Kendall Jenner wore Catherine Holstein’s Khaite shearling last month in Aspen. A paparazzi photo made the rounds, like these things, and soon there was a waiting list of 140 people for the $12,000 coat. I mention this to illustrate not the cult of celebrity – we all know too much about it already – but the evolution of the clientele of luxury. “We’re a new brand, we’re not a legacy, you wouldn’t think we could sell a $12,000 sheepskin coat,” Holstein said backstage. “But if they’re emotional about it, there are no price limits.”
Khaite was launched in 2016 as a resource for classic essentials. The brand’s philosophy has not changed: it is still built on a base of cashmere sweaters, leather, denim and tailoring. So how do you elicit the kind of emotions that drive five-figure purchases?
Holstein is good at creating a mood. Last season, she dimmed the lights to almost black; here she channeled the glamor and grit of pre-Bloomberg New York, with Kurt Cobain yelling “Where did you sleep last night?” on the soundtrack. Khaite is more nervous than he was in his debut. “This is our most New York show,” Holstein said, “the most industrial,” and pointed out that the freight elevator of this scene in Fatal attraction is down the block from the show venue.
With the Kendall coat perhaps in mind, Holstein built this collection around outerwear. It all started with a zip-front leather jacket with an exaggerated collar and long sleeves. Much more leather followed: an aviator, a trench coat, double-breasted blazers, snap-button work shirts and a biker jacket like Emmanuelle Seigner’s in Frantic, a Holstein movie quoted behind the scenes. Jackets and coats sorted, customer Khaite will need a mini for fall. The Khaite are shapely: high waisted and carefully belted, with a zipper on the entire front. If she needed a dress, she could imagine an off-the-shoulder number drawn in a harlequin of Swarovski crystals, a fully fringed cocktail number that took three weeks to craft, or the crystal-studded crochet column that was the centerpiece of the collection. .
As sexy as the vibe was, Holstein pulled it off without the towering stilettos we’ve seen popping up elsewhere this week. There aren’t many women I know who are hoping for a post-pandemic style comeback. Holstein gets that – another notch in his favor.