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Talking All Things Fashion With Kitri

We sat down with the lovely Haeni Kim, Founder and Creative Director of fresh fashion brand Kitri. With a cuppa in hand we learnt all about how she started Kitri, where her design inspiration comes from and her top tips for dealing with stress.

Where did the idea for Kitri originally come from?

“The concept for Kitri started running through my head about four and a half years ago. I was working in Hong Kong at the time and had been working in the fashion industry since graduating university. I worked in both the high-end and high-street markets. I was in my late twenties and I felt there was a gap in the market, somewhere between cheap and cheerful high-street and more expensive designer collections. I tried online and in-store, but I couldn’t really find anything I was looking for.

One of my curses for working in the industry for so long is, you know how things are made, the quality and what you get for your money, making it really difficult for me to find anything I loved. I started asking my friends ‘where do you shop?’ but none of them could give me a brand they absolutely loved, or they would go back to time and time again. I started thinking there’s something here and perhaps I could go directly to a customer and bring them the best quality product at reasonable prices. That’s how Kitri began. I started thinking about what I would want from a customer basis, what I would like to see, what my friends would like to see and how we would like to see it. This led to the idea of monthly collections and weekly drops. I wanted to see something fresh all the time but didn’t want to be doing lots of different styles every week. We decided on having a specific edit of styles everyone would want to wear during a particular period.”

Who and what makes Kitri run?

“We’re based in East London. In the head office we have 12 people and we also have our own warehouse which is really rare for a small brand. The warehouse used to be under our creative studio but now we’ve moved to a bigger warehouse which is based further East. We have a whole team there – pickers and packers who are absolutely amazing. We have our creative team – designers, garment techs, marketing and customer service based in our studio East London. We’re all in one big room so everyone can hear what everyone is doing and give each other advice. It really helps to get everyone’s thoughts and ideas out there. I find this is the most fruitful way of doing a creative type of work.” 

How have you and your team adapted to working from home? 

“Well we’ve been brought into the 21st century kicking and screaming! To be honest fashion is so tactile in terms of an industry, so we have to touch fabric, look at the colours in the right light, try the clothes on real bodies. It’s been really tough trying to do this when we’re all in different rooms. But we’re all adapting, there are a lot of aspects of working from home we will probably take into our day to day business once we are out of this situation. It has been quite fun as well; we’ve been having Friday cocktail Zoom meetings which are always a laugh! Lots of bonding with people’s pets and children!”

How do you cope with stress in both your everyday life and lockdown life?

“I’ve never been very good at coping with stress. Currently I’m finding it really difficult to sleep and I think that’s mainly due to lack of exercise, not being very mentally or physically tired. For me it’s really important to move around and keep a little exercise routine going even while working from home. Normally for stress I try to think of things I can control first. I find I get quite overwhelmed, feeling I have to be ahead of things all the time, thinking about the future constantly.

As a business owner you’re always trying to lead the team in the right direction, but I think one of the biggest things lockdown has taught me is, when you make a plan sometimes God laughs in your face! You have to look at a situation and think what is in my control, what can I do and all the rest you have to take as it comes. Things become a to-do list rather than this big gigantic thing you can’t break down; day-to-day, item-by-item. If you’re working and living at home, you have to cut yourself some slack. If sometimes you don’t feel that productive and you want to start a little bit later and finish a little bit later, that’s okay. If you want to take some time at lunchtime to gather your thoughts, that’s okay too. It’s okay to not be over productive, learning 100 different languages or doing yoga on your lunch break!”

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

“We have a great team and we bounce off ideas all the time. We find a lot of our inspiration from vintage. I love 90’s Vogues or other vintage content, there’s so much out there. Also, we take a lot of our colour inspiration from art. Different combinations of colours and prints excite us. A season starts with pouring over a lot of books and magazines and gem hunting in vintage shops. We start by getting really excited about certain shapes and prints and build it out from there. Now we’ve been going for three years, we’re beginning to get a sense of what our customers love and what prints and colours really work for us.”

What is your favourite Kitri print?

“At the moment it’s our Daisy print. It launched last Sunday and sold out in most sizes in 24 hours. It’s a very happy, bold print. My all-time favourite print has to be leopard or animal prints in general.”

Favourite Kitri piece, past or present?

“The Gabriella Pleated Shirt Dress, which was our first hit, will always have a special place in my heart. It was a magical moment where everything came together, everyone had a really great response to it and when we restocked it, it sold out within 45 minutes. Another one is the Mika Jumpsuit. I’ve really enjoyed wearing it on multiple occasions, whether it’s for work or a brunch, wearing it with sandals or dressing it up with heels. It is one of the most versatile pieces. The amount I wear it, it definitely is one of my favourites.”


Quick-fire Questions! 


What has been your favourite quarantine snack?

“I’ve been trying to snack a little less this week. The first few weeks were quite intense, I was eating biscuits all day! Now I’ve started making smoothies. My Nutri-bullet is so surprised I’m not making margaritas all day!”

What have you been watching recently?

“Killing Eve every Monday! Also, I saw this morning Normal People is out. I absolutely loved Sally Rooney’s book! I devoured that book in half a day, I’m very excited to watch it.”

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt in lockdown?

“Take each day as it comes and be kind to yourself and others. There has been a real sense of community across social media; it’s been the most heart-warming thing.”

What has been your most unusual quarantine purchase? 

“I actually bought this face massaging contraption. I’ve been on the fence about it for a while. It’s very satisfying. I’ve been quite puffy from not moving around very much and eating too many biscuits, so I’ve been using it on my face at night and it’s been really nice!”

Keep up with Haeni on Instagram @Kitristudio and be sure to check out Kitri’s amazing designs on their website