Katie Browne, Owner
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How did you get your start in the Fashion Design and retail industry? When was this? Did you have any formal training?
I’ve been sewing under the label BoxEleven for about 13 years but it wasn’t until September of 2009 that I made it official and was inspired to dedicate a lot of time and energy into turning BoxEleven into a successful apparel label. I’ve always loved the process of making things, so it was a very natural progression for me to want to try my hand at making clothes. I think my interest in sewing garments actually started with an unsuccessful hunt for the perfect bikini for surfing and grew from there (this was before I moved to Maui). I reached a point where I realized that I wanted/needed to learn how to make my own patterns, and so in January of 2010 I entered the Fashion Tech program at UH Maui College and studied pattern making, draping and various sewing techniques for 2.5 years. Around the same time that I began studying at UHMC I applied for a business license and started selling my handmade items at Wings Hawaii, where I continue to sell to this day.
What is your philosophy of design?
My philosophy design is simple: I create things I want to wear, and I consider a design to be successful if others want to wear it, too. I’m always really inspired by various fashion and design blogs. They feature a mix of haute couture, ready-to-wear and street fashion, as well as awesome DIY’s and excellent product designs. I particularly depend on the design blogs for current trends in color pairings, cool prints and gorgeous photos. The fashion blogs I read are written mostly by girls who mix high- and low-end fashion with vintage in super unique ways and I find a lot of inspiration from their photos. I’m not much of a trendsetter or even a trend-follower, but I definitely love seeing the different ways that fashionistas interpret current styles. I read a ton of fashion mags and have a big collection of tear sheets that I often refer to for inspiration.
What are the current trends in your industry?
Here are a few semi-current trends that I would be willing to wear:
– emerald green
– monochromatic outfits
– magenta hair dye
That’s all I can think of. Like I said, I’m not much of a trend follower.
Tell me about your collection. What makes your line (and/or retail store) stand out from the crowd?
My signature designs are simple silhouettes in bright colors and fun prints. I think my love for mixing prints and my close attention to detail really make a BoxEleven design stand out from the crowd. Maybe not everyone will notice that I use a multitude of different colored threads, or that a certain dress has pockets made from a crazy print that doesn’t even match, but those are the details that make my garments unique. I don’t feel like I have to follow a certain formula when I’m designing a new collection or choosing fabrics; I just follow my instincts and my heart.
What is your favorite piece from your collection?
My favorite pieces from my new collection are the Skater Dress and the Maxi Dress. It’s summer, it’s hot, the heat makes me feel lazy, and I just want to wear something comfortable and I bet you do, too. I designed these dresses with a summer-time ennui in mind, because I still want to look cute when I go out in public even though I don’t feel like actually making an effort. A dress is always best because all you have to think about are shoes and a bag or purse of some sort; an outfit is basically complete as soon as you slip on a dress. The Skater Dress is great for cruising around during the day whether you’re going to work or to the beach. The Maxi Dress is perfect for when you want to feel a bit more dressed up or elegant. You can pair either dress with slippers or wedges and call it a day. Or a night.
Please tell me about the textiles you use in your designs. Any specific fabrics and colors that you love to work with?
The best and most fun part about designing clothes is: THE FABRICS!! I use a variety of printed fabrics in my designs, most of which are sourced at thrift stores, antique shops, rummage sales or anywhere I can find gently used or dead stock yardage. Lately I have decided to add brand new fabrics to my collection as my designs have grown to include knit dresses and tops; these particular fabrics can be difficult to source in thrift shops because vintage knits are usually made of a heavy polyester which is uncomfortable next to the skin, especially in the heat of a Hawaiian summer. Most of my designs feature vintage fabric details but there are some that are made with only new fabric. I go the extra step by noting the origin of the fabrics used on each garment’s hang tag.
My favorite fabrics will always have some kind of print. If I need a more “neutral” print I like to use stripes or polka dots or a design that’s similar to that. Only recently have I begun to appreciate the importance of a solid-colored fabric, especially when attempting to pair more than 3 prints; a perfectly chosen solid color will bring cohesion to a combination of prints.
If we took a peek in your closet, what would we see? What is your ‘can’t live without’ item?
If you were to look in my closet you would see….a lot of clothes. I can’t help it, I’m an emotional dresser and I never know ahead of time what I’ll feel like wearing….although these days I almost always feel like wearing one of my own Maxi Dresses. The rest of the time I definitely can’t live without my favorite jeans and gray t-shirt. Also a faded denim button-up shirt which, sadly, I can’t wear with my favorite jeans because I’m not trendy enough, but I wear it with everything else in my closet!!
What is the staple clothing item or accessory every woman on Maui should be sure to have?
The one item that is ESSENTIAL for every woman on Maui is a well-fitting swimsuit. I think bikinis are flattering on many body types, and once you find the silhouette that works for you, buy a couple of them to mix and match. Also, one-pieces look great on just about everyone, especially the ones that have lower cut legs and ruching around the midriff; look for a style that shows off your fantastic collar bones or gorgeous upper back. There are so many great places on Maui to find an amazing swimsuit, and my favorites are Wings Hawaii and Love the Beach. Don’t forget the sunscreen!!
Tell me your top 5 styling tips.
I wish I had some excellent styling tips, but since that’s not my strong point, here are some tips that may or may not be useful:
– If you’re not sure about your outfit, take a picture of yourself and then try to look at it with an un-biased eye. If that’s impossible, ask someone you know will be honest with you.
– It’s best not to wear earrings and a necklace and bracelets and rings all at the same time…Unless you are being styled for a fashion shoot, in which case: don’t forget anklets and toe rings. For the rest of us, choose two out of the four and go for it!
– Proportion is everything! Pair a large flowy top with fitted bottoms like skinny jeans or a pencil skirt. If you’re wearing a long, full maxi skirt, choose a more close-fitting or structured top.
– Invest in a pair of really nice brown leather shoes and wear them with everything…Even black outfits.
Biggest fashion no-nos?
– Don’t buy something based on the size label; it should fit well and not dig in or sag in odd places.
– If you have a body-type that’s difficult to fit, buy clothes that fit at your widest point (i.e., shoulders, bust, hips, bum, etc) and get the garments tailored; your tailor can always make an item smaller, but it’s impossible to make it bigger.
– Avoid becoming a slave to trends, or at least try not to attempt too many at one time.
– Cargo shorts/pants. Who needs that many pockets anyway??