Kathrine Zeren is a Houston-based lifestyle wares biz offering beautiful men’s accessories, vintage finds, leather goods, and apothecary products.
It’s also the name of the company’s female entrepreneur (that leaned on Kickstarter to launch the cool concept) who has a strict “American made, sustainably sourced only” work policy.
We dig what she’s all about. Learn more about Kathrine and her company, which will set up shop at our May 7th Houston show at Silver Street Studios.
When did you decide to start your business and why?
After working as a womenswear designer at Abercrombie & Fitch for several years, I decided to take time off to do some volunteering and missions related work in Eastern Europe and South Africa. I made neckties as a way to raise money to pay for my trip, mostly because it seemed like a fun challenge at the time. I had never ventured into designing menswear, but had always looked to it for inspiration. I loved the quality of fabrics and attention to detail that often isn’t present in womenswear. Later, I decided to turn this hidden dream into a reality, and I was inspired by companies like Warby Parker who have championed socially conscious business practices.
Did you go to school or have professional training in your field?
Yes. I received a BFA in Apparel Design from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). In addition to several internships I completed while still in school, I spent four years working as a designer for Abercrombie & Fitch.
Is this your full-time job? If not, do you intend it to be and when?
No, I also teach art and design at a local prep school.
Do you have any employees?
I have some part-time, seasonal interns.
When you launched Kathrine Zeren, did anything completely surprise you?
It’s different when you’re working for someone else, or when the name on the label isn’t your own. I think that I was surprised by how self conscious I found myself once my name became associated with the product I was working on. I remember thinking, “Oh, shoot! I really can’t mess this up; I only have one name!”
What was the hardest part about starting your business?
The hardest part was (and is) having to wear all of the hats. Until you’re in a position to hire someone, nothing will get done unless you do it. It can be a lot of pressure, because you know that if you fail, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Having the opportunity to set my own rules. For example, sustainability is important to me, so I’ve incorporated that into the way I source my fabrics. It is also important to me to support American industry, so I have all of my products made here. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but it supports an industry that’s been hemorrhaging for decades.
If you could go back and do anything differently, what would you change?
I would have taken some business and accounting classes in college.
What has been your proudest moment so far in your business?
I think when I met my Kickstarter goal last year. It was extremely validating to have total strangers support what I’m trying to do.
Do you have any tips for newbies in the industry?
Ask questions. Find out why things are done the way that they are. If you are still working as a designer for another company, get to know the people who deal with the numbers and learn about what they do. Also, listen to people’s advice. But at the end of the day, if it’s your name on the label, it has to be about your vision.
Any additional comments/stories you’d like to share?
Don’t be intimidated about what you don’t know. Keep asking questions and don’t be afraid of failure; it’s the only way you will learn.
Find Kathrine Zeren online and at our May 7th Houston show from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Silver Street Studios located at 2000 Edwards Street.