NEW YORK — Some celebrity designers arrive with much fanfare and then disappear just as quickly, but Katie Holmes has taken a more measured approach.
This story first appeared in the March 16, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Few outside fashion probably know that Holmes and her stylist friend Jeanne Yang have been designing the Holmes & Yang line since 2009, but now the duo is spreading the word more aggressively with a series of trunk show appearances at Barneys New York, culminating at the Beverly Hills location on Saturday.
On Tuesday, they were at the Madison Avenue flagship here presenting their spring and fall lineups and educating their customers about the line.
“We both love fashion and we both like to sew, although we don’t do the sewing [for Holmes & Yang],” Holmes said. “We thought that it might be interesting to create a line. We also thought it was important that we make things here in the U.S.”
Except for a few French laces, the line is made in New York, a strategy that comes with much personal resonance for Yang. Her mother used to be a sewing contractor with a factory in Los Angeles. The rise in offshore manufacturing eventually forced her to close the factory. “To me it’s nice to know that in Manhattan, there are truly some of the most amazing contractors in the world,” Yang said.
The two seem to complement each other. “I am a little bit more classic,” Yang said. “It’s like a ying and yang.”
Holmes knows her part in that equation. “I am the ying,” she said, laughing at the play on her co-designer’s name. Where Holmes tossed around terms like “high quality,” “great fit,” “made for every woman” and “made in the U.S.A.” for the design philosophy, Yang was a tad more specific. “It’s a luxury quality and ‘make-it-your-own,’” she said. “Ultimately, I know our price point is not an everyday price point, but it was important for us to make sure people realize that the most luxurious and beautiful things can be made in America.”
The collection is priced at retail from $325 for a silk camisole to $2,500 for suede jackets, though a lace and leather gown retails for $9,100. At the trunk show, favorites included a fuchsia petal blouse, a pleated skirt and a suede vest. The pieces are designed with longevity in mind. “When you clean out your spring closet, what do you get rid of?” Yang said. “You don’t get rid of your Hermès coat or your beautiful Chanel purse. You want to pass it along to your daughter.”
With the exception of Victoria Beckham and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, celebrity designers generally have largely failed to spark much excitement with the fashion crowd. Holmes, however, seemed oblivious to the challenges celebrity designers face. “I just concentrate on what it is we’re creating, and stay focused on it,” she said.
Yang added that Holmes’ status as a Hollywood actress and wife of Tom Cruise ultimately doesn’t play into the line. “When we do these trunk shows, the most validating thing is when we see individuals try things on, and they forget about it,” Yang said. “We’re sitting in dressing room, like girlfriends at a slumber party trying on clothing.”
Next up, the pair is mulling a move into accessories. Asked whether a fragrance was in the works, Yang said their essential fashion mantra — to create clothes that women can personalize — may be more challenging to bottle. “It would have to be one of those mood fragrances, where it would change depending on the person,” Yang said.
Holmes suggested that it would have to be “temperature-triggered,” which in turn inspired a new idea for a lipstick that changed colors based on one’s mood. “That would be funny,” Holmes said, adding that a bad mood would probably turn the lipstick purple. “It would be a nice warning when you walk into the room,” Holmes said.