Making tailor-made and environmentally conscious clothes covetable, design duo Cat + King is set to subvert the fast fashion system. The creation of lifelong friends Catherine Rocchio and Shannon King, Cat + King is a breath of fresh air in a market saturated by fast-fashion companies.
Catherine and Shannon both studied in their native New York at the Fashion Institute of Technology and abroad in Italy before they each assumed positions, post-graduation, working for fast fashion companies back in New York. But this left them uninspired. “We didn’t feel fulfilled by the lack of creativity in our day jobs,” they explain. This discontent was the prompt they needed to pair up and co-found their label, a venture they had always “talked about” but had not yet got around to doing.
However, they are keen to clarify that their time in the industry gaining experience was not spent in vain. “There are some things you cannot learn in school,” they assets. “Having some industry experience under our belts has not only taught us things about the design and production processes but about running and managing a business. It wasn’t until we started working in the industry that the idea of Cat + King became a real prospect for us.” Driven by their shared vision of “bringing the handcraft skill we learnt in school back to the U.S” and “making quality tailor-made garments available to consumers,” the two embarked on this journey together.
“We are a team,” they affirm. “From paper to real life garment, we make every decision together. Being friends for so many years, we know each other’s likes and dislikes without even saying anything.” And not only do they know each others’ minds, they for sure know their own, too.
Cat + King’s entire business model is unwaveringly ambitious. Refusing to outsource production, they instead keep everything local by utilising New York’s garment district — “with the garment district of New York slowly dying, we wanted a change,” they concede. Although their slightly unorthodox approach meant that, initially, “it was a challenge to build a team willing to work on a made-to-order basis,” this didn’t discourage either of them. Their mutual defiance has proven to pay off because now, they are “backed by a team of craftsmen who not only have the skill set to execute the luxury quality of the Cat + King collection,” but whom also support their, “approach to the fashion market.”
Hoping that their steadfast ethical stances will set them apart from the rest, Rocchio and King rarely compromise on anything. They adhere to the fair trade code of conduct, all of their products are “created cruelty-free” and they reveal that their eventual plan is to “connect other artisans from the developing world to the profit chain of fashion.”
When pressed on how they will manage to continue operating in line with their principles as Cat + King grows, Rocchio and King make it clear just how inherent these values are to the brand. “We stand by our message to bring handmade back to the U.S through ethical production practices and to provide women with unique, tailor-made pieces…its important for any brand to have an identity and stay true to it,” the design duo asserts.
Another distinctive element of Cat + King is its “made-to-order model”. In fact, Rocchio and King see the brand as a “premiere atelier service for tailor-made women’s clothing,” not just a fashion company. “If a man wanted a new suit for work he has access to multiple tailor shops or stores that provide custom suit services. However, from a women’s point of view, there is really nothing out there that is easily accessible for a custom made garment and we would like to change that,” they explain. Pretty much unrivalled in the field, this approach allows them to “accommodate each and every” woman, for obviously they come in “all different forms.”
The pair does recognise their “smaller niche market” position, but are nevertheless confident that customers will be willing to wait for more ethically considered clothes. “We will always have an important place in the industry due to our craftsmanship and expertise in our designs…there are always going to be customers who will make the investment to choose quality and responsible clothing manufacturing over department stores and fast fashion chains,” they affirm.
Indeed, they emphasise that they even design with these customers in mind, stating: “We like to consider ourselves customer centric.” As such, they have an ideal ‘Cat + King woman’ imagined. “She is a fellow fashion maven who personally connects with the pieces of her wardrobe, how they’re made, and where they come from. She doesn’t consider it an article of clothing.”
This SS18 collection specifically draws from both Rocchio and King’s days spent studying in Italy, a place they both hold dear. “Italy is a special place to both of us —it’s where we truly fell in love with our craft and it will always be a source of inspiration for our work,” they divulge. By merging their American influence, seen in the “clean lines and structured garments” with “European classicism” visible with the “whimsical patterns and colours” which “take you straight to the shores of Southern Italy,” they hope to have created a collection that is “unique” having considered an “eclectic mix” of references.
Their next collection will premiere at Feeric Fashion Week this coming July, but Rocchio and King’s plans for 2018 don’t stop there. “We see a future of missions work through the fashion industry in our path… our hope is to become affiliated with various foundations that provide support to disadvantaged children, women and families in underprivileged communities around the world.”
In a time where the ways fashion business is conducted is metamorphosing on many levels, Cat + King is a beacon of hope. Its steadfast determination to do better for all parties involved sets a standard others can aspire to.
Words / Hollie Williamson
Designers / Cat + King (Catherine Rocchio & Shannon King)
Photography / Evgeny Popov
Fashion / Angela Vanderstraeten
Models / Irene Stepanenko & Irina Pavlova
Hair & Make Up / Aleksandra Sasha Nestercuk
Set Design / Colin Lytton