In Conversation: Ilana Kohn
IN OUR WORDS
In an ever-growing global fashion industry centered around the perpetual ‘new in’ product it would be easy for young brands to race to the finish line, cutting corners or dropping in quality as they trip on their own feet. The pressure to produce trend led styles in a now season-less fashion world is immense and constant. Freshening up your style each season is no bad thing but it’s the core pieces we feel lost without when they are in the bottom of the laundry pile that really make a mark on our wardrobes. Here in store we like our clothes to be considered but ultimately wearable - whatever the trend, season or year - so we were bound to fall for our latest brand to join the family, the NYC based womenswear brand, Ilana Kohn.
Working ‘from the gut more than intellectually’, Ilana has developed a brand with complete conviction in each piece that it puts out into the world. Evolving from four basic silhouettes back in 2011 to a now fully fledged collection of jumpsuits, dresses and separates, the brand makes clothes for (and champions) strong women. With oversized cuts that are just as event worthy as they are easy to lounge around in, consider this a new wave ‘uniform’ for your everyday life. Washed denim or block colours in simple, clever cuts. Layer up, layer down pieces in breathable and natural fabrics to wear on all those days you can’t figure out what to put together. Designed in New York by Ilana and her beloved team, then produced in a factory in the Manhattan Garment District, the brand keeps things local and in turn keeps things sustainable. We know what we’ll be wearing this season, next season, the season after that…
IN HER WORDS
Before I started Ilana Kohn, I actually went to school for illustration and worked primarily as an editorial illustrator for close to ten years before the recession pretty much put the kibosh on publishing over night. At that point, I decided to go back to school for Historic Preservation (historic architecture) and while I was there, got antsy not painting and drawing day daily so I started sewing and the rest pretty much stemmed from there. By the time I was ready to graduate, I decided to go full steam ahead with the brand rather than pursue a job in preservation.
As I had absolutely no background in fashion, let alone running a company, the learning curve was pretty intense (and still is!). I was lucky to cross paths with a lot of generous, supportive people along the way who really held my hand and showed me the ropes. I also took things very slowly, which in hindsight, was really the key to us being where we are now. As frustrating as it was to not always be getting the stores and huge orders I wanted, it really was very much for the best! Amongst other things, you only get one shot with most stores and if you’re not prepared and really screw it up, you’re probably not going to get a second round.
It’s always been important to me that everyone that is involved in the process of our clothes getting made is treated fairly and takes home a living wage. We definitely make it a point to avoid that race to the bottom in terms of haggling with our vendors – what’s an extra dollar or two to me when that extra money could be going into the worker’s pockets? In less broad terms, this also very much includes our team. They bust their butts day in, day out and the company should do the same for them! As we move forwards this year we really want to just reexamine, reevaluate and restructure how we operate to become more efficient and make sure that we have a strong foundation in place as we continue to grow.
GET TO KNOW ILANA KOHN
Tell us about your neighbourhood.
I live in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. I’ve lived here since 2000 and it’s such a beautiful neighbourhood with so many amazing old nineteenth century mansions & brownstones. To boot, it’s mellow, which as I get older, I definitely appreciate more and more!
Do you have any daily rituals?
I have three cats and every morning one of them, Harry (aka Harrison von Peepsenburg / Bong Bong / Rat Face), hops onto the bed while I’m brushing my hair and *demands* that I fluff up his tail with the comb. It looks like a giant bottle brush when I’m done.
Who are your heroes?
My amazing, amazing team! I love them to the moon & back and would be so utterly lost without them. They really make coming in every day something to look forward to.
What’s the most memorable comment, good or bad, you have received about your style?
“Socially acceptable pajamas”
What one thing can you always justify spending money on?
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Treat others as you wish to be treated.