By Rey Robes Ilagan
British fashion designer Alexander McQueen once said, “It’s a new era in fashion— there are no rules. It’s all about the individual and personal style, wearing high-end, low-end, classic labels, and up-and-coming designers all together.” This proved to be true for Kat Erro when she first conceptualized her fashion accessory brand Katre, where it’s all about unique, personalized style.
Back in 2007, the entrepreneur was working at the posh department store Harvey Nichols in London when she observed a movement in British fashion retail. Kat, whose fashion background includes being a stylist and makeup artist, realized that customers prioritized quality over designer labels.
“Fashion was moving toward creating something very individualistic,” Kat says during her 10th anniversary event at Raffles Makati last month. “It’s not like everybody looks the same, or is trying to look the same. So, wherever they are, they really don’t care what other people are wearing. They style themselves according to their own taste.”
Moving back to Manila in 2009, Kat established her brand and started creating stylishly functional products with superb quality. Her first successful creation, the City Tote, became a huge bestseller among her clients who valued the naked beauty of leather. By 2012, she launched the Boite, a round handbag reminiscent of travel hat boxes, which sparked more interest in modern craftsmanship, and inspired creativity with Manila’s stylish set.
Fashion was moving toward creating something very individualistic. It’s not like everybody looks the same, or is trying to look the same.
After nine bag designs and numerous successful trunk shows, Katre kicks off its 10th anniversary with the reintroduction of classic items updated in quilted designs, a first in the brand’s history. The 10th anniversary celebration also includes a way of giving back to society. Since 2019, the proudly Filipino brand has been supporting Mano Amiga, a non-profit organization that provides quality higher education and sustainable livelihood for women, as well as advocacy campaigns for social change.
During an exclusive interview, Manila Bulletin Lifestyle chats with Kat Erro on the new anniversary collection, where she gets inspiration, and how to help support kids’ education with Mano Amiga.
What are Katre’s milestones in its first decade?
I think what I’m most proud of is the team that I have built. It’s really hard to find a good team because, without it, we will not be here. It’s really quite impossible to build a business without a good team.
Aside from this, I’m proud of the fact that Katre just reached 13,000 followers on Instagram. We rarely promote posts, so it’s all organic. It just shows the community we’re nurturing.
How did your first creation come about?
We started with experimenting on ready-to-wear items. During that time, we focused on accessories and synthetic handbags. One day, a friend of mine suggested we make bags out of leather, and I ended up creating the City Tote.
I introduced the City Tote after years of sketching just to get it right— the size, the handle height, and everything else. I just really wanted to design a tote that would do everything for me. For me a bag is something that you use and abuse, which should hold everything that you need from day to day.
What’s your inspiration for this new collection?
The inspiration was London. I was there for the first time, and I happened to be with my family. I immersed myself in the culture as it was my first time to travel to a very fabulous country.
For the new collection, I have borrowed the colors from afternoon tea names, so there’s chamomile, matcha, and Earl Grey. There’s also a pattern inspired by an experience with freezing nights in London. It is there where I used a duvet for the first time. Who would have thought I’d create something based on the duvet, and find the process of doing so comforting too?
What favorite characteristic of London inspired you to create your brand?
It’s the diversity. It was my first time to see people with blue hair, mismatched colors, and really unique style. That’s London for me. It’s really the diversity and creativity of the Londoners.
Who do you design for?
When I design bags, it’s for working moms or entrepreneurs. Most of our bags can be used from day to night. They are convertible as well, so somebody can use one as a backpack, and then as a shoulder bag on another day. The bags are not just for one particular occasion or use.
How does one help Mano Amiga?
With the purchase of a Katre x Mano Amiga canvas tote, all profits will go to the school. Also, you can purchase a full-priced Katre leather bag and you get to donate a backpack for school year 2020–2021 under your name.
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