A mere four months ago, New York Fashion Week represented a different reality for the fashion industry, one where KEH cofounders Wei Ge and Aoyu Zhang could stage a debut with the hope of generating enough press and support to expand their fledgling business.
They had a standout presentation among the young designer set, blindsiding the few editors who attended with a modern blend of tailoring, cool experimentation and sophisticated silhouettes that held gender-ambiguous undertones derived from traditional men’s wear. They offered up a desirable wardrobe of subversive tailoring both cool and exciting aimed at a younger generation accustomed to ath-leisure and streetwear.
The coronavirus has effectively halted the brand’s momentum, leaving Ge, who handles design, and Zhang, who focuses on the business, to quarantine at home like everybody else while figuring out how to fulfill the fall 2020 orders that haven’t been canceled. “I am optimistic that the industry will gradually return to normal but it will be a slow process,” said Zhang, who received an MBA from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “This lockdown has been a test, requiring brands to be more flexible, fast-acting and resourceful. The Internet will have a bigger part in the industry’s operations to face global demand.”
With patience, persistence and time, KEH is capable of finding a strong audience in a post-COVID-19 world that will likely embrace a return to getting dressed up. Launched in 2018 and based between New York and Shanghai, the brand takes a modern exploration of sartorial gender codes with a mantra to be “poetic, rational and romantic.” “I think that’s what I really expect for myself,” said Ge, who received an MFA from the New School’s Parsons School of Design, before quarantine began. “I want to be a very poetic, more rational and more romantic person so I’m thinking the personality of the brand can be the same.”
Inspired by photographer Nick Knight’s series of roses, the fall collection utilized conceptual draping in reference to flower petals to soften classic tailoring pieces. A roomy trench was layered with wrap sleeves, while a gray structured jacket had a single playfully curved sleeve. Ge played with proportion and created volume by sensually exposing skin or nipping the waists of big shoulder blazers made with Italian and Japanese wool and tweed. Shirting, like the outerwear, was gender-fluid, and included a standout gray top with drapes and lines mirroring how petals fold and form.
Priced between $800 and $2,000, it’s an entry-level designer option offering elegance with grit and considerate details for different ways to wear, ideal for women looking for something fresh and interesting beyond the comforts of quarantine.