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Fashion’s New Felines

NEW YORK — K.A. Kitties is scratching its way into the urban landscape.<br><br>Created by four Fashion Institute of Technology graduates, the company’s mission is to give women cutting-edge clothes with designer quality and an urban flair....

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Clockwise from bottom: Zareth Edghill, Dorothy Antoine, Jasmin Ruotolo and Kiki Peterson.

David Turner

NEW YORK — K.A. Kitties is scratching its way into the urban landscape.

Created by four Fashion Institute of Technology graduates, the company’s mission is to give women cutting-edge clothes with designer quality and an urban flair. The four women design the line, as well as consult other brands on their designs and marketing strategies.

Kianga “Kiki” Peterson, Dorothy Antoine, Jasmin Ruotolo and Zareth Edghill bring a range of experience to K.A. Kitties. Peterson began her career at Fubu, where she designed the first men’s line working out of her Queens home and remained with the company through its move into a showroom in the Empire State Building two years later. She worked at Fubu for more than eight years until she left in 1998. She was heavily involved in the development of the brand’s women’s line.

Peterson met Antoine while working at Fubu, where she helped develop the Fubu Girls line, but also had experience working in creative marketing and merchandising for Henry Seigel, Fubu Ladies, Gasoline, Joe Boxer and Nicole Miller.

“I met Dorothy when she applied for a design assistant job at Fubu Girls,” Peterson said. “I met her, saw her designs and knew right away that this girl doesn’t belong as an assistant. She was way too talented for that.”

Ruotolo, who came up with the name, brings experience creating graphic and fashion designs for Jordache and Fubu Ladies, as well as for hip-hop stars Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown.

The three women knew Edghill as a business-savvy woman with industry experience. Edghill joined the team after working in production at Avirex, Verso and Happy Kids. The foursome decided to work together about three years ago and launched K.A. Kitties last year.

“We all have very different styles, but we work together very well,” Peterson said. “We were meant to work together.”

To start the business and help bring in money to launch their own clothing line, the four women began consulting with a range of companies on various aspects of design, marketing and merchandising. The designers also received some help from two grants they won this year. The first was the Balance Oasis Grant for Extraordinary Entrepreneurial Women, for which they received $10,000, and the OE Keeping It Real Recycling Black Dollars Grant, where the team was given $20,000 to help get the business rolling.

“We wanted to start this because we all wanted the power to make our own choices and we know what our customers want from us,” Peterson said.

The company launched its first full collection for fall. Dominated by denim, almost every piece carries some sort of novelty, whether its the micro-mini denim skirt with scarf belt and metal rings for belt loops or a knit top accented with feathers and sequins.

“Our line is where the others could have gone crazy, but chose not to,” Antoine said.

The K.A. Kitties line is now carried at Marshall Fields, Epic, Dr. Jay’s, Up Against the Wall and Mony stores. By the end of spring, Edghill said she expects to reach $2 million in sales.

While the women all know that they have only just begun, they have their eye on longevity.

“We want to be like Betsey Johnson,” Peterson said. “Still designing and still respected when we are 60.”

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