Wendi Koletar was giving a shirt demonstration when I showed up at her new boutique, Kick Pleat. This is a bit unorthodox, as shirts are usually self-explanatory, but Koletar isn't afraid to take a chance on something that doesn't have a lot of hanger appeal. Once on her lithe frame, the pieces of fabric which had hung listlessly from the neckline on the rack were tied at the collarbone just so, turning a basic long-sleeved blouse into a statement piece that Wendi suggested would be perfect worn with culottes at a luncheon or cocktail party or could even be paired with a long skirt and worn at a formal event.
Such is the philosophy at Kick Pleat: There is more than meets the eye. When I asked Koletar what her favorite thing in the store at the moment is, I was surprised when she led me to what appeared to be a basic, off-white, button-up shirt.
"I like things that you can wear a couple different ways, so it's a shirt and a jacket. If you open it it's got a hidden lapel so it's got a double-layer look, and the fit is amazing. It's one of those things that doesn't sing on the hanger but you put it on and it just looks cool immediately," she says. "I can travel in it, I can wear it to work, I can wear it a lot of ways."
Koletar had never worked in fashion before opening the first Kick Pleat in Austin 12 years ago, but she quickly earned a following by focusing on lines (not labels) that offered comfortable and effortless yet design-forward clothing that will stay in shoppers' closets for years to come. She was the first to stock cult fave Apiece Apart and was an early fan of Rachel Comey's menswear-inspired goods. Now Koletar is making use of her larger space in Houston to add pieces by Mr. Larkin, designed by Copenhagen-based Houstonian Casey Larkin Blond, and (coming this fall) ready-to-wear collections by Issey Miyake and Jil Sander.
In addition to womenswear, the airy, minimalist space stocks shoes, jewelry—of both the simple and high-end designer variety—and the kind of cool handbags and clutches that add the perfect amount of pop to a wardrobe built around neutrals.
"I find lines early and I can kind of sense when they've got something great going. I think people come to us because of the timeless pieces we carry but also because of that freshness," says Koletar. "What we do is timelessness, comfort, freedom, travel... I like pieces you can wear day-to-night. It's pro-woman."
Kick Pleat is located at 2565 Kirby Dr., 713-528-1112, kickpleat.com.