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Interiors

Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren

by Annie Werbler

In a new converted warehouse studio in EaDo, just east of downtown Houston, TX, menswear apparel and accessories designer Kathrine Zeren has created a multipurpose workspace that can easily transition to a showroom, while also being reflective of her personal aesthetic. With the space’s big window and plenty of natural light — shared with another designer, bag maker Mackenzie Conlin — Kathrine works on her collections, which exclusively support American manufacturing and use only sustainably-sourced fabrics. Her latest is a collaboration with textile designer and fiber artist Kari Breitigam to create one-of-a-kind, hand-dyed neckties and bow ties. The space is divided in two by a temporary wall that provides some privacy but plenty of opportunity to talk. “I can get [Mackenzie’s] advice on construction,” Kathrine explains, “And it’s also nice to have the company and white noise of working near someone.”

After several years as a womenswear designer for a large retailer, Kathrine decided to take time off to do some volunteer work in Eastern Europe and South Africa. At the time, she made neckties as a way to raise money for her trip, and it seemed like a fun challenge. She had never ventured into men’s clothing or accessories, but had always looked to it for inspiration, loving the quality of fabrics and attention to details she hadn’t seen in womenswear. Some time later, she decided to turn this newfound love into a line. Having often found it a struggle to balance her conscience with the fashion industry norms, she was inspired by other socially conscious companies to go about business differently. But being creative can be a messy process at times, and it’s a hard to have people over for dinner when there are fabric scraps, editorial cut-outs, and half-made samples covering everything. In her workroom, she has the ability to spread out, and to use the big white wall for pinning ideas.

Though it can be difficult to do when you’re looking straight at a new project, having a new studio space has also taught her that it’s necessary to take mental breaks in order to come up with new ideas. “When I had everything at home, it was difficult to pull myself away, and I’d just keep working until late at night — without being very productive. Removing myself from my work at a reasonable hour has helped me to approach things with a fresh perspective each morning.” —Annie

Photography by Jeff Gilmer

Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren, on Design*Sponge
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In Kathrine's studio, orange stacking tables to the right of her desk were the first (non-dorm) furniture pieces she bought. The scarf draped over the chair was hand-dyed by Kari Breitigam, with whom Kathrine collaborated on her most recent collection. "I love my baby fig tree," she shares. "I don't have a very green thumb, so when I can manage to keep plants alive, it feels like I've accomplished something."
Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren, on Design*Sponge
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The layout of Kathrine's section of her shared 20' x 24' studio space.
Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren, on Design*Sponge
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Kathrine's side of the studio as viewed from the entry, separated from Mackenzie's space by the metal wall.
Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren, on Design*Sponge
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Kathrine working on sketches for a new project in the natural light.
Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren, on Design*Sponge
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Another view looking into her side of the studio. Pocket squares and bow ties sit on the ledge.
Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren, on Design*Sponge
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At her drafting table, looking at some new swatches for the upcoming season.
Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren, on Design*Sponge
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Kathrine with her swatches pinned to the wall.
Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren, on Design*Sponge
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A bird's eye view over the drafting table. On top of her cutting board, test swatches dyed by Kari Breitigam.
Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren, on Design*Sponge
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A close-up of the test swatches hand-dyed for Kathrine by Kari Breitigam.
Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren, on Design*Sponge
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On the left, a tie from Kathrine's collaboration with Kari Breitigam.
Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren, on Design*Sponge
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Bow ties and vintage handkerchiefs collected over the past several years. "I like to style them as pocket squares," Kathrine explains.
Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren, on Design*Sponge
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The current necktie collection, of which many fabrics were hand-dyed by Kari Breitigam.
Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren, on Design*Sponge
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Fabric scissors were a gift from Kathrine's husband, and handmade in India.
Studio Tour: Kathrine Zeren, on Design*Sponge
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"What I love most about my studio is the natural light." - Kathrine Zeren

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