Brand Building And Bold Design - In Conversation With Karie Laks

PHOTOS BY BRIDGET BADORE FOR THE ASSEMBLIST

PHOTOS BY BRIDGET BADORE FOR THE ASSEMBLIST

Karie Laks shared a few words of wisdom in our interview with her below. "Building a contemporary fashion brand is a bold endeavor. It takes a lot of work and pieces to put in place.” 

The way we see it, things have certainly come together for the dancer-turned-designer. With an affinity for collaboration and a passion for fashion, Karie Laks is contributing something special to the evolving and dynamic landscape of the contemporary market. Having gotten her first creative start in the dance world she’s been able to translate her discipline and unique understanding of the body into her approach to design. 

When we met with Karie during market here at The Brand Assembly Square, we were immediately in awe. Her collection boasts an incredible attention to detail, a versatile yet cohesive color palette and a nod to the theatre with “performance” like adornments on some of the more statement pieces (including a mid-length pleated skirt which nods to character dance). Speaking more to this, the collection itself even drew an audience of intrigued market goers. In the midst of the craziness, we were happy to have the opportunity to sit down with Karie who shared what she plans to assemble for the year ahead. Check out our full conversation below and head over to The Style Line for an exclusive second part of this interview.

Please introduce yourself!

I really enjoy staying curious and learning. As a visual person, it really excites me to venture out and see as much as possible. I'm constantly visiting galleries and museums and going to see new performances on stage. I also enjoy traveling, spicy food, and making jokes with my friends. I’ve been trying to expand my hand at drawing and painting more than just fashion sketching; in general just navigating my own experience based off what excites me most.

How would you characterize the Karie Laks woman and do you see her evolving as each collection comes into realization - what is that process like for you?

I think the woman who wears my clothes envisions herself as a modern, independent woman with an adventurous spirit. I am continuously learning new techniques and subjected to a variety of numerous elements that inspire my process. Typically I start with a concept for a story. This season I had a sort of nod to Auntie Mame and her brilliant eccentricities, but also combined with a Mad Men in space vibe. Really I am developing my story as I see what new fabrics are in the market and try to mold something out of the tactile, and the imaginary.  

New York City and fashion seem to go hand-in-hand. What are your honest thoughts about building a contemporary fashion brand in the city and how do you hope to see the city continue to foster young designers?

Building a contemporary fashion brand is a bold endeavor. It takes a lot of work and pieces to put in place. I feel that the garment district is such a convenient hub to aid in putting all those pieces together. It makes doing this job a little easier because everything you need is so close together. Many times I have come across new vendors by accidentally getting off the elevator on the wrong floor or in the wrong building. I hope NYC continues to foster and invest in young designers. Many of the new platforms and companies I am working with are innovative in that they are taking what old systems seem to be outdated, and giving designers an updated and collaborative atmosphere to be a part of.  Brand Assembly and Production Showroom are prime examples of that.

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Many contemporary fashion designers that we’ve spoken with have alluded to the fact that they’ve got their hands in every aspect of their business. So from PR to social media, what other areas of your business have you developed a passion for? Have these discoveries led to any new inspirations for the brand’s story?

I think I have really dug deeper into my appreciation for art and art history in general. I find that Pinterest is a tool I use constantly, and not just for archiving of fashion related imagery, but everything visual that excites me. There’s something really comforting in keeping the excessive amount of inspirational matter organized. I find I can dig deeper into the background of artists I admire, while simultaneously keeping record of what connects me to their work. So, it’s really the advancement for the developmental stage of the line that I find I can keep close at hand and continuously logging.  

Based on what you know now, what conversations would you personally like to start within the contemporary fashion design community?

I would like to know what the sentiments are like for a wholesale vs. direct to consumer approach for this market. I realize a lot of larger, more established brands are opting to turn to this model, and I am wondering what this community thinks about this shift, and what the direction for the future will be in terms of sales and marketing. Technology is helping to aid in this shift, but is it really feasible for the market to thrive.

Do you have any design-related resolutions this year? If so, what are they? 

This year, I would like to work on more collaborations with other designers/artists. I think I would like to experiment in new categories and mediums. For Fall ‘16 I am launching my first collab with my friend Melissa Lum, who styled my look book and also made all our accessories. This type of working relationship is what inspires me most and I hope to continue to work like this and explore new facets within the industry.  

Since the brand’s inception can you think of any one design milestone that’s really captured the essence of what you’re trying to do as designer?

I don’t really think of one specific milestone that has really captured the essence of what I’m trying to do as a designer. Starting the brand itself was a milestone, then watching everything unfold from there. I aligned with a showroom my first season, and entered the market head on. Having a profile done on me in Interview Magazine was special.  After reading Holy Terror by Bob Colacello, I thought wow, this is really amazing to be aligned with such an iconic publication and with so much history of the art and fashion scene in NY. 

What do you assemble daily?

I am always building upon ideas, new and old. You have to be constantly inventing ideas, while figuring out how to stockpile the old ones. Therefore, I am always building out this library. These ideas cut across all departments of business from design to sales marketing and PR. I have to stay inventive and combat what isn’t working necessarily with new methods. All in all, it cannot be defined as one element. Everything affects the operation, and I am really just constantly trying to evaluate growth. 


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