NEW YORK — Jen Kao is closing her six-year-old ready-to-wear business.
This story first appeared in the October 1, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The 32-year-old designer plans to take a leave of absence from the fashion industry due to health reasons, according to a company spokeswoman. She declined to elaborate, and Kao declined comment.
Kao was born in Los Angeles and raised in Kansas City. She graduated from New York University, where she studied studio art and pursued a postgraduate program at Parsons The New School For Design. She is the daughter of Garmin cofounder Min Kao.
She launched her collection in 2007. Known for its details and precision, the collection is sold in specialty stores such as Owen NYC; Satine in Los Angeles; Avenue 32 in London, and Isetan in Tokyo. In addition, her line is carried online at sites including Shopbop, The Feathered and Moda Operandi.
The spokeswoman said that the spring line wouldn’t be produced, and the last collection to be shipped will be resort, which is expected to be delivered to stores from now through Nov. 30. Some 25 people will be affected by the company’s closure. Kao has offices at 160 Varick Street in New York.
“Jen Kao always makes pieces that stand out. Whether it is her signature cutouts in unexpected ways, or her amazing leather pieces, she knows how to design for a city woman with kick-ass style,” said Phillip Salem, owner of Owen NYC, who was contacted in Paris. “It makes me sad to see Jen Kao shut down for a little, but I am hoping to see her make a huge comeback after this hiatus.”
Kao would often mix streetwear with more polished elements. Producing the majority of her line in New York City, she received strong reviews for her spring collection shown last month. Dubbed Hound & Hare, the collection featured two handsome hound dogs who walked the runway with the models. “The lineup started off strong (like a hound) with a range of denim-centered pieces featuring a workwear-inspired feel, including a raw-cut elongated vest with matching shorts and fold-over, wide-leg pants topped with a woven raffia bomber jacket…and ended with the most feminine of all — fluid silk chiffon dresses embellished with muted floral motifs,” wrote WWD.
Kao was a recipient of the Vogue Talents Corner in 2011, and the Harvard Leadership in the Arts Award and the Stacie Nipps Alumni Award from Parsons in 2012. In 2011, the designer became a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.