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Joe Zee on Kathy and Erik Wilson:


Their Challenge: When I first met husband and wife design team, Kathy and Erik Wilson of Kathy Wilson Atelier, it was very clear who wore the pants in that design family. Erik, a law student, ex-Marine and devoted husband, was loyally standing by his designing wife as she explained enthusiastically to me her concepts behind their men’s and women’s collections. Even though they were lopsided in their see-saw of a business approach, their other problem was far more dire: They lacked any originality, creativity or modernity in their designs and that type of direction had no place in the market. No one wanted to buy their clothes and I could see why. Even if they did do custom clothes for celebs such as Stevie Wonder and Michelle Pfeiffer, this collection was anything but star appeal.

Lesson learned: In Kathy and Erik’s case I wanted to them to allow both their voices to come through in the design business. While Erik may not be technically trained, he still had specific opinions that contributed greatly to the outcome. If anything, he knew what he liked and what he didn’t and sometimes Kathy would just dismiss his opinion – or Erik wouldn’t voice it because he just didn’t feel it mattered. Either way, that lack of communication was a roadblock for this couple. However, I think their biggest difficulty was in their design; they had to quickly find a way to tap into a hipper, more youthful sensibility for their collection. Kathy was full of sprite and energy and her own closet teemed with fun, girly clothes but her collection was the opposite. So it was natural that I wanted her to be her own muse.

Next Steps: Go with your instinct. Throughout the process, Kathy second-guessed every decision she made based on what she thought stores wanted or what customers were looking for or in some cases, she would something based solely on pleasing me without ever knowing why she made the choices she did. In the end, the result was a product so water downed, it lacked any originality. She needed to trust herself. I may have saved the final presentation to Scoop with “the smoke and mirrors” of my styling, but once I’m gone, I’m worried Kathy and Erik won’t see the relevancy of their collection without the styling. If the clothes don’t stand on their own, neither will their business.