This Successful Runway Designer Walked Away From it All to Start a Size-Inclusive Line
Kaelen Haworth launched her eponymous line, Kaelen, in 2009. The collections were focused on fabric, silhouette, and had an undeniably simplistic approach to elegance. After launch, Kaelen gained plenty of positive, industry-wide attention But in 2016, the designer walked away from all of it to start something new.
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Second Sight, Haworth’s new brand, sells in monthly editions of five pieces – not according to a dated, seasonal calendar. “It feels fast to the consumer, even though the process behind the scenes still takes time,” Hayworth tells InStyle.com. The idea: by selling using this new model, the brand can streamline the process to incorporate feedback from their customers as quickly as possible.
Another differentiator: garments range from a size 1-7, which translates into a US size range of 00-24. There's no distinction between petite, straight, or plus sizes on the site, either.
“We’re not asking people to pick a lane based on their size,” she says. “The woman who buys a dress in a size 1 on our site is buying the exact same dress as the woman who buys it in a size 7.”
Here, we talk to the designer about the valuable lessons she learned from her first venture, and how inclusivity is at the forefront of her process.
Why did you put an end to your first brand, Kaelen?
I felt like fashion was trying to find it’s way through the new maze of internet, accessibility and changing consumer behavior. The traditional wholesale calendar wasn’t working for me and I wasn’t reaching my customer. I really felt that I didn’t know who she was and that made designing for her very difficult.
What is the biggest lesson you learned from your first brand?
That you cannot be everything to everyone. I made stuff that I didn’t really care about because I thought it would appeal to some of the buyers we were meeting with, if not all of them. In the end it just confused our point of view. Editing is key! We sell five new pieces per month now and it’s so liberating to just make exactly what we want to and take the time to get it right.
What compelled you to start Second Sight?
I knew that I wanted to be on the forefront of the change instead of navigating a landscape put in place for me. It just made sense to me to change the business model in a way that drastically reduced prices and added sizes to reach more customers. Everybody wants to look good and wear something special and unique, no matter the size on the tag. E-Commerce is continuing to grow and we have so many resources available to us for communicating with our customer and really listening to the feedback. It just felt like the right time to take a step forward.
How is Second Sight catering to a diverse group of women?
Aside from the size inclusivity, we’re also taking a different approach to shooting the editions so that people really feel they are represented. Each month, we choose five women (usually friends, family, or people we found on Instagram) to model. Ideally that group represents younger customers, older customers, customers who typically shop plus-size brands, and customers who shop straight size brands. Since we are only making tops and dresses right now, we ask our models to style themselves, so it really shows the clothes in the most real way possible. We’re trying to represent the variety of womanhood - different ages, skin color, body type, styling preferences etc.
Why do you think so many designers in the industry aren’t catering to all women?
Honestly, it’s hard and it takes time and money to do it right. I knew I wanted to reach more women and it seemed like a no-brainer, but it took two years for us to figure it out. There are a lot of factors to think through - the right way to approach designing for a broad range of body types, how to price everything, and how to get the fit right. I think brands that aren’t moving in this direction will find themselves the odd ones out. Even if you want to ignore the fact that womanhood is not one size fits all, it’s good business at the end of the day. There is a significant percentage of women who don’t shop in straight-size stores that want to shop and that have buying power. It’s just bad business to ignore that. It’s also not very nice, but I get that that isn’t necessarily a motivator.
In your dream world, who would you see wearing your clothing?
Women on the street! Just seeing women wearing it in their everyday life would thrill me. With my previous brand I wasn’t thinking about the customer end-game. I was thinking about models and shows and celebrities. This time around I want to see real women who are busy doing millions of things, looking and feeling beautiful in their own skin. And my clothes.