You may not fully be aware of who New York-based designer Kaelen Haworth is, simply because of the speed at which she has built her name into a coveted fashion brand, but trust us: you want to get in on this now, before the wait list begins.
A Toronto native, Haworth hit the ground running, presenting her first collection at New York Fashion Week in 2010 — a mere nine months after graduating from Parsons in New York.
Helping hone her skill as a designer, were apprenticeships with Jenny Kayne and Stella McCartney. “I think interning at Jenni Kayne was a great experience because it was a small company at the time, and I learned a lot about how a business really operates,” explains the designer. “Stella was on the opposite end of the spectrum. It was amazing because Stella and her business are so inspiring. I was pleasantly surprised to see how deep the core values of the brand run. Stella is a very genuine business, and I appreciated that because it is something to aspire to as a young entrepreneur.”
As for her own designs, Haworth’s most recent collections have gathers positive reviews from the toughest of fashion critics, earning her a place on ones-to-watch lists the globe around. That, and dressing “it” girls including Beautified mobile app co-founder/DJ, Hannah Bronfman, whom she counts as a friend, not to mention former collaborator (the two partnered on a capsule collection of Coachella-ready clothing under the label, HANNAH+KAELEN) has her name hanging in the air.
Like her friends from the music scene, Haworth‘s designs have an attractive edge to them that recalls the cool simplicity of Alexander Wang with the freshness of Proenza Schouler. Of her creative vision Haworth says, “I think that what I feel strongly about is details. I like to keep my silhouettes on the easier side, but the detail of the finishings, whether it be a contrast binding or a pearl merrow, is really important to me. ”
Winding down after the fall/winter 2014 fashion shows, Haworth took a moment to chat with FILLER and share the story of her beginnings in the fashion industry, her inspiration for her recent collection and more on what we can expect to see from her in the future.
What inspired your career in fashion? Was fashion design something that appealed to you at an early age?
I was always interested in fashion, but when I moved to New York was when I really started to feel inspired by it. New York was so different than I thought it would be, and it really made me think that I could do something creative. It gave me more confidence to take risks. Before moving here, I knew I wanted a career in fashion, I just wasn’t sure in what capacity.
Was there a moment when it really clicked that a career as a fashion designer was the only path for you?
I don’t think I remember a specific moment…but I guess it was right after I’d graduated Parsons and was doing the interview circuit. I just felt more and more excited about the prospect of creating something of my own. It was more of a slow realization and determination than a specific moment.
You interned with Jenni Kayne and Stella McCartney in the past. How does your own vision differ from the fashion houses you’ve worked at?
My vision aesthetically is different of course, but being at the previously mentioned companies really helped me hone my vision for the company as a whole.
Aside from the designers you worked with in the past, are there any other designers or even artists outside of fashion that inspire you?
I think that Proenza Schouler is incredibly inspiring. They do such innovative things with textiles and I think they are genuinely moving fashion forward. I am in love with Rick Owens and his ability to create such a vast world out of such a singular vision.
Tell us about your SS14 collection, what inspired the designs of this collection? I love the graphic elements shown within it.
The SS14 collections was about the way things come together. That manifests in the mixed media, the stitch work that literally pieces things together, and leo with the print. For the print, I used a photo that my friend Morad Reif Affifi took on a trip to northern Canada of a glacier. I wanted to take something so natural, break it apart and put it back together again in an interesting way.
That’s quite the inspiration! And what about the creative root of your FW14 collection, it’s very feminine in its tailoring and also dramatic with the touches of fur accents as we saw on the NYFW runway.
This season was about softness and romance. I always feel drawn to natural elements, so the print feels a little earthy and soft. I wanted to roundness to come through in silhouette, so a lot of the shoulders and rounded and sloping, as opposed to sharp. But there is still a lot of tailored pieces which helps to balance it out a bit.
The FW14 collection feels quite different from your SS14 collection. How would you say your creative vision as a designer evolved from one collection to the other?
Because I’m a young designer, I think that each collection feels different because the evolution is such a big part of the process. That said, the hallmarks of KAELEN are always there. The balance of masculine and feminine, the focus on texture and interesting textiles, the prints. As long as the tenets of your brand are identifying, the evolution and change is the fun part.
Well we’re loving the evolution so far! How would you describe your vision for womenswear, is it one that is distinguished by a luxury and glamour or do you see your clothing as having more street appeal?
I think that the mix of a luxury viewpoint and a more street appeal is where things become interesting. I don’t try to veer too much in either direction, but rather meet in the middle. The combination is what resonates with me.
Who ranks as your favourite person you’ve dressed so far, and what about her style makes her the ideal KAELEN woman?
Solange was definitely a highlight. She is adventurous and takes risks with her clothing, but she has such a strong sense of style and how she wants to be viewed that everything looks so amazing on her. She has a way of making things her own that is really amazing. Mindy Kaling wore KAELEN to the premiere of This is The End and I loved it. She’s smart, hilarious and beautiful, so that was a thrill.
Who is someone you’d love to dress and what attracts you to their style?
I always think of my friends when someone asks me who I’d like to dress because I love seeing it in real life and on girls I know and admire. I have a great group of friends in New York and in Canada and they all look amazing when they wear pieces from the collection. I’m also thinking of those girls when I’m designing, and not really celebrities. But I would not be mad at dressing Tilda Swinton, Beyoncé, Joan Didion or Chloë Sevigny. I feel like I’m always more drawn to women who are incredibly distinct and have such a clear style and vibe because they inherently know how to wear something.
On the topic of dressing friends, you not only dressed your friend Hannah Bronfman, but co-designed a capsule collection with her. What was that experience like?
Hannah and I met through her boyfriend and my good friend Brendan Fallis about 2 years ago. We hit it off and have been friends ever since. Hannah was going to Coachella, and she had some work events while she was there. We were talking about the phenomenon that happens at Coachella where people seem to abandon their individual style in favor of cutoffs and flower crowns. Instead of letting his happen, we decided to create a capsule collection that she would take with her to Coachella that felt fun and easy, but also true to Hannah’s style. It was such an easy process.
Loved the collection. Is there any area outside of designing clothing, but still related to fashion that you’d like to explore in the future?
One of my favorite things is collaborating with people that I find inspiring, so I think that exploring that side of fashion is really interesting. I think something related to the prints we create each season would be interesting. Even something as simple as creating interior fabrics with each season’s print would be amazing.
As a designer who started in the industry fresh out of Parsons, what advice would you give to someone looking to break into fashion?
This is a hard one, but I would say, just do it and get ready to hustle. It is not just going to fall into your lap. And learn how to deal with criticism because if you can take it, it will help you immensely.
Do you see opening a store in your near future?
I hope to open a store at some point. I think that might happen further down the road. I’d love to create a space where people really understand the brand and the world I am trying to create.
How was your experience at New York Fashion Week this past season? You must be thrilled with the positive review of your FW14 collection.
My experience with NYFW was great this season. I am always nervous and there is always some stress surrounding the presentation, but seeing the clothes all together and on the girls is such a great feeling after working on it for so long. It’s great to see it all come together. And it feels great to get such a positive response to the collection of course.
We’re all eager to see what you will do next, what can we expect from Kaelen Haworth in the not-too-distant future? Any collaborations or projects lined up?
I hope so! I will be starting in the CFDA incubator in May, which is incredibly exciting. Hopefully there will be many more collaborations in my future. I usually do something with my friend Audrey Louise Reynolds, who is an amazing natural dyer, so I’ll keep you posted if that happens anytime soon!Published March 22, 2014