I almost fell off my chair when I recently attended a media launch for Katies new Luxe range. There was a wicked biker style leather jacket, 100% Australian wool knits and designer cashmere cotton knits that I wanted to own then and there. And there were other things that got me rethinking this Australian fashion brand.
Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting much when I showed up. I’d always felt Katies was a little daggy, but, being a supporter of Australian brands, I was curious to find out what was new. Katies has come a long way in it the 60 years since opening their first store in South Australia, and the fashion scene has changed dramatically. We can shop online 24 hours a day. We have access to international brands that once required a passport to get. And we have more mega shopping centres and fashion brands to choose from than ever before. So, like all great brands, Katies has changed direction to keep up with the pace, the trends, and of course, what we, the consumer want. And they’ve nailed it.
Katies Brand Director, Sonia Miller, has been with the Katies group for more than 12 years, and she gets fashion. The trendy mother of two is passionate about design, quality, versatility, practicality and affordability. And she knew a change in direction for Katies was essential for fashion survival. “Katies had a lot of relevancy to Australian women in the 80s and 90s, so for us, the change in direction is about making Katies relevant again,” she explains. “We’re really focusing on bringing more trend and design into our business. We’ve got Australian designers, which is unusual for a value brand, trend pieces, have a lot more variety in styles, and all our prints are exclusive now. If you look back, there wasn’t a lot of variety at Katies – there may have been two versions of a knit top, whereas now we have six or seven.” And it’s not just the variety and on-trend pieces that have Katies back in women’s wardrobe. Here, Sonia explains the new spin on Katies, and why you need to rethink this Australian brand…
The New Luxe Range Is Cool & Affordable
Still saving for a rockin’ leather jacket? Don’t think you can afford to deck your winter wardrobe out in luxurious cashmere and 100% wool? Think again. Katies have just launched an affordable range of top-quality fabrics in timeless styles – and they’re less expensive than their competitors. Hooray!
“We’re really excited about launching our Luxe range. We had a lot of requests from our customers wanting more elevated yarns and fabric, and we’ve delivered this in both our Luxe range and our regular ranges too,” explains Sonia. “The Luxe range is all about really beautiful fabrics. We’ve got a leather jacket, 100% silks, Australian wool and cotton cashmere blend knits. These fabrics are usually a little bit out of reach to women because of their price, but we’ve brought them to market in a way that is, while not cheap, still great value, so more women can enjoy these fabrics.”
Rock Star Leather
Yep, you can look smokin’ hot for a fraction of the cost. “The leather jacket is a real success story – it’s beautiful quality and equivalent to what you’d get anywhere else,” says Sonia. “Our jacket is $299.95, but most of our competitors charge $500, which is a lot of money. Yes, $299 is a lot of money too, but it just makes it that little bit more attainable. Currently it’s only available online but we’re rolling it out to our stores nationally.” Ready, set, click…!
Comfy & Stylish Cotton Cashmere
Why would you wear tracky tops when you can wrap yourself in cashmere, darling? “You just have wear cotton cashmere to know how beautiful it is,” says Sonia. “Cotton is a breathable yarn but it’s a little bit coarse, but when you blend it with cashmere it has almost like a fluffiness to it – while still having all the benefits of cotton. It has a beautiful hand-feel but just gives that little bit more warmth than cotton on its own.” And it won’t cost you a packet. “Our cashmere cardigans are $79.95, but competitors range from $99 to $129,” Sonia points out. “The yarn is quite expensive so you often find the value retailers won’t sell it.”
Jumping Joy 100% Australian Wool Knits
Who doesn’t love wool? And Australian wool is even better. “The beauty of Australian wool is it gives you great warmth without the bulk – its fine, breathable and warm,” explains Sonia. “Everybody loves to support Australian products, but the reality is that we have to manage household budgets. For Katies, it’s about value. Women are really smart shoppers and they make sure they are getting the most for their dollar.”
100% Cotton To A Tee
I can’t wear polyester – it clings, is stinky and feels awful. So I was stoked to hear that Katies have ventured down the cotton trail. “Katies tees used to be cotton polyester blends, but now, 80% of our basics range is 100% cotton,” she says. “And we’ve got a whole range of cottons available, from jersey and rib to modelle blends. The beauty of cotton is how it feels on your skin and how it breaths. In hot climates, it breathes a lot better than polyester and is more comfortable to wear.”
The Humungous Range
From dresses and tops, to basics, denim, outerwear and accessories, you’ll find gear for every mood and occasion. “While we used to have a classic jacket, now our Outerwear range has puffer jackets, classic blazers, trench coats, bombers, crop jackets – there is so much more variety in the shapes and styles.”
Unique Australian Design Features
Yep, clothes that are designed by Australians, for Australian women. “For many years Australian designs just copied what was overseas, and don’t get me wrong, everyone is influenced from the Northern hemisphere,” explains Sonia. “But we have Australian design teams that get Australian women. There’s a real difference in the print and colour that Australian women respond to compared to overseas, which is a bit dull and the colours are not really suited to our sunny climate and outdoor lifestyle. Australians are very relaxed– we don’t respond to hard lines, serious or edgy and garish in your face designs – it’s more about softness and fun. The Australian woman wants something quite contemporary – beautiful prints and colours inspired by the landscape in which we live. And we love attention to detail.”
All Your Basics & Trending Fashion
We all love a fancy new outfit, but finding quality basics that can be worn every day, layered up for winter and work back with the latest trends is pretty important too, as Katies realises. “We believe women need a blend of both so we offer 60% essentials – key wardrobe pieces that you love, are timeless and not trend driven – and 40% fashion trends,” says Sonia. “Women need to be inspired and you have to have the trend pieces because everyone loves to have something new and exciting. But at the end of the day you need the essentials – timeless pieces that are versatile, which could be anything from a $19.95 cotton tee to a $99.95 trench coat.”
It’s About Style, Not Age
Don’t ever ask a lady her age. And don’t ever suggest that Katies is aimed at older women, which I did. Eek. “Everybody talks about age, but my philosophy is that women now are so much more youthful now,” Sonia says. “We’re not targeting a 30 year-old woman, but if she wants to shop with us that is amazing! We’re offering contemporary style clothing for any woman. I’m 47 and I don’t perceive myself as old. I still want to look really stylish, but I don’t want to be wearing crop tops and cut-out stomach pieces. I would, but I can’t! Our youth is covered really well, but it’s not like when you turn 45 you don’t want to look stylish. For me, it’s more about women who want to look stylish and contemporary at any age.”
See for yourself. Check out Katies online now or skip into store. And let me know what you think!