Two's company as classic style meets rock chic
Kate & Ava blend their design ideas to create contemporary but wearable clothes, writes Andrea Byrne
'We're obviously possessed,"laughs Kate Reilly, one half of design label Kate & Ava, describing the difficult, but none the less addictive, nature of being a fashion designer.
"You don't do it for the money or for the working hours. You do it for the love -- when you go to visit a boutique and your clothes are in the window, that's incredible. It reinforces that we're not two weirdos sitting in a studio, that people actually want to wear the clothes."
Kate Reilly and Ava Cassidy first met when they were studying fashion together in the Grafton Academy. By chance, they bumped into each other a few years after graduating, and realised they wanted the same thing -- to design clothes. They started doing a market stall together in Cows Lane. From there, it snowballed. "We were too heavily involved before we realised what we'd done," Ava jokes.
Their label -- Kate & Ava -- started out in 2006. While their design contemporaries were favouring conspicuous bling, Kate and Ava opted for a cleaner, tailored, altogether more modern aesthetic in luxury fabrics such as wool, silk and brocade. Opting for the timeless from the outset has meant that, unlike many other fashion designers, they haven't had to change their signature to fit in with the massive shift in consumer shopping practices.
Probably more than any other Irish label, Kate & Ava is the boutique owner's brand of choice. "We are stocked in some brilliant boutiques, and a lot of them have been set up by people with the same mindset as us. They love fashion, they don't want be on the Lady Gaga side of fashion, but at the same time, they want to be cutting-edge and aspirational, contemporary yet wearable," explains Ava.
In terms of demographics, Kate & Ava is geared towards the 25-45 age-group. It would suit a younger customer, though prices may be prohibitive for them. The collection ranges in price from about €450 for coats and €200 to €300 for most dresses. Size-wise, they cater for 8 to 14.
Each season, Kate & Ava manages to keep things fresh and to try new things without deviating too far from its roots.
For autumn/winter, things are definitely sexier and more powerful. Hemlines are shorter, but as Ava explains: "In winter, people have more opportunity to wear sexier clothes, because they can team the dresses with tights."
Despite the dark, moody colour palette of navy, red, black and coppers, many of the pieces in Kate & Ava's A/W 2010 collection are transitional. And while it's a label that's known mainly for its dresses, there are more separates on offer this season. Personal favourites included the black skinny trousers and soft silk blouses.
Hearing Kate and Ava speak and interact, you can immediately tell that they're a great pairing. And though it may sound like an oxymoron, what makes the whole operation work well is that they both like different things.
"We have some areas where we are totally overlapping and other areas where we are as far apart as you can get," says Ava, with Kate interjecting: "We have loads of disagreements about stuff."
Ava likes the rock-chic look, while Kate prefers a softer, more feminine aesthetic. They meet somewhere in the middle.
It helps too that while both girls are the same dress size, they have totally different body shapes, which gives them an even better understanding of how to flatter as many shapes as possible.
From VAT returns to pattern cutting to general sales, the two girls do everything themselves. You won't hear them moan about it, they'd prefer to speak about the positives -- which are plentiful.
The two young women have just begun their assault on the English boutique market, and are already stocked in My Sugar Land, which was listed in Vogue's 50 best boutiques. They are now also on popular fashion website TaraLacey.com Furthermore, their own website, which they will sell from, will be going live from September.
"Things are definitely picking up," says Ava smiling, "People are getting bored with their same old wardrobe and they want to shop again."
Boutique owners I have previously spoken to about Kate & Ava, have all said how well the label is received, and that each season, the same people come back to buy more pieces, which for me, is the sign of a great label.