Finally, get to know more about Kerrin Smith
of NYC-based project CATiD
. This girl is making waves, offering the fashion industry something different to draw inspiration from, that in turns pushes those in the industry to draw inspiration from each other, as well. Connections over consumption. Community over exclusivity. And please enjoy this lovely set of images I took of Kerrin one lovely afternoon on her Nolita fire escape 🙂
Define what CATiD stands for.
The “CAT” in CATiD (pronounced “cat-eyed,”) stands for Cool And Thoughtful. The “Cool” in CATiD is a very particular understanding of the term as the CATiD Cool is defined by kindness and grace rather than rebellion. Being Cool And Thoughtful means having empathy and operating with integrity, and in this sense, to be Cool is to be thoughtful. This particular conception of “Cool” is rooted in the Afro-Atlantic concept of itutu, a subset of a greater concept of “coolness” as scholar Robert Farris Thompson defines itutu as “a matrix from which stem ideas about being generous.” This is the Cool in Cool And Thoughtful.
Note: Robert Farris Thompson’s work has been directly influential on my own, and I would strongly recommend his book The Aesthetic of Cool. Similarly, Cool Rules by Dick Pountain and David Robins.
What gave you the push to create CATiD?
I’ve spent the past two years developing a new paradigm of economic growth for the fashion industry, a model in which empathy and interpersonal relationships are both core social values and the starting points for business. This paradigm, titled a Local Economy of Fashion, challenges a “more is better” approach to economic growth; instead, a Local Economy of Fashion uses integrity and empowerment as truing mechanisms for social well-being rather than defaulting to quantitative measures of profit or levels of consumption. While that’s all well and good in theory, I needed a real-time prototype of this model: behold CATiD. (I recently gave a TEDx talk on The Local Economy of Fashion which will be available on the TED website in mid-June!)
How has NYC played a role in the growth of CATiD?
New York, for me, is everything. I am so head-over-heels for the city I can hardly stand it. Somebody once told me that New York City mirrors where you are in your life, so arguably you could plug me into any city right now, and I would light up, but I’m pretty sure New York allows that urban gypsy light bulb to shine much brighter. My favorite part about this city is the fact that everybody is up to something about which they’re passionate; it might not be what lights your fire per say, but I find that that commitment and energy to be mutual, palpable, and inspiring.
What are some of your favorite NYC spots?
Café Gitane in the Jane Hotel never gets old (think old school Moroccan paradise), and Miss Lily’s (where dancehall is served up with a side of jerk sauce) is a tried and true favorite. Star Struck Vintage on Greenwich Ave is by far the city’s best vintage shop, and for later in the evening, Boom Boom Room at the top of the Standard seldom disappoints. I also love Saturdays Surf on Crosby Street – the garden in the back is to die for.
You seem to be quite the world traveler. What are some of the places that you have been able to visit that have stood out to you the most?
I’m a lucky girl, and the people I’m with always shape the travel experience more than the place itself. My dad and I spent New Year’s in Paris together this year, and both of us agreed it was truly a Once In A Lifetime Experience. Lengthy meals and plenty of sightseeing are usually the staples of my dad’s vacations; yours truly prefers a light vegetarian fare, plenty of exploring (‘splorin for short), and an itinerary full of thrift stores. During this trip, my dad wanted to just get my world; he wanted to do exactly what I wanted to do and discover for himself what it is that I love doing. And so my dad, the high school quarterback both literally and proverbially, found himself flipping through in the Laudrée tea room, analyzing seams on Alia drees at the Musée Galliera, and flipping through too many dozens of possible identical vintage leather jackets in les fripperies. And for both of us, it was one of our favorite trips.
(That is a long answer—feel free to pare it down.)
What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
Cool … And … Thoughtful?
Proenza Schouler, Ghesquiere’s Balenciga, Chanel, Comme des Garçons, and old school Alexander Wang (2011 and earlier…his fall 2008 collection might just be my all time favorite).
You believe that supporting sustainable fashion to not only been being conscious of where the products of the industry are made and how, but also the storytelling process of a garment, from maker to distributor to wearer and so forth. The connections that people make because of what they wear. Can you go more in depth about this?
There are so many ways we can value garments, and usually, we just pay attention to the market or brand value of a garment (i.e. the price we see on the tag and the name we see on the label). But what about the other ways to value garments? What about the labor that went into that garment (the labor value) or the emotional attachment you have to that piece (the emotional value)? What is it about clothes that have the power to evoke buried memories or bring back the smell of a particular experience? There is something special and unaccounted for in the emotions, memories, and relationships embedded in our clothes, for it is these personal, intimate relationships that foster the most meaningful attachments to our favorite outfits. Furthermore, when we appreciate the stories embedded in our clothes, the garment then become a vehicle for relationships between people rather than just a marker of what makes “Me Different From You.” Try asking someone why that dress is their favorite or why that sweater is so special to them, and see what happens, see where the conversation goes. Lastly, knowing from where our clothes come physically, culturally, and personally not only fosters a certain accountability and transparency in the industry, but also calls for us to consider the sources of these garments, to consider the people, places, and ideas that contributed to that favorite dress, and to think about something more than just our own lives and how we ourselves will wear that piece.
What’s something about yourself that not many people know.
I drove a red moped in high school, and there is a jar of metallic confetti perennially on my kitchen table.
What is it that you love most about fashion and where do you take most of your inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from the experiences that can, might, and do happen in outfits. When I was little, “playing pretend” was my favorite game; fashion is often a “big girl” version of that game. I never realized that Blair Waldorf was one of my primary inspirations until I saw an interview with Eric Daman (Gossip Girl costume designer) in which he articulated how Blair is always dressed for the occasion; as he said, she always wears exactly what one is supposed to wear to said event. I love that and often try to do the same, even if my interpretation involves metallics and a Proenza PS1 rather than headbands and a Birkin. My spirit animals are Frida Kahlo and Freja Beha Erichsen, so throw a little of that energy and aesthetic into the mix, and voila.
Where do you see CATiD in say 1 year? In 5 years?
A million dollar question of sorts. Ultimately, CATiD is about being Cool And Thoughtful, about being empathetic, and that is a concept that can manifest in countless ways both in and outside the fashion industry. We’ll see!
What’s your favorite quote and why is it so impressionable on you?
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake.
Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
– George Bernard Shaw
For me, being up to something in your life that is bigger than just yourself is the ultimately joy and privilege; quote reminds me of that.
Photography is a huge part of what CATiD is visually. How do you use photography to get across the message of your project?
Photography is the primary aesthetic medium for CATiD. There are so many complex, sensory elements to an aesthetic, but I find that photography is the one of the most salient ways to communicate the visual and visceral elements of an aesthetic. I promise film is my only vice. That and vintage brooches.
Make sure to catch up on the latest with Kerrin’s project HERE >>> CATiD