Katharine Story takes androgynous looks to the next level.
By Tanya A. Yacina
Katharine Story began her design career in the 1980s in London, and her bohemian-inspired, avant-garde styles have wowed the public worldwide ever since, making an annual appearance at the Paris and New York fashion weeks and Miami Swim Week. A third-generation Lagunan, Story returned to California to bring her designs to Los Angeles, but chose to reside in Laguna Beach to raise her son, Luke. She opened her first boutique in town in 1995.
Story recently launched a gender-neutral line to offer her clients an even broader selection of her fashion creations. The new collection—including silk-velvet hoodies, reworked, upcycled camouflage, shearling vests and kaftans—falls in step with her fashion point of view and past designs, which have featured chiffon, lace, velvet, brocades and sequins incorporated into flowy garments. The only difference is she now provides choices for both men and women.
“I have always worn men’s clothing, so the pants [in the gender-neutral line] are actually a copy of a vintage pair I have,” Story explains. “[In this line,] the sizes are larger and the textiles more catered to both genders.”
In general, Story’s collections embody effortless, chic looks with soft, natural fabrics that move with ease. She usually produces new pieces weekly, and many of the one-of-a-kind pieces are made in her studio next door to the boutique. She explains that many pieces are wraps and come in just one size, cut on the bias so they hug the body and conform to her clients’ curves, creating a custom fit for each person. Here, she discusses the new line and what inspires her designs.
When did you release the new gender-neutral line?
Katharine Story: It was scheduled to be released last spring. It was delayed because of COVID[-19], so it was just launched in September.
What did you do to celebrate the launch?
I had my friend—an influencer/model/male—preview it in Miami for Swim Week [in August]. I also [recently] was at Spring Studios in New York City for a presentation.
What inspired your gender-neutral line and why did you want to add this to your collection?
When I saw my clients’ husbands and my male friends trying everything on in my boutique, I knew it was a natural extension to what I have been doing.
Who does this line serve? Is there a typical customer for these items?
Many of my women clients are coveting the line, as well as their husbands. … It’s an extension of what I do, therefore my current clients love it and the male clients are happy to have something in their size …[that] is more masculine.
Do you have a favorite piece in this line?
The silk-velvet tie-dyed hoodie and the reworked vintage camo pants.
What kind of response has the new line received so far?
Really positive—the men love it because it is really unique for the market. I think that men are getting more comfortable with expressing themselves in fashion. It’s really exciting to watch and be a part of.
Where will people typically wear these new pieces? Are they formal, casual or in between?
They are more casual, although many of the fabrics could be seen as dressy.
What accessories would you add to the pieces to dress them up or down?
I have some of my friends’ pieces in the look book photos. They are baroque and have crosses and skulls. I brought skulls back into my collection for the first time in several years—[it] just felt right. I also love scarves and belts with [the collection].
What is your process when designing a new piece or line?
I usually decide who I want to be. In this case, it’s how I would dress my guy [and] what I find sexy or chic. … I like men to be confident with their sexuality and expressing themselves. … I appreciate a man that takes the time to put their look together.
What are you working on next?
I have a capsule holiday collection, which also doubles as sexy loungewear. Who knows what the holidays have in store for us—I want to keep my clients chic whether they are partying or entertaining at home.