Most of the fashion we see on the runways doesn't translate to our daily lives, according to Houston designer Merin Guthrie. She’s not one to tell you that the fur crop top you saw on the spring runways will be the perfect thing to wear to work next Tuesday. (Come on, it's Houston—you'd be shedding by 8 a.m.)
Instead of designing interesting but impractical fashion, Guthrie decided she wanted to build a company that revolves around its customers. That's the philosophy behind Kit, her new line that's changing the way clothes are made, creating custom-fit clothing that women not only want but need in their lives. Kit was born out of a simple belief: Clothes should work with your body, not against it. Guthrie's line reflects reality for the modern working woman. Kit's first capsule collection of customizable tops, skirts and dresses is designed to look great from the office to the beach, with prices starting at $125.
Houstonia: What was your inspiration for Kit, and how does that fit with being the dressmaker for the modern woman?
Guthrie: My inspiration was everyday women. I wanted to do what I had always read, where you buy that investment piece, but then I couldn’t find anything.
There’s this real perception that women are like “Ahh, I love shopping,” but when I talk to my friends, [the reality is] shopping can be painful, and inevitably when I need to find something, I just can’t. This is what shopping has become—pricing is all over the place, fit is all over the place, there’s zero customer facing-anything.
As a complete outsider with a background in organizational development, I want to leverage my lack of fashion background to build a company that doesn’t do what the fashion industry does. What I want it to do, as a customer, is to make clothes that I can wear every day, really easily, forever; that don’t break; that aren’t see-through; that aren’t going to fly up when I bend over to pick up my bag; that are just really functional for my life. And that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing.
What have you learned from designing custom-clothing?
We evolve a lot as we get feedback from our customers—that’s the fun part about building a company around them. From a customer in her late 30s who has just had a baby and wants a dress to fit her as she is breastfeeding, because you just can’t find that, to women in their 60s who say, "I love all of your dresses, I just want them two inches longer." For us it’s like, that’s not rocket science. We make every dress to order, so why not choose your own hem length? We are here to serve women, that’s how we grow, that’s how we evolve.
What differentiates Kit from other collections in the fashion industry?
So much about the fashion industry happens because that’s the way it has always been done. I think there's a huge benefit to being an outsider in an industry that hasn’t evolved a lot, is not really built around its customers, and I think is really rapidly starting to show its cracks.
So what is it like to build a company from the ground up?
Presenting a lifestyle, glamorous. Building a company, not glamorous. It's very deeply unglamorous, but that’s the part that really got me jazzed up. It’s the question of, 'Can you build something around women? Can you build something different?'
I talk to women and they tell me that they’ve never had a dress that actually fits. One customer told me, “I put my dress on and I felt like something was wrong until I realized that it actually fit me. And then I realized that none of my other clothes fit me, but I had gotten used to that because that was expected.” And that’s what I love to hear because every time she puts that dress on she feels amazing and it ups her game. Its just really rewarding. Ultimately, I want the clothes to work for the customer.