Frustrated with the lack of clothing options in the womenswear market to fit their androgynous style, Laura and Kelly Moffat decided to launch their own fashion brand.
Kirrin Finch, an NYC-based, gender-neutral clothing line that launched earlier this year, is full of the menswear-inspired pieces Laura and Kelly were always shopping for but could never seem to find.
At their work space in the Brooklyn Fashion Design Accelerator, Laura and Kelly discussed Kirrin Finch, how they launched the brand with no prior fashion experience, what it's like working with a spouse and who their style icons are.
What inspired you to launch your brand?
"We started to look for what we were going to wear for when we were going to get married. I don't feel comfortable wearing a dress. Laura doesn't feel comfortable wearing a dress. What is that going to look like for us? We found this suiting company to make us some custom suits, and [I had] this realization that, 'Wow, there's stuff out there that we can wear that makes us feel really comfortable.' So we had this moment of realization that we could make this happen, but there wasn't that much stuff in ready-to-wear, so we decided to really flesh that idea out and see if we could solve that problem. We were just frustrated customers."
What was it like trying to solve this problem without having any prior fashion experience? What were some of the challenges?
"When we first thought of the idea, we knew that there was an unmet need. We knew that other people were having the same issue, but neither of us had any fashion experience, literally zero fashion experience. I have a marketing background, and Kelly is a teacher. We took a class at FIT, and we were fortunate enough to be a part of the Brooklyn Fashion Design Accelerator and received tons of mentorship. Starting anything, the idea is really important, and then the execution, if you're resourceful and kind of scrappy, there's lots of resources out there that can help you figure it out. People have been very generous with their time and their knowledge, which has really gone a long way. And ultimately, we are researchers by nature, and we want to figure out as much as we can so we can make better decisions. We also live in New York City and that's why it's a lot easier. If we were living somewhere in the middle of America it would have been a lot more difficult. We literally can take the train to the garment district -- we have our factory there, the sample makers, we have our sample room here in Brooklyn. I think it would be much more challenging if you were based somewhere else."
What's the aesthetic of the brand and where do you find inspiration for your designs?
"We've really looked to [menswear] brands like Paul Smith who have these fun pops of color and unique details. And we're always going like, 'I wish this fit me.' So we've kind of taken those ideas of uniqueness and brought them into our shirts. [In womenswear] you see lots of really exciting prints on dresses -- that tends to be the focus of where the uniqueness is -- but when it comes to shirting or everyday staples like pants, shirts and sweaters, womenswear doesn't tend to be as exciting. So we wanted to take some more bold ideas like what you see from Paul Smith and Ted Baker and bring them into womenswear and make it fit a woman's body. We see these cool, fun things for menswear, but they aren't designed to fit women because women have totally different bodies. Men tend to be straighter. They don't have hips or busts, and we had to focus on a pattern that would fit a woman's body."
What type of woman are you thinking about when you're designing?
"It's kind of like an embodiment of us. It's for anyone who doesn't want to wear a dress and be super, super feminine. It's for anyone that was a tomboy growing up. It's probably someone who likes to be a bit more casual. They want to put on jeans and a shirt. I think the interesting thing about clothes is that two people can be wearing the same shirt, but they bring out their own personalities based on how they are wearing it. Shirting is super versatile because you can legit wear your shirt with jeans and not worry about anything else and go about your day or you could throw on a tie or a blazer or something super feminine and you can completely change the look of that shirt."
You're concerned about sustainability.
"As we started to kind of develop the brand, we started learning a bit more about the fashion industry and how destructive it is. It is the second most polluting industry in the world. There's just so much about it that's super destructive, and as we learned about that, we wouldn't start a fashion brand and keep adding to the problem. We want to make sure that we are not adding to the problem that already exists, instead we are trying to make it better."
What is it like for you to work together and also be married? Is that challenging or do you think that works in your favor?
"It's been really amazing to have Kelly to be my business partner and also my wife. Every high that we have or every great thing we achieve together is always the highest high, but the challenging part of it is that you take home your work with you. Any challenge that we face at work, we face it together, and so it's like the highs are higher and the lows are lower. It's been fun to figure out and watch your spouse work in a completely different capacity. You can go visit them at work and meet their work friends, but it's not the same as working with them and getting into the nitty gritty with them."
Who are your style icons?
"I really like some of the women you see on the women's soccer team right now. There are so many cool people out there doing their own thing, and there's just been this ability for people to embrace who they are. Ellen DeGeneres, she's fun, cool, wears cool colors and prints and stuff, but there are a lot of cool Instagram bloggers that anyone can look to and be inspired by because every day they are pushing the boundaries. I think it's really cool because if you think about kids while they are going up and thinking about who they want to be and what they want their identity to be, it just gives them inspiration to say you can wear whatever you want that makes you happy from the craziest outfit to a simple jeans and a T-shirt."
This story was originally published on Fashion Times.