Sustainable and unisex fashion label Abel Honor New York, founded by former Micheal Kors associate designer Kate Wasserbach, is pushing their “putting the people before the product” motto during COVID-19.
Crafting surgical masks for not only the front line but those most vulnerable – AHNY has given out 4,000 and counting! We speak to Kate about building up AHNY as a successful fashion brand, maintaining individuality with their designs, and finding out the steps they’re taking to help prevent the pandemic spread.
What it’s like being a New-York based independent and emerging designer in 2020?
There are definitely some unforeseen obstacles that came along the way – but, all in all, it is pretty close to what I expected it to be…. which was that it is not easy! I have only come from large design houses – Ralph, Dior, and Kors – so going from a company of 14,000 to one was quite the change up, but I am enjoying the growth and responsibilities.
Being a former Associate Designer for Michael Kors, what was it like building yourself a designer?
I had learned a ton from my 5 years at Kors. My main contribution to my division was leading the Exclusive Design responsibilities. This leveraged me to learn production, sales, design, and business/customer relations — all skills that would prepare me to launch AHNY.
I find myself very fortunate to have had the experience I did. A lot of my peers from Parsons who broke into the design industry strictly practised design, and nothing else.
How much did you learn working alongside Michael Kors, did you find that those skills became transferable to your own label?
Absolutely. I owe all my design habits to my team and mentors at Kors. I could not speak more highly of the company.
How you distinguish individuality in your designs?
I just be me! The purest and most freeing job I’ve ever had is this one because I get to have full design liberty to be as creative as I want to be. Naturally, I was not born to fit in – so crafting a collection of clothing that is a faithful reflection of my taste and purpose keeps Abel Honor unique.
You’ve mentioned your main inspiration comes from rebellious streetwear culture while maintaining its sartorial craft, how did this come about?
Irony is my main objective in all my creations: fine arts, interior design, fashion design, etc. Question and contrast create interest and attraction, which I am fascinated with. The Abel girl or guy is neither here nor there, and that is what makes them beautiful and universal.
Abel Honor New York is driven by the motto ‘an expression of everything you wanted to say but couldn’t’, why was this motto chosen?
Similarly to the previous question – AHNY is not just one idea, neither is it for just one customer. AHNY speaks to so many people through expression, not through definition.
Describe your normal clientele?
Abel Honor New York is said to embody “the current downtown culture in a sophisticated manner”, how is this portrayed in your designs?
I believe you cannot have the downtown without the uptown. Our sophistication comes from the construction and quality of our garments which is one of the BIGGEST and most important parts of our design process. I have learned the importance of refinement and high standard from my time at Dior. Having a solid platform like beautifully crafted fabrics allows my team to be unconventional with design and have fun with it. There is nothing more intriguing than a self-lined 100% silk pant constructed with French seams, but has holes in the knees… I’m practically salivating saying that – YUM.
What’s the next step for AHNY?
We are going through some scary times right now with the pandemic, so it is hard to say what is to come from Abel Honor. Currently, our main objective now is to stay true and loyal to our customers, our community – and our customer’s community – which we are doing through charity. Abel Honor is serving those in need through our organization called #ABEL’SHONOR. We started this in early March after our trip to Paris Fashion Week and recognizing the rapid COVID flare and concern. We knew we had to do something…
#ABEL’SHONOR first started with my want to make sure our customers are safe. After all, they helped me when I needed help – now I wanted to help them. So, our first shipment was to all members of the “ABEL GANG”. This allowed me to connect with the customer on a personal level. This eventually jump-started a beautiful enterprise. We were getting SO many Direct Messages on Instagram with personal stories about someone’s grandmother, brother, mother, sister, cousin, etc. (!) who was and is struggling with the virus. Whether it would be someone’s sister who is tasked to work long nights in the ICU unit without a mask, or it was out of concern for someone’s grandfather who is in poor health. We knew we couldn’t stop there, and there are so many people that we could help. Not only can we help the curve of the spread, but we can help the preventative curve as well.
Customers, or not – friends, or not… all anyone has to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org with their personal information – or the person they are inquiring about’s information – and we will send them masks.
On behalf of our AHNY community, we have been working around the clock to fulfil all mask requests big or small.
We have pledged to stop all internal work (design and sales) to focus fully on the #ABELl’SHONOR project. Our small business has taken a major hit because of this, and sales have dropped dramatically, but this is our sacrifice to people who are in worse situations than we are. They need our help.
The #ABEL’SHONOR Project has helped put masks on not only the faces of the front line but the general public as well. Successfully, Abel Honor has donated 4,000 masks across the country to large organizations such as hospitals, ICU units, Nursing Homes, Police Depts, Cancer Centers, EMTs, as well as your fellow comrade and neighbour. Our goal is to attack the preventative curve in hopes to eliminate hospital overcrowding.
This time, Abel Honor is putting the people before the product.
Interview: Izabel Rose