Designer Sportswear and Women’s Contemporary. This was an incredible experience, as it was at the time when designer denim and brands like Marc by Marc Jacobs, Theory, DVF, and Joie were emerging in the market. After receiving my MBA from NYU Stern, I spent almost four years at Louis Vuitton in store management and operations. Working at Vuitton was a dream come true for me and really taught me about customer service, quality, and craftsmanship.
Who is the Kiki Lynn customer?
The Kiki Lynn woman is what I like to call “professional-minded,” which really means constantly on the go by choice. So regardless of her professional or family situation she needs timelessly designed, versatile pieces to take her from day to evening with a simple change of accessories. A Kiki Lynn shirtdress will take you from your morning commute to a midday meeting to cocktails with colleagues or friends. My caftans do the same thing in a more casual environment.
Why a shirtdress?
I started with the shirtdress because I love this silhouette but could never find “the one.” After years of struggling to find a shirtdress that was comfortable and appropriate in length when seated, I decided to design my own. I researched vintage archives and patterns and added details I knew the Kiki Lynn woman would love. Kiki Lynn shirtdresses borrow details like the collar and cuffed sleeves from a man’s shirt, but the soft cotton fabrics and buttons that are accessories on their own make for a comfortable and positively feminine dress.
Caftans are another major element of Kiki Lynn. Why?
I honestly think caftans should be a wardrobe staple. I designed my caftans with many occasions in mind—a casual day of running errands in the city, a beach trip, a glamorous dinner party. I wear mine all the time! They are also perfect for just lounging in your home, and they provide a better morning look for when you are the guest at someone’s house—no more pajamas at your host’s breakfast table.
What's the best thing about being a designer in DC?
DC and my showroom’s Georgetown location provide a nice creative environment for me that do not have the same fast-pace as the industry hub New York City—I lived there for ten years, and I do not miss it. DC is perfect for what I need for Kiki Lynn.
What’s difficult about being a designer here?
The hardest part is navigating the small-business scene. Unfortunately, I would not call DC the most small-business-friendly place to be—there are high taxes and layers of bureaucracy to navigate for seemingly simple processes. I am trying to get more involved locally with the others who agree to create a positive dialogue that could lead to some changes.
Where do you see Kiki Lynn going in the future?
I plan to build Kiki Lynn very slowly and methodically and will add categories as appropriate. I envision Kiki Lynn becoming a lifestyle brand with a full assortment of ready-to-wear, some leather-goods accessories, and even some soft home goods. I would also love to open my own branded stores. Time will tell, but I think Kiki Lynn is off to a good start!
Check out photos of the line below, then head over to Kiki Lynn to shop it.
Find Caroline Cunningham on Twitter at @crcunning.
With inspiration sourced from architecture and 1930s Art Deco design, Sophie Blake's jewelry line oozes with glamour. The Fairfax designer creates her bracelets, earrings, rings, and necklaces with sculptural lines and dramatic stonework that lend an instant dose of sophisticated edge. And we're not the only ones taking notice: Her very first collection launched at Henri Bendel in New York, and she's been featured in Lucky magazine.
We stopped by Blake's design studio—a petite workroom in her home near Fairfax's Mosaic District—to hear more about her background and snag a peek at her latest line.
How did you get your start as a designer?
I wanted to do design since I was very young. I can remember sketching and coming up with designs since I was 13 years old—I just didn’t know what type of designer I wanted to be. I started with jewelry just as an outlet to feel creative again when I moved to New York. One day I was walking through the fashion district and stumbled on a store that was selling beads, stones, and components to make jewelry. I started teaching myself the basics and as a next step I enrolled in a Brooklyn studio called Fitzgerald Jewelry and took classes to learn how to metalsmith and set stones. I loved designing each piece and watching it turn from sketch to a master model and then eventually to the final product.
How do you describe your aesthetic? Where do you find inspiration?
My pieces are best described as modern-sophisticated, and have an undercurrent of Art Deco style. I find inspiration from many places, mostly from architecture and from researching fashion history, especially from the 1930s.
Where do you source your materials?
I’m always on the lookout for unique vintage components and stones so I have several vendors I work with both online and in New York to find interesting and unique pieces. All my pieces are handcrafted and produced in New York City.
How has your work evolved over time?
I think my pieces are becoming more complex in construction. I am always trying to push the design limits while keeping a balanced form; the pieces have to be wearable and versatile. I am also starting to use a lot more fine metals. I’ve always wanted to do work with sterling, gold, and semiprecious stones.
You used to be based in New York. How have you found designing in DC to be different?
I was very pleasantly surprised with Washington. There is definitely a fashion scene, and the community of artists, photographers, and designers—while smaller then New York—is much more welcoming and intimate. I enjoy watching DC evolve.
Tell us about your newest collection. What's your favorite piece and why?
The Cassini collection explores the concept of space and time, using the hexagon shape. While the shape is found in things both natural and manmade, the inspiration comes from a hexagonal storm system discovered on Saturn by the spacecraft Cassini. The hexagon shape is the focal point of the collection and can be found in all the details. My favorite piece is the Luna necklace. It is the most striking piece and really the centerpiece of my collection. It pulls together all the hexagon elements from my other pieces into one large statement necklace. It’s a quite complicated piece to make, as well, which is why I love it the most.
What's next for your brand?
This is always the hardest question to answer because I have big dreams. Having my own flagship store, collaborating with other emerging designers who have similar aesthetic and philosophy, building a household brand that will withstand time and be around for generation to come—all those are things I’m striving for day-by-day and hopefully will live to see it all come true. As they say: Dream big!
Photographs by Andrew Propp.
For more great gift ideas, follow Shop Around on Twitter at @shoparoundblog.
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“From the time I was born, my summers have been spent at the beach,” says Sissy Yates, a native Washingtonian who has helmed the jewelry label Sissy Yates Designs for the past seven years. “Our family and friends usually set up beach chairs in a wide circle each day and share in everything from food to beach toys to gossip.” Yates, who heads to Martha’s Vineyard for the month of August, describes what makes a perfect beach day for her.
What do you bring to the beach?
A Roberta Roller Rabbit tunic and beach towel, Sun Bum sunscreen, Havaianas flip-flops, a lightweight beach chair that can be carried like a backpack, a boogie board, healthy snacks, and a bucket for collecting sea treasures.
Your favorite beaches?
Black Point or Quansoo on Martha’s Vineyard, Point Dume in California, Santa Teresa in Costa Rica, Tulum in Mexico, and Anguilla.
Best beach activity?
Walking for miles on the sand, searching for inspiration for my jewelry; bonfires at night; clambakes; and time with family.
This article appears in the August 2014 issue of Washingtonian.
If you’re somehow not yet convinced of Washington’s rep as a menswear capital, get ready to be impressed. The creators of five new, local menswear startups, specializing in a slew of accessories from hand-stitched ties to patterned socks, are gathering for a happy hour celebration in May—and you’re invited. The Art of Style is a free, public event that offers guests the opportunity to mingle with some of the city’s newest innovators in menswear: The creators of Bull + Moose (neckwear), Nice Laundry (socks), Read Wall (shirts and suiting), Stubble & ‘Stache (skin care and beard grooming), and Off the Cuff (style consulting) will be in attendance.
While enjoying cocktails and perusing the latest collections of the four retail labels, you’ll also have the chance to see the vibrant works of international artist Samara Shuter, known for her menswear-inspired paintings (as well as Off the Cuff’s logo); rumor has it that a few of her prints may even be up for raffle at the event.
The Art of Style. May 16, 5 to 7 PM at the Huxley (1730 M St., NW). Free; online RSVP required.
Designers Alvaro Roche and Elsa Arcila have traveled the world for fashion—with stops in France, Venezuela, and Italy—but it wasn’t until they got to Washington that they decided to set down roots. Following years of experience in the industry, including Roche’s stint with designer Gianfranco Ferré and Arcila’s degree from LA’s esteemed Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM), the pair noticed a void in the style scene of their new hometown, and decided to take it upon themselves to fill it. Thus was born Aroche, their namesake fashion label whose inaugural collection of minimalist flats, patterned clutches, and customizable totes debuted online in early March. We caught up with the designers to hear more about Aroche’s origin and what’s next for the brand.
How and when did you decide to launch an accessories line?
Alvaro Roche: In the past three years, we’ve noticed a higher success rate in online brands. We want to be a part of that success. We also wanted to change the reputation that Washingtonians are unfashionable. DC is the capital of the US, after all! I was especially interested in customizing and personalizing bags. When we started figuring out who our target customers were, we realized shoes were the perfect product to complete the picture—light, well-proportioned nylon/leather bags and funky, comfortable flats.
Alvaro, you attended Parsons and worked for Ferré while Elsa gained fashion experience at FIDM. Can you give us an example of how you’ve applied skills from those experiences in creating Aroche?
AR: I worked at Ferré during a time when art and fashion were almost indistinguishable. It was a very free and creative period. I cofounded EPK, a children’s clothing line, and was designing thousands of items per year. I learned how to hone that creativity into salable products at an industrial and affordable level. When Elsa and I first talked about Aroche, we agreed it had to be the marriage of two concepts: great design and affordability. Instead of working on thousands of styles, we focused our attention on making sure the sizes, details, and proportions were perfect. We could only do that if we kept the collection small.
Elsa Arcila: At FIDM, I was exposed to new technologies and multichannel marketing. It helped me envision the strategy that Aroche would take as a brand. I also learned that e-commerce was the future of marketing and retail.
Cameron St. Clair Archer’s designs for her namesake jewelry line are a study in perfectly chic contrasts: Blend one part industrial (she works with reclaimed metals) with a dash of tough (hello, spikes and chains), and mix in a bit of earthy, organic beauty (thanks to the raw stones and delicate gems). Finish with a healthy dose of asymmetry and some lush color, and the result is that sweet spot between sculptural cool and endless wearability. Archer launched the line in 2010 after teaching herself to rework her own jewelry, and now it’s a full-time job.
We stopped by her Bloomingdale workspace recently to see where the magic happens, and chatted with her about why she likes working in DC, and how abstract concepts like spontaneity and adventure inspire her designs. Read on for the scoop—and peep her seriously gorgeous creations.
Tell us a little about your background. How did you end up designing jewelry?
I’ve always been pretty crafty, and I love using my hands—the dirtier the better, be it painting, sanding, drilling, refinishing, gluing, you name it. I suppose the jewelry came about from a real lack of creative expression at a previous job. I was hungry for it, and started to take apart/recreate jewelry I already owned just to see if it was something I enjoyed doing. I did some research and started buying simple starter materials. I would stay up very late designing, and I’d wear my creations the next day. I started getting compliments, and women would ask me who the designer was and where they could buy pieces. Thus, Saint Clair Jewelry. There’s something equally meditative and invigorating about designer jewelry—the combinations truly are endless.
How would you describe the Saint Clair customer?
The Saint Clair woman is not afraid to take risks. She stands out in a crowd; she is a leader, a thinker, an empowered woman who knows what she wants. She appreciates and practices openness and inclusiveness. She is a risk-taker, she’s goofy—unapologetically so—and, more important, she is confident, which is the most beautiful piece of jewelry anyone can own.
How has your work evolved since you started designing?
I definitely take more risks. I lean more toward asymmetrical designs, and I don’t stick to one genre. I also am not so obsessed with following the latest and greatest trends, which I’ve learned can really inhibit creative freedom. I make things I like—things that feel right—and I put myself out there. Like I said, design possibilities are truly endless, and if you limit yourself to one genre, it becomes a bit sticky.
Erika Schrieber’s debut collection is proof that minor upgrades to a piece of clothing can have a transformative impact. The nine-piece line, dominated by midi skirts with ever-so-slightly flared hems, flowy shift dresses with drop waists, and sleek blazers with ultra-wide lapels show us how one can look simultaneously sophisticated and edgy—something that holds particular weight in Washington, where striking the right balance of style and professionalism is a never-ending challenge. Schrieber’s full spring/summer 2014 collection, produced right here in DC, just launched online, and she has even bigger plans for the future. We caught up with the 25-year-old designer to hear about how she got started in the industry, where she finds inspiration, and favorite local shops.
It’s not that we don’t love a sparkly bauble from a big-box retailer—see our ample collection of shiny H&M necklaces and dainty Forever 21 studs as evidence—but there’s something special about finding an awesome piece that’s been lovingly dreamed up right here in the area. Our region is lucky to count a whole lot of jewelry designers among our very own, from minimalist GiantLion to luxe Dina Mackney. Click through the gallery to see seven local designs at the top of our love list.
This week welcomed two new lookbooks filled with fashiony eye candy, courtesy of some of DC’s most stylish. The deets, along with a few of our fave images:
Saint Clair Jewelry
Washington-based jewelry designer Cameron St. Clair Archer is one of our faves for her modern-organic aesthetic. For her very first lookbook, she tapped local style writer/stylist/creative spirit Kate Greene as her model and Worn Magazine’s Nicole Aguirre and Beth Silverberg as photog and stylist, respectively. The result: dreamy images bursting with cool design. Click on over to Worn to see the complete lookbook.
Maybe you’re a seasoned DIY-er. Or maybe, like us, two left hands means your chosen form of DIY means hitting the “add to cart” button on Etsy. Hey, we can’t all be Erica Domesek.
Or can we? DC’s latest venture Topaz + Arrow is on the mission to help us all become a little craftier with a brand new series of workshops that will approach personal style, home decor, party planning, weddings, and more from a handmade perspective. The collaborative effort is a partnership of cool creativity, teaming up Morgan Hungerford West of the art and lifestyle blog Panda Head with Virginia Arrisueño of the knitwear accessories line DeNada. And the craft sessions—constructed to be a complete experience, not just a tutorial—will take place in an equally chic spot: Bloomingdale’s multipurpose loft/art studio space the Ulysses Room.
Ticket sales launched today for the inaugural workshop, “Feathers, Yarn, and Brands: A Home Decor Craft Session.” June 23, 1 to 3 PM at 52 O St., NW, Studio 302. Tickets ($37.50) are available through Topaz + Arrow’s website. Read on for a word from the duo on why they launched the venture, and what to expect from the series.