Catherine Holstein Drops Everything. Except Quality.
Everybody loves to complain about the sucky economy, but there’s a lot to be said for what happens when cold, hard reality looks a designer square in the eye. Take Catherine Holstein. Holstein, who presented her Fall ’09 collection last night to downtown’s finest (all of them, it would seem, from the two-block-long check-in line) in a grungy downtown loft, has done yeoman’s work dialing down her price points this season. A boxy plaid jacket, for instance, will retail for under $400. The sense of discipline she’s applied to the cost of her clothes has extended to the design of her collection as a whole. “I made my assistant call the fabric houses and tell them I didn’t even want to see things that were expensive,” Holstein explained. “But I didn’t want to sacrifice quality, either, or move production out of the States. So from day one, I was having to think in a very different way about how this collection was going to work.” The first piece Holstein designed was a high-waisted jumpsuit made out of a pleasantly weighty rayon jersey, and most of the looks she showed were edited around slouchy trousers and Halstonesque draped dresses and skirts in the same material. The late- ’70s New York vibe extended to mannish overcoats and squared-off shirtdresses, all of which looked as though they were intended to be shrugged on. “I was really focused on the comfort factor,” Holstein explained. “When the mood is so down, I feel like the last thing anyone wants to deal with is a bunch of fussy clothes. So that’s how I wound up with details like the elastic waistband on those draped trousers. They wear like track pants,” she added, “but they’re elegant enough, no one would ever know.”