With fashion-forward designs and mid-market pricing, womenswear brand Kitri launched in January, looking to carve out a new niche in womenswear.
Haeni kim, kitri founder
Since its debut, it has become a regular favourite of the fashion crowd. As the brand takes its next steps into the mainstream, opening its first pop-up store at 35 Thayer Street in London’s Marylebone this week, Drapers speaks to founder Haeni Kim to find out how the business has rapidly blossomed into a cult fashion favourite.
How did Kitri come about?
Kitri was born from a frustration of not being able to find well-made, distinctive designs that don’t break the bank. There are plenty of options on the high street for cheap fast fashion and lots of beautiful, but mostly inaccessible, designer brands (price-wise and design-wise) so I felt that there wasn’t really a brand my friends and I could go to regularly. With Kitri, I wanted to create our dream brand, somewhere we can find classic sophisticated styles with playful and fashionable details that you won’t find millions of other people wearing, at an accessible price point but with great fit and quality. [Prices for the collection range from £59 for a top to £145 for a dress.]
What was your background before launching the brand?
I came to England from South Korea when I was very young to pursue my dream of being a ballerina, but eventually gave in to my love for fashion. Once I knew I wanted to start my own fashion brand, I worked in various roles across different sectors of the industry, from high-end designers to mass market, value-driven retailers, to get as much experience as possible. I worked in sales, marketing and finance, as well as production in the Far East to get a 360-degree view before launching the brand.
What’s the ethos of the brand?
Premium product, premium service at not-so-premium prices. Producing a brand that people are proud to be a part of.
What would you say were some of the core principles of the brand?
As a team, we always focus on building a brand that we will be proud to be a part of in 10 or 20 years’ time, and have fun while doing it. I hope this comes across.
You describe yourself as a small team of creatives. How does this work in practice?
It certainly isn’t easy; we are a small team with big ambitions so we are incredibly busy at all times. I believe having a small team makes us more agile and communicative. We all sit in the same studio and can come together to work on ideas as a team very quickly and we learn from our mistakes and successes.
How are you showcasing the brand in the new pop-up?
This is our first chance to meet our customers in real life so we are very excited to share our world with them and learn from them. Our customers are discerning fashion lovers so we wanted to showcase not only our current collection but our past and even upcoming collections, to give people a real sense of who we are. We have different sections of the store where she can try on samples and tell us which styles are her favourites. We also have scheduled programme of talks and shopping events in store so we hope to get to know our customers well.
Why did you decide now was the right time to trial a store?
We only launched six months ago so it may seem a little early to open a pop-up store. We are first and foremost an online fashion brand but the offline experience is also very important to us. We are a direct-to-consumer business so it made sense to open a temporary store. There is so much noise in the digital market and I think it’s the best way to differentiate us, so that the customers get to know us and we can understand them and hopefully serve them better.
What are your plans from here – do you think you’d ever open a permanent store?
I would love to have a permanent store in the near future. Opening a physical space comes with a lot of different challenges to launching a website but I have really enjoyed the creative process and seeing it unfold and come to life. I don’t think it would be right for us to have a traditional concept of a store on every high street, but it would be amazing to have a flagship in every city.
What would you say is your favourite piece in the current Kitri collection?
My current favourite is the Myrtha Midi Shirt Dress. I have always loved shirting and it’s something our customers seem to love as well. This shirt dress is a modern take on the traditional silhouette, with a long zipper running through the front. The gathering around the bodice and the sleeves adds a feminine touch to what can be considered as a very masculine style.