Thursday, 22 August 2013

Katei Roze talks bags, berets and bizarre inspiration

To say that Katei Roze is a busy lady would be an understatement. She juggles her own fashion label with her latest venture HYC (the pop up boutique I visited earlier this month), and has just finished a stint as a jewellery specialist at Fortnum and Mason, as part of the team setting up their new jewellery department. Since graduating with a first class degree in Fashion Design, Katei has built up an impressive CV. She studied at Cordwainers London College of Fashion and trained at St Martins ‘Immersion’ course for entrepreneurs trying to carve their own niche in the creative industry.

Following work experience at Vivienne Westwood, Basso and Brooke, Alexander McQueen, PPQ, Georgina Goodman and Julian MacDonald, Katei worked as retail manager and assistant designer at Johnny Rocket London. She started selling Swarovski crystal berets in 2008 and established her vintage label House of Lalka, which has since merged with HYC. Any precious free time is spent travelling for inspiration but I managed to pin her down to talk about her beautiful bag collection.

What made you decide to start your own handbag line?
I have never been a ‘handbag person’; I’ve always been drawn to shoes, jewellery or clothes. I went to India in 2010 and needed a large hand luggage bag, so I designed one on the plane over. I bought some sari fabric as lining and gorgeous maroon coloured leather and it became the first KR handbag.
Back in London I used it every day for work and people began asking where it was from. I went back to India in 2012 and had 10 more made in carpet fabrics. I took over vintage florals and also used traditional Indian fabrics. I realised that I wanted to design bags because there was nothing currently on the market that excited me.

Is it a big leap from berets/footwear?
Berets were an easy way for me to start my label as I could work from home. Liberty made a huge order and sold out, and I will always offer them as part of my label. I studied footwear because I have always had a passion for shoes. I really enjoyed the course but in reality, making footwear is a very complicated and expensive process requiring machinery and financial backing. I learned a lot about leather and how to manipulate it, which fuelled my obsession for statement accessories. I love designing anything linked with body image and self-expression, so handbags were a natural progression. They perform a function but they can make or break an outfit, and express what kind of person you are or what mood you’re in.

What fabrics do you use and where do you source them?
I use a lot of one off vintage fabrics, mostly from upholstery or homeware. I source them from my Grandmother’s house, vintage markets, Portobello Road and my favourite vintage fabric shop in St Leonards. I love to use wet-look leather, unusual tones and shades of leather and nappa, which I get from my leather wholesalers in East London. I also visited Lineapelle in Bologna last year to source leather and findings. I love using studs, crystal zips and bright binding to set off the fabrics. The bags are made in Hackney at a very well established factory that I trust implicitly.

What inspires your current designs?
I am inspired by movement. I think it’s lovely to have a bag that moves in its own way. The tassel clutch articulates very well. I am currently designing bags inspired by medieval shapes, strong female warriors and a hint of the 90s. It’s a bizarre mix but I find blurring elements that I am passionate about, which aren’t usually combined, results in a strong design.

 Who do you design for?
My ideal customer is a strong woman who wants to get the most out of her life. Her bag is her ally; she uses it as a weapon against the world. She carries her most important ammunition for the day – it is her home away from home. My customers want to make a statement with what they are carrying. They appreciate the avant-garde, and the unique and eccentric qualities in life and themselves. They are warriors of the modern world.

Where can you buy KR bags?
They are currently available at SHOP in St Leonards Norman Road, and from my Facebook page. If you see something you like you can contact me and I will get it posted out to you. I take bespoke commissions and source and suggest fabric for my customers.

What is it like to design bags for London Fashion Week?
I have a love/hate relationship with LFW. I have worked there many times for other designers – Vivienne Westwood, PPQ, Basso and Brooke, McQueen – and it’s a buzzing place, like a beehive of creativity and egos. Sometimes it’s all a bit loud and the stingers on some people involved can be pretty nasty.
Last September I designed a range of bags for Jayne Pierson, which was showcased with her collection. I really enjoyed the process of designing for her brief and using her images as inspiration, which were different from what I would have chosen myself. It’s always challenging to create something for another person’s vision but I was proud of what I produced.

What are your goals for the brand?
A trade show in Paris next year, Premiere Class/Tranoi, and I’d like to get stocked in boutiques in the UK, Europe and further afield and have my own showcase at London Fashion Week. I’ll be travelling to source fabric and interesting clothes/homeware to use on my bags and sell at HYC, which I plan to re-open in London. I would love to have a well-rounded brand like Cath Kidston, but a very eccentric, rock and roll version, where everything is a little more exotic and edgy.

Top 3 songs for your studio soundtrack this summer:
Iggy Azalea – Work; Avicci – Wake Me Up; The XX - Crystalised


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