Kithland, the NYC shop's first-ever runway show, showed looks for the city, beach, and slopes.
On Tuesday night, the line to get into Samsung's event space on 837 Washington Street in New York's meatpacking district was longer than one at any night club. The tech company wasn't giving out phones and tablets to anyone with a pulse; Rather, the crowd, which included everyone from Nick Wooster to Ja Rule (an unlikely duo that eventually would be seated next to each other inside) turned up to witness the first runway show of NYC-born shop Kith.
Ronnie Fieg, the man behind Kith—the sneaker store-turned-brand that now has an outpost in Brooklyn—has all but perfected the formula that gets style-minded guys and girls to wait in long lines. Since 2011, the Queens-born Fieg has been collaborating with sneaker brands like Asics, New Balance, Adidas, and even Nike on limited-edition kicks that are copped in record time. However, over the past two years, he's shifted the focus of Kith to its own apparel, slowly becoming the kingpin of the "slim sweats and cool sneakers" look that seems to be the new norm for under-25 guys across America.
The show itself, titled "Kithland," was a grand spectacle. Clips from Scarface and Taxi Driver played on a two-story screen, there were live performances by Fabolous, The Lox, and Ma$e, and a front row that included Iman Shumpert, Teyana Taylor, Victor Cruz, and Bella Hadid. The actual runway show comprised of a staggering 90 looks, many of which were made in collaboration with other labels including Columbia, Aime Leon Dore, Adidas, Off-White, Bape, and upscale New York City department store Bergdorf Goodman.
The offering was split into three sections—beach, city, and mountain—each of which was designed to both represent a time of year as well as a Kith store location. In December, Kith will spread its wings beyond New York City, taking its talents to both Miami and Aspen. But no matter the fabrics or layer-count, the looks had Kith's signature sportiness—and cool sneakers—that have made New York in 2016 actually feel like the land of Kith. Here, we spoke to Fieg about the show and collection.
What made now the right time for your first ever runway show?
In the last 5 years we’ve worked really hard to get to a place where we felt comfortable releasing a collection of this magnitude. I believe the evolution of the brand stems from the talented personnel we’ve been able to hire and put together. Our team is finally one that can make things like this happen.
With the growth of our fan base, as well as our retail stores like our partnership with Bergdorf Goodman and the addition of the Miami shop in November, we now have the ability to tell larger brand stories. Now that we have a concrete identity we are able to showcase it.
Why split the collection into three different settings—beach, city, mountain?
Each setting represents a region where we have a retail presence. Beach represents the Miami shop we’re opening in November, City obviously speaks to our New York presence and the addition of the Bergdorf shop, and we’re also opening a shop in Aspen in December. However, the bigger picture is that these 3 regions comprise a collection that covers all seasons. With all the store openings happening in the fourth quarter, I felt it was important to have this show now and display the product that will be releasing for the rest of this year and show how it shaped each individual capsule within the overall collection.
What are your favorite pieces from the collection? What’s been the most popular piece since it dropped last night?
It’s hard for me to decide because I’m so emotionally invested into everything we’ve done for this collection. I truly love every piece we ended up showing. We edited the assortment to show the pieces I believe are most important for each category. More specifically, I love the Bergdorf pieces. They mean a great deal not only to us but also to Bergdorf, and signify the beginning of a new partnership and a new notch in our brand’s timeline. To have the Bergdorf logo on a Kith garment is something I never thought would happen. I would say those pieces have been the most strongly received since they released today.
Also, the footwear from the show has already been circulating on the footwear blogs, and the apparel is being dissected by everyone as they try to figure out what’s what and when everything is releasing. With that said, I credit our lead stylist Eugene Tong for that, as he was the one who had the idea to mix and match different capsules within each region which was really cool to see.
The music was a big part of the show…how did you go about picking the soundtrack and performers?
I believe that the mid-to-late '90s was the most influential time for our culture and market. It was also the most transformative time in my life. So having timeless hip hop artists like Fab, The Lox, and Mase was not only to create a vibe for the entire experience, but it was also to make sure everyone had a good time. Kithland wasn’t supposed to be an 8-10 minute one-and-done fashion show. It was supposed to be an experience that people will remember.
For Kith to do something on the New York Fashion Week stage it had to be different and signify our debut. It was our first fashion show, it is our five year anniversary, and so I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate it than have some of the most iconic rappers of my lifetime set the vibe for the show.
How has the Kith aesthetic evolved, and where do you see it going in the future?
The aesthetic of the brand has a definitive identity now. People are now able to look at a piece and recognize that it is Kith. To be distinguishable is very important to me and the brand. I believe a major reason for our success with apparel is that we try not to be too intimidating with the designs. Wearability is super key for me because I don’t want something in your closet that you wear once every 3 weeks. We want people to buy product and enjoy it for its entire life cycle.
If you see where we started with apparel 2.5 years ago and where we are today, it shows how we’ve really evolved into a lifestyle brand, meaning that we have a piece for every part of your lifestyle. Whether it's beach, city, mountain, we can fill your closet for the entire year. You have something for summer days, cooler fall and spring days, and the more extreme weather in winter. Being able to create amazing—I would even say extraordinary—product for all of those seasons is big for us because we want our pieces to live in your closet. That’s the goal.
How important was the “See-Now, Buy-Now” aspect of the show?
That wasn’t the approach for this collection really, although I know it’s been an ongoing discussion in our industry for a while. It’s more about the fact that we are able to work closer to the market because we don’t wholesale. We don’t just work on a different calendar, we work on our own calendar. Fall/Winter is our biggest collection ever, so we had to showcase it. It’s also the perfect time for it since its September in New York, so showcasing that product now is key.
The strategy for this show wasn’t to sell more product. It was to present our largest collection to date and to put together a show with friends and family.
Is “See-Now, Buy-Now” just another fashion trend or do you think it will become the norm, and why?
I think it’ll become the norm just because of how fast information travels today. Social media has made it very different for these brands that show collections 6 months in advance. Since images and info spread so quickly, people tend to feel like they’ve already seen and worn the product before it’s even actually released. Therefore I think the see-now, buy-now approach makes it more exciting for everybody. It’s definitely the future.