Brooklyn designer Katie Kiechel seemed almost predestined for a career in fashion. Although she now lives and works out of a high-ceilinged loft-like space in DUMBO, Kiechel hails from Ohio. While the Midwest might not automatically seem like the most fashion-savvy of places, Kiechel tells us, “My mom was a jewelry designer and a metalsmith and was uber-creative. She designed lamps and sculptures, just very talented. The amazing thing was that since we were in Ohio and very isolated she actually ended up starting a fashion line with my grandmother, who went to Pratt. It was just a very artistic family. My grandmother was super-stylish. Always in black leather pants, totally done. And this was in Ohio.”
Kiechel still has some of the shirts from her family’s fashion line, which she wears today and says that when she does, “I always get stopped.” Before launching her eponymous handbag line, Kiechel worked in the corporate world for designers like Kate Spade and Reed Krakoff and also had her own swimwear line for a time before going ahead with the handbag line. Her bags are the perfect blend of utilitarianism and, as Kiechel puts it, “shine.” There is a balance to her collection that makes it clear that the woman is wearing the bag, rather than the other way around.
Kiechel’s home is full of beautiful things that she picked up in her travels around the world, all of which—from an intricate clasp on a coin purse from Italy to a vintage Lanvin bracelet from the 70s—serve as inspiration to her when she designs her line. She tells me, “I love vintage, and jewelry-inspired things. I’m inspired when I see girls on the street, because to me, style comes from how people express an attitude. Trends are not so important. You lose sight of what you’re doing if you pay too much attention to them. It’s all about authenticity. The really authentic people, they are the people who you’re drawn to, the ones with the best personality and sense of self. Who cares if it’s on trend or not? It comes down to you. I mean, sure, I’m influenced by vintage photography and all that stuff but it’s all about how it translates to everyday wear and who you really are.” This concept of authenticity is apparent in not only the way that Kiechel designs, but also the way she lives her life—with purpose and beauty and in a way that is completely her own.
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