Like many little girls, Katie Fong loved dresses that shimmered and twirled. But unlike most other children, the dresses of her dreams came with labels like Valentino and Gucci. Fascinated by the gowns that draped the racks of her parents Greenwich dry cleaning business, Fong was inspired to study couture design and construction at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology. Today, she combines timeless construction with the finest fabrics, handmade lace, and intricate embroidery to create the elegant look of her eponymous brand that’s sold locally at Richard’s in her hometown.
I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Katie about her line and she shared a few photos from her just released Fall 2014 line – enjoy!
Fairfieldista: I know that you grew up in Greenwich, how did that experience inspire you to become a designer?
Katie: When I was very young, I spent a lot of time in my family’s dry cleaners (Thomas Cleaners) right off of Greenwich Avenue. I was constantly surrounded by beautiful clothing- from Chanel suits to Valentino gowns. Clothing fascinated me beyond just thinking they were stunning. I knew that I wanted to create my own versions, which led to my collection of sketches dating back to when I was as young as six.
Fairfieldista: Where did you learn your trade?
Katie: I studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design. I specialized in Special Occasion, where I concentrated on haute couture techniques, bridal design – and lingerie construction.
Fairfieldista: I understand that you had a few prestigious internships – one at Tocca and the other at Oscar de la Renta – how did you get them and what did those experiences teach you, and more significantly, how did they influence you?
Katie: My internship at Tocca was my first ever fashion internship. I assisted the sales team at Tocca in trade shows, showroom appointments, and store research. It gave me the experience to later on land a sales intern position at Vera Wang.
After several other internships and freelance illustration jobs, I landed a design internship at Oscar de la Renta. Throughout my three year apprenticeship there, I had the opportunity to learn about all the departments in the company – and spent most of my time under the design director who works directly with Mr. De la Renta himself. It was an incredible experience and had a huge impact on my development. Being able to work so closely to such a fashion icon only enhanced my passion for design. Despite fame and incredibly busy schedule, Mr. de la Renta always found time to come into work every day to work with fabrics and drape them on the fit model. It was inspiring and showed true dedication to his work.
Fairfieldista: Why did you decide to go out on your own instead of working for another large house?
Katie: One of my bosses in a successful large fashion house once told me that you will always design your best in your twenties. Considering her success, I have always kept that advice in mind. I had a small clientele in Greenwich for custom dresses while I was working full-time in New York City and living in Greenwich before I started the company. It was only until I no longer had the time to do what I love most (designing with my own creative freedom) and was getting more requests for a collection, that I launched my own line.
Fairfieldista: Tell us about your line – who do you design for and what is your inspiration?
Katie: I design for the modern woman who embraces her femininity and inner flirtiness without being too flamboyant. Her style is timeless, but also fun. My inspiration has always been the customer of my hometown, Greenwich, and my Grandmother who had exquisite taste.
Fairfieldista: How would you describe your design philosophy?
Katie: My company’s motto is “A Passion for the Simply Beautiful”. We pay close attention to every detail and incorporate many techniques normally associated with haute couture. We are able to successfully do so since all of our collections are made in New York City within a five-block radius of our office in the Garment District. I appreciate timeless designs that can be pulled out of a closet years from now and still be fresh.
Fairfieldista: How has your style evolved since you launched the line?
Katie: Personally and professionally, my style as evolved to be more daring and out of the box than it ever has been over the years. I love combining preppy looks with something with a more romantic feel.
Fairfieldista: What design elements and colors define your brand?
Katie: My collections are defined by our usage of lace, silks, and exquisite embroideries. The colors tend to be more subtle and sophisticated, which relates to our objective for subtly dramatic clothing.
Fairfieldista: What has been your biggest challenge and what are you most proud of?
Katie: The biggest challenge is being able to stay true to my own design aesthetic and belief in what women should be wearing while being involved in many different aspects of, a small company. Being able to find the balance of creative, sales, and marketing is a challenge, it also possible with creativity, a great team, communication and focus…and of course, some luck. We have had some great successes within our first year that are a result of thinking a bit out of the box.
Fairfieldista: Where can your designs be found in the NYC/Fairfield County area?
Katie: Richards of Greenwich will be carrying selections from our Spring 2014 Collection. We also are in a partnership for custom services where I custom design dresses and separates for their clientele. In New York City, we currently hold trunk shows in various areas of Manhattan. We also sell online on the luxury platform, www.taigan.com.
Visit her website by clicking here: Katie Fong.com