Dive into the perfectly balanced world of Kathryn Bowen—with instantly recognizable designs that fuse ultra feminine tailoring with a contemporary twist. Romantic yet practical, her pieces combine intricate structure, inventive mesh paneling, and flattering silhouettes for the fashion-forward customer. S/ recently spoke with Bowen about her distinct vision, her design process, and the experience creating three custom looks for Kim Kardashian.
If you had to pick one thing that has specifically inspired your design style what would it be?
“I think it would probably be an opportunity I had about four years ago. After moving back to Toronto from London, and in the early stages of launching my label, I learned bespoke tailoring and couture sewing methods from a couture seamstress. This had a huge impact on my design approach. During the first two years of creating my own collections, I was always reaching out to knitters, tailors, couture seamstresses, wedding dress designers, and leather specialists to understand how to work with different materials and crafts in order to get all my techniques right. I think this is why I am very particular about fit and attention to detail now because that time really informed my garment-making process and ultimately my method of creating pieces with such precision.”
How do you conceptualize your collections?
“The process has evolved since starting my label. I used to spend a lot of time researching visual references to inspire my colour palettes and fabrics, but after a few years of creating an archive of Kathryn Bowen originals, I like to start my process by referencing these pieces. I’ll now think of new design ideas based on my favourite existing patterns and it has become easier to create strong collections this way. I’ll spend the next few weeks experimenting with these ideas, developing prototypes, and fitting them on a model until I can get the patterns ready for sampling. It is a lot of trial and error still! I just make sure I am considering designs for a modern, feminine customer who is conscious of liberating the female body, but that I am also being inclusive of diverse beauty in the process.”
How do you take inspiration from corsetry but make it perfectly modern by using mesh?
“The mesh fabric didn’t actually become a staple for me intentionally. I introduced a mesh dress one season as a simple layering item to be styled over top of an apron. At the time, I liked the transparency of the fabric, its ability to be layered and add so much detail to a garment with its very visible seams. After designing this first mesh dress, and also realizing how easy this fabric is to wear, I started to experiment a lot more with other types of garments I could make with it. Now, because of the illusions I’ve created with lingerie seams in mesh, I feel like I may have fooled a lot of people into believing that I am making corsets and dresses with full boning, but the reality is these pieces are incredibly flexible and comfortable to wear.”
Can you tell us about your Spring/Summer 2022 capsule?
“This new capsule is entirely made of mesh. It features a lot of lingerie-style designs with corset details and layering, but also some classic wardrobe staples re-invented in the transparent fabric, like trousers and shirting. It contains some colour ways exclusive to SSENSE and Nordstrom, and both of these retailers will carry a few mesh best sellers from last season in the new spring colours as well. I made this collection after designing a similar range of pieces for Kim Kardashian so I made sure to include her looks—I think the Kim dress is definitely a highlight.”
What was that experience like creating custom looks for Kim Kardashian?
“This was definitely one of those opportunities that just popped up at the right time and place. I was asked by a member of the KKW Fragrance team if I could create three full looks for Kim’s upcoming fragrance campaign in just two weeks, and I was coincidentally available to take on custom work at the time, which never happens. I was excited and a bit skeptical at first, but I immediately accepted the job. From that moment it was just a whirlwind of sketching, proposing design ideas, testing new pieces (like mesh evening gloves), and then after about a week of collaborating with the KKW team, they decided to fly me to LA for fittings and alterations to perfect the looks on Kim, which as a very surreal experience. Her team was so accommodating and easy to work with that everything went smoothly from beginning to end. I guess what surprised me the most is that a small Canadian designer like me was even on her radar for such an important project. The fact that Kim and her team believed I could pull it all off is something I’ll always be grateful for — it’s pretty cool.”
Who else would you love to dress?
“The list is very long actually… there are a lot of celebrities I would love to dress but at the top is FKA Twigs, Grimes, Eartheater, Hunter Schafer, and Zendaya. After dressing Kim for her fragrance launch though, I’m thinking I could reach pretty high and say maybe Beyoncé one day as well.”
View the gallery for more exclusive imagery and highlights of the Spring Summer 2022 collection.