Picture your typical shopping experience. You browse through racks of clothing, pick a few promising items to try. Once you get them on your body, you might tug at a confusing zipper or wonder how to style the avant-garde bottoms you’ve picked on a whim – and there is no one around to talk you through it, much less record your feedback. It often feels like clothing designers are hopelessly far removed from you, alone in the fitting room.
The Technical Atelier program at Kit and Ace – currently operating in six showrooms across North America and one in Australia – is closing this gap by putting emerging designers on location, in studios right inside the showroom.
Alli Schaab oversees the program – she works with the designers-in-residence on a day-to-day basis to create collections based on guest feedback and emerging trends in each market. “It offers a rare platform for young designers to connect with their community,” says Schaab.
The designers are selected from top design schools located in the respective market and complete a 10-month residency. “A really important part of my role is to develop young design talent and give them tools to grow as designers and prepare for their next role – whether that is with us or another company,” Schaab explains.
Working through a six-stage development plan, the designers start with trend forecasting, defining what makes a focused collection and brainstorming their own mini collections based on consolidated guest feedback. Then they get down to business and turn their sketches into physical, touchable, wearable prototypes – and all of this happens in their open concept workspace for you to witness. Walk in to a showroom and you’ll see a designer-in-residence cutting fabric, sketching, sewing a prototype or showing a concept to a guest for feedback. It’s the definition of real-time, hands-on.
In our Gastown showroom designer Lisa McAnulty is in month-five of her residency. She asks guests lifestyle-based questions to understand how they are wearing clothes and what technical interventions can support their needs: “What clothing do you want that you don’t have? What do you do in your daily life and how do you need your clothing to perform?” She takes this on-the-ground insight and develops a collection of five to 10 styles that she assembles into a look book every two months. Her prototypes are then presented back at Kit and Ace headquarters, and potentially adopted into the product line in our showrooms worldwide.
“The guests have the ability to give feedback in shop and for that feedback to come to life in a design. Their viewpoint and perspective are being shown through the Technical Atelier, which is so valuable for our design team,” says Schaab.
On top of this, the Technical Ateliers offer tailoring and monogramming for guests and support the team on the showroom floor – allowing them to further deepen their understanding of product and guests’ needs. “It’s pretty cool that you can get your garment hemmed by a designer so it fits you perfectly, or customize your t-shirt with your nickname or favourite saying – making it totally personalized to you,” says Schaab.
This month, one of our first Technical Atelier designers, Emma Knudsen, will have two of her pieces – the Checkpoint Midi Skirt and the Tactical Pocket Tank – hit the floor in 58 global showrooms and our online flagship.
The Technical Atelier program has just been rolled out internationally, bringing two young designers in-house at our Martin Place showroom in Sydney, Australia. Schaab is continually developing the program and refining it to better meet the needs of emerging designers – and to bring you, our guests, into the conversation.