With a heaving high street and new brands popping up on Instagram all the time, we're spoilt for choice when it comes to finding a party outfit. That said, it's still not unlikely that you might turn up to an event in the same dress as someone else there. But earlier this year, Kitri burst onto the style scene, saving us from such wardrobe woes and offering us a new brand with luxury silhouettes and impressive quality at surprisingly affordable prices.
Born out of the frustration of not being able to find well-made, distinctive designs without breaking the bank, Haeni Kim launched Kitri studio in March 2017, assembling a small but expert team to bring that plan to fruition. Named after the feisty, playful and wilful heroine of the ballet Don Quixote, Kitri encapsulates the wonderful women who have inspired the studio team to create a collection of elegant clothes that fit their exciting, demanding lives.
Each design is produced in limited quantities so you won’t have to worry about turning up to a party in the same look as your best friend. Reimagining the space between fast fashion and contemporary labels, Kitri refers to its offering as "fresh fashion", with new releases dropping regularly onsite. Priced roughly between £60 and £170, everything from a wrap dress to an off-the-shoulder Bardot style, a tuxedo jumpsuit, vinyl trousers or the perfect roll-neck is available, with great attention to detail and finish and rendered in rich, sumptuous colours. Worn and adored by Pandora Sykes, Laura Jackson and Jessie Bush, chances are that a dress you've coveted on Instagram has actually been by Kitri. We spoke to founder, Haeni Kim, about launching an online brand, the power of social media in fashion and plans for expansion.
It's not even been a year since you set up Kitri studio. How did you bring the idea to fruition and what have been the biggest hurdles in founding your own brand?
It’s been an incredibly exciting but challenging year for sure! I had been preparing for just over a year before launching Kitri studio in March 2017 but there are lots of things that I couldn’t have anticipated and prepared for. I’ve been told that I can be a bit of a control freak (haha!) and I think being flexible and adaptable to unexpected situations has been hard for me personally but I have an amazing and talented team and we work together to problem-solve each step of the way.
How does Kitri differ from other mid-market fashion brands?
Although there are lots of mid-market fashion brands, I felt that there still was a gap in the market for a design-led, high-quality brand at high street prices. As my friends and I started growing out of high street brands, we felt a little lost as to where to shop. I wanted something that was classic but had interesting design details that would make me feel good and last longer than a season but couldn’t really find that on the high street. On the other hand, the contemporary, mid-market brands were still too expensive to justify shopping there as often as I was and that’s how I started Kitri.
We are an independent direct-to-consumer online fashion brand so we are able to cut out the extra cost and bring premium quality and fresh design to you at high street prices. We also produce all styles in limited quantities and drop a tight edit of new styles every week as well, so there is always freshness and you’re unlikely to bump into someone wearing the same style.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
My father has been in the industry for over 30 years so I think he has definitely been the biggest influence, although he was very much set on me becoming a UN ambassador in the beginning! He has an unparalleled knowledge of the garment industry and has been an amazing supporter and given me guidance throughout my career.
You opened a pop-up in August. Do you have plans to open a permanent bricks-and-mortar store?
I would love to! Kitri is first and foremost an online brand for sure but we learnt so much from having a pop-up this year. A physical store had a very different set of challenges compared to opening an online store but I really enjoyed the creative process. Most of all, it was just incredible to meet our customers face to face and learn from them. I think the world of retail is changing so rapidly and I wouldn’t want to open a store on every high street but a lovely big space where we can bring Kitri girls together and share our world with them would be the dream. We are already looking at doing another pop-up soon so hope that a permanent bricks-and-mortar will follow not too long after that.
How would you like to see the brand continue to grow?
We have a joke in our studio that our goal is world domination! We are a small team but very ambitious and would just really love to see our clothes on Kitri girls all over the world and making them happy. Being an online brand, we can reach customers around the world quicker. We currently ship to all EU countries but we want to expand thoughtfully and grow in those markets to make sure that we are constantly evolving to offer the best customer experience wherever we are. Our next big step will be to start delivering to America and we’re so excited about that! Also, we have been adding new categories to our collection and look forward to adding more next year.
The fashion industry has become increasingly challenging for independent brands. Do you think shows are necessary or that social media can be a more valuable tool for new brands?
I don’t think there is a right or wrong way. For us, social media has been incredibly important for brand awareness and community-building. It is amazing you can reach an audience so quickly and we quickly realised that we should dedicate more resources to managing that as it is the most efficient way of marketing a small brand like us. We never really thought about doing a traditional show, so to speak; I think we were always more about our customers and focusing on communicating our ideas directly to them.
Who would you love to see wearing the brand? What's your personal pick from the current collection?
I would love to see Misty Copeland in Kitri. She is an amazing dancer, absolutely beautiful and inspiring! I would love to see her dance in some of our silk dresses – the golden Isadora silk dress would move beautifully or she would look fabulous in any of our disco-ready sequin pieces too.
Maybe it’s the weather but warm and comfortable styles are my current go-to. My personal favourites from the current collection are the PJ-inspired silk and jacquard pieces (off-shoulder top, wide-leg trousers) and the soft pink cashmere mix oversized Mabel roll-neck jumper.
Follow Kitri on Instagram @kitristudio