Behind a nondescript façade on Riverside Drive is Gather, Katie Kay's treasure trove: You'll find everything from beaver-tooth necklaces to silver rings cast from iguana skulls to perfectly soft, wretchedly holey T-shirts dipped in brown tea for that fashionably destroyed look.
Nearly everything in the store is an expression of what Kay calls the “slow fashion” movement, which favors one-of-a-kind pieces over mass production in China. Slow fashion is about creating a lifestyle as a designer rather than building a “career” it's about being indifferent to “trends” because, most likely, you're making them. “This may be fashion, but I'm very open to being genuine about things,” Kay says, explaining her go-with-the-flow approach as she stands in her retail space, her willowy frame adorned with heavy black-work tattoos.
She carries 31 mostly local designers in the store, about half of whom she represents professionally, meaning her store doubles as a boutique and a fashion showroom where stylists and buyers from big stores go so they can pick out what they like from the designers' latest collections. She also has started work on her new line (as yet unnamed), which will launch in October. “I'm going to take my concept of supporting the local industry even further by doing collabs with designers I love, and producing everything in L.A.,” she says.
She points to ChicagoFANG, which makes the delicate, torn-up T-shirts that are tea-dyed in a bathtub downtown. “They're all hand-numbered,” she says. There's a necklace with a spark-plug pendant, another one-off made by designer Coyote Phoenix. Kay nods to an array of beautiful turbans. “We're selling the heck out of those,” she says. “The company's called Venius — the designer started out making them for women going through chemo.
“This designer has a great understanding of the feminine form,” Kay adds, pointing out Kucoon, a line of high-end, jersey knit maxi dresses and lace-flared pants. The jewelry line KITTINHAWK, all clustered crystal necklaces and burnished metals, is where the magnificent beaver-tooth necklace came from. KITTINHAWK's designer has a studio above Gather, along with two other Gather designers. “We're not a co-op, because I am definitely the boss, but we pool resources,” Kay explains.
Aside from a few of the bigger names, like Kucoon, good luck tracking down any of these designers anywhere else. Kay thrives on their obscurity, as her goal is to help the designers achieve their creative and commercial goals, however big they want to grow, or however grassroots they might want to remain. “We are part of a new wave of businesspeople who are supportive of one another,” she explains. “But we're not hippies. What that means is we take care of business. We don't get shut down, we take care of paperwork, and we keep moving forward.”