British Designer Unpacks Her Trunk in Big D

December 5, 2011  

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by Krystal Schlegel
kschlegel@mail.smu.edu

LEFT, KATHERINE HOOKER. RIGHT, KRYSTAL SCHLEGEL/PHOTO COURTESY OF KRYSTAL SCHLEGEL/SHIFT MAGAZINE

Katherine Hooker is a British designer who started a collection eight years ago. After deciding a career in film wasn’t her passion, she traveled to India.  While there, she designed five coats with a local tailor and brought them back to London.  Soon after, friends raved about them and asked where she got them, she decided to make it a business.  “I was uneducated in designing, so I just learned along the way,” Hooker said. “ I knew I wanted to use tailors and fabrics in London.” She credits her design abilities to her mother, who was a painter.

Hooker is in Dallas for a trunk show to meet her Texas fans.  “Where are all the ranches? Where is J.R. Ewing?” she said of her first time to Dallas. Hooker decided to travel to Dallas for a trunk show because of the large fan base here.  Texas is the third-most-represented state on her fan email list, but she has never had a trunk show here before. Her sense of humor goes away when talking about her designs.  She treats this trunk show as a normal client fitting in London. First the customers try on an assortment of jackets while Hooker gives advice on which one is her favorite for their body type and personal style. Then, with her input, the customers choose from a range of fabrics, colors and buttons all sourced from the U.K. “Each made-to-order jacket is made by hand, one at a time, in our workshop in the east end of London.  This is the key to their beauty and quality, as well as their uniqueness,” Gottschalck said.

Gottschalck is the American market manager for Katherine Hooker.  The American branch of Katherine Hooker designs just launched last year.  Gottschalck was in Dallas for the trunk show to assist Hooker with the custom orders.  Based in New York, Gottschalck started as a designer for Ralph Lauren and decided to take the job with Katherine Hooker six months ago because she loved that it was a British fashion company rapidly growing in the States.

KATHERINE HOOKER SAMPLE JACKETS/PHOTO BY KRSYTAL SCHLEGEL/SHIFT MAGAZINE

Kate Middleton is one of Hooker’s biggest fans, something Hooker is well known for.  When asked about Middleton as a client, she shies away from the topic.  “I don’t discuss my clients.  Not just because of who she is, but I don’t find it appropriate to discuss you as a client either,” she said. Middleton chooses Hooker’s designs for many paparazzi driven occasions, which brings a lot of press. You will see her in photos wearing the jackets to charity events, polo matches and friends’ weddings. “My most powerful marketing tool is people wearing the jackets themselves.  It is a lot of word of mouth.  We’ve been getting a lot of press because I have such an unusual company,” Hooker said.

27-year-old event guest Lauren Hill has been a fan of the line for quite a while and couldn’t wait to order a jacket and meet the designer in person.  She found out about the trunk show from the Katherine Hooker e-mail list.  Hill liked the idea that customizing a coat could make it one of a kind. “I tried on several different coats, but I kept coming back to one. I loved the ladylike tailoring and contrasting cuffs,” Hill said. The jackets have distinct elements of old British and classic femininity.

Customers feel comfortable with Hooker because of her honesty.  You could see it with her fans at the trunk show.  “I was surprised by her honesty to her customers,” Hill said. Hooker informed Hill that the hand-dyed velvet could bleed in the rain so she recommended a different fabric. “I learned slowly as I’ve grown,” Hooker said.

After trying on different styles and fits, the trunk show guests ordered their jackets and were told it would take six weeks until they arrived at their door.  Prices start at $600.

Katherine Hooker is largely expanding her line with a ready-to-wear collection that can be ordered online at KatherineHooker.com and as well as a menswear collection.  Next, Hooker and her team are working to open a pop-up shop in NYC’s SoHo.

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