Interview with Kate from Kate’s Clothing (Owner/Director)
Interview by Jessica Plumb
Firstly, thank you so much for this interview today and hope all is well, especially considering the event of COVID-19.
It is an amazing achievement that your store has been going since 2004. How did you first get the idea to create your online shop?
Thanks! I’d been making my own clothes (despite being terrible at sewing) for a good few years and when I discovered my neighbour was a retired seamstress I decided that fate had called and I should dive blindly into running my own business, employing my neighbours’ services to fill in my large skills gap.
What is the appeal of Gothic and alternative clothing for you?
I don’t even know how to describe it; I think I was goth before I knew the word. I was a really, really weird kid and I’ve always preferred wearing black since I can remember. It’s really nice to feel like part of a culture, but I feel like that’s just a bonus and it’s not actually a choice. I’ve tried to grow out of it a couple of times over the years, but it just feels so wrong trying to be more normal.
Do you have a personal ‘hands-on’ approach as to how you run your online business?
I do indeed. We’re a very small team and I do trust everyone to get on with their roles, but I’m too much of a control freak not to be poking my nose in fairly regularly. Plus with the business being so small, I end up covering for every role at some point (because people are allowed holidays and to be ill) so they do often return to find I’ve changed everything.
Were you always interested in the alternative gothic scene and fashion?
I did actually want to be a fashion designer when I was a kid, I had scrapbooks of designs and everything, but I was ok at maths and science and I ended up down that route. My sense of fashion has definitely always been odd and always involved a lot of black since I was first able to influence the contents of my wardrobe. I was lucky enough to have a mother that encouraged my creative side, although I can pinpoint the very moment that she gave up on the idea of me growing out of it, and she did once yell “she’s got a 1st class degree in Chemical Engineering you know” across a car park when some of her neighbours looked at me funny.
Who are your favourite gothic bands? Is there any new music you would recommend?
This is where I have to admit I’m actually a metaller (sorry). I’m fickle as anything, but my current favourite bands are probably Orbit Culture, In this Moment, Butcher Babies, The Haunted, Twelve Foot Ninja, Machine Head, Fire from the Gods, Bad Wolves, Black Label Society, Killer be Killed and that’s probably enough for one list. Like a typical 40+ metaller, my idea of new probably came out 20 years ago, but I do enjoy some metal from kind-of-surprising-places like Voice of Baceprot and Bloodywood (would have got to see them at Bloodstock if it wasn’t for COVID19).
Where do you find inspiration and how do you create new ideas for your line ‘Necessary Evil’?
All over the place! Sometimes I wake up with a picture in my mind and it rolls around in there until I can get it on to paper. Other times, I sit listening to music (particularly by inspirational women) and the ideas come out.
A couple of my most novel ideas came from misinterpreting something I was looking at. The hooded scarf (which I think I was the first to really do, but who knows what slips into my sub-conscience) came from exactly that, I was watching a music video and it looked for a minute like the vocalist was wearing a scarf with a hood on it, she wasn’t, but it rattled in my brain and I had to get one made. Everyone’s doing them now, so there’s a compliment in that. Also, many years ago I saw a picture of a woman in a coat and it looked like it was made out of sweatshirts, again it wasn’t, but I thought why not? Currently, I can’t help putting bat wings on everything, I keep saying I’m going to stop, and I would but I don’t want to.
You have a really good media presence including a following of over 35k on Instagram, what do you do promotion wise to keep the momentum going and what do you feel is the best way to advertise your brand?
I think the most important thing is good products and service. Exciting, comment-worthy products and a good service get talked about and today’s social media amplifies it massively. I normally do a little bit of paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram but I’ve halted that for now so we can do our part in the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, albeit a very small part.
Are there any new brands coming to your range? If so, can you tell us?
Yes, Hades footwear is about to return and Devil Fashion is back already. It was actually a bit of a bumpy ride the last 12 months and we’re only just getting back on our feet really, but there’ll be more amazing things to come.
You include Plus Sizes in your collection, do you make it a point to only work with brands that are inclusive of all shapes and sizes?
We do our very best to be as inclusive as possible, and I will always get every size available, but I wouldn’t shun a brand based on it having a small size range, because they might well have minimum production quantities they have to meet. The trouble with being alternative is we don’t have the economies of scale and the manufacturers all want a minimum quantity per size, so smaller brands with the most novel designs have to focus the small investment they have available onto their best selling sizes.
You have such an amazing range in your line, which one is your personal favourite?
Well after Necessary Evil (obvs), it’s probably Dark in Love (at the moment anyway), they make great quality, interesting pieces at affordable prices and they’re really nice to work with.
Back in 2012, you were awarded ‘Best UK site by Alt Fashion Magazine’. How did it feel to make such a huge achievement?
That was pretty awesome, it was a vote too, so that made it extra special.
Having so much experience in the gothic fashion industry, what advice would you give to people starting out in the business? Just start, what’s the worst that could happen?
Prepare to be adaptable, constantly and learn from your mistakes, but overall just start.
How do you feel the fashion industry has changed over the years?
It’s very different; I feel I was very lucky to get going when I did. These days it’s a lot easier to set up a professional online presence but the flip side of that is there’s a lot more competition, many of whom don’t have overheads to worry about because so many are just repackaging cheap ripped off items they’re buying to order. There’s also the alarming rise of friendly fraud, which is really hard not to take personally and get upset about. I’m incredibly lucky to have built a wonderful, loyal customer base who make it all worthwhile.
Do you have any celebrity customers or any you have wearing and endorsing your designs?
There are few but to be honest I get super excited whenever I see anyone wearing my designs. I learnt many years ago, not to run up and tell them though, it makes people surprisingly uncomfortable, don’t know why?
What other items do you sell on your site, aside from the beautiful gothic and alternative clothing?
There are hair dyes, footwear and a growing section of brilliant home and giftware. There never used to be so much awesome homeware so it’s really fun to be able to offer so many new and novel things.
Do you reach out to the brands featured on your site, or do other businesses/designers approach you?
It’s a mixture of both, we get approached by rather a lot of brands that aren’t going to work, so it can be hard to see through the noise.
Who would you love to collaborate with in the future, be it a model, musician, photographer that you haven’t done so far?
I’ve worked with so many amazing, lovely models and photographers already. I’d start naming my idols here, but what if they wanted to meet, then I’d forget how to speak and humiliate myself?!
Has COVID-19 affected your business in any way?
It was actually one of the most recent in a list of calamities and near disasters over the last 12 months, so things were already a little strained. I had already shrunk to small smaller staff levels then suddenly I had kids around all day which meant I had to furlough one staff member to keep him safe and set another up to work from home, leaving just 2 of us to man the warehouse. Although, luckily I’d just moved into a barn right next to my house so that worked out really, really well. Plus so many people I know completely lost their income overnight, so I’m just hugely thankful to still be going strong for now.
What other interests do you have outside your business? Do you have any hobbies?
Yes, I’m a bit obsessive about work and I have two amazing kids and a wonderful husband, who also runs his own (far more successful) business, but I squeeze in time to bake bread, grow veg, brew probiotics and look after a few ducks, chickens, geese and donkeys (and I wonder why I’m stressed and prone to panic – there’s probably a name for it, anxious overachiever or totally obsessive weirdo or something). During normal times, I also occasionally like to get over-dressed and put on way too much makeup and go to gigs or hit the town with my lovely people.
Is there anything you would like to mention or say to our readers?
I think I’ve probably blathered on enough. I’m just going to send this over and then repeatedly judge myself for everything I’ve written.