Kaitlyn Thomas, Designer
Our series Talk Shop is a career and style profile featuring personalities from various industries. They are shot on location in Cherry Creek sometimes wearing clothing from stores in the area. Esther Lee Leach interviews Kaitlyn Thomas, designer of the lines Nuorikko and Kait Designs, at the Halcyon Hotel in Cherry Creek North.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ESTHER LEE LEACH // STYLING BY KIRI MORKEN
Esther Lee Leach: Hi Kait, When did your love of fashion begin?
Kaitlyn Thomas: I grew up having a total love-affair with clothing and design. I learned to sew with my Mom when I was 4, and I was always making something over the top and very fashionable for myself (which was really “out-there” since I grew up in rural Wyoming). This developed into a bit of a love of marketing myself and storytelling, since it wasn’t like it was expected or even very understandable for someone to wear clothing like that in my hometown.
I studied fashion design in college, and started my career designing apparel for a variety of brands; everything from little girls’ dresses to men’s suits, and high-end couture to athletic & skiwear. As I made my way up the “ladder” I also expanded into merchandising, marketing, and branding, and was fascinated by how little the two worlds often connected. I started being very intentional about merging fashion and style with how I marketed myself and the businesses I was promoting, and it became clear this was what I truly wanted to do with my life.
ELL: When did you start designing your own line?
KT: In 2017 I quit my corporate job and launched Nuorikko as a next-generation custom Bridalwear brand. It quickly evolved into custom clothing for all occasions and all types of women, and in that process I personally also evolved into more of a Personal Branding Coach than a designer. What Nuorikko helped me do was finally realize that what makes the process of designing so intriguing and special to me is my ability to help my customers define themselves, and then showcase their inner self or purpose to the rest of the world. Now, in 2019, my focus is much more on helping all of my customers really understand themselves and feel confident in their authenticity…and of course dress their individuality to the nines!
ELL: Tell us more about your two clothing lines, Nuorikko and Kait Design.
KT: Nuorikko was launched as custom bridalwear, but it has evolved into a very modern and forward-thinking take on custom, luxury clothing for women. The collection is a series of versatile pieces that are designed to be worn together or separately for literally any occasion, and you get to choose the fabrics, trims, and details before we custom fit everything exactly to your body. I feel like we have successfully combined the luxury of couture with a more approachable pricepoint.
Kait Design is a very unique concept that was developed to help my Styled by Kait clients have affordable options for feel-good statement pieces that you won’t find anywhere else. The collection is made from end-of-roll fabrics we buy from high-end design houses. We make between 3 & 5 pieces per style and launch a new capsule every 6-8 weeks, making it not only sustainable (those fabrics were likely headed for the landfill before we scooped them up) and also totally one-of-a-kind. I joke, although its actually true, that Kait Design is an extension of my own closet or it would be if I had the budget to have all these fabulous pieces do a constant rotation in my wardrobe.
ELL: You also work as a stylist and with J. Hilburn. What do these roles involve?
KT: My styling services are really more of an extension of my role as a Personal Branding Coach. Some clients are more comfortable working within their wardrobe, rather than attacking their professional presentation, and so we start there. In the end, the results I offer are very similar between styling and branding; you end up defining your purpose, intention, and authenticity, and I help you show it off in a way that guarantees confidence and the attention of those around you.
J.Hilburn is a custom menswear brand that is the answer to all of my male clients who kept asking when I would be launching Nuorikko for Men! Sourcing, fitting, and developing custom menswear is a completely different set of suppliers and partners than what we have with Nuorikko and it would have taken months or years to get it right. I was incredibly fortunate to find in J.Hilburn a brand that already offers everything I want for my clients – high-end fabrics and finishes, a sustainable business model, and a luxury experience – and incorporate it into my business.
ELL: How would you describe your style?
KT: A dear personal friend and my absolute favorite stylist, Kiri, said it best: Soft, but fierce. I love feminine textures, fabrics, and silhouettes, but you’ll often see me incorporate some menswear styling or edgy pieces into my looks. A little leather and killer stilettos never hurt anyone.
ELL: Where do you find your style inspiration?
KT: I practice what I preach. I try to wear only what shows what I’m feeling and how I want to represent myself on any given occasion. I love to look at what’s on the runways, purely as art, but I actually incorporate very little of what I see there into my wardrobe, and only if its truly in keeping with my own aesthetic. When I’m choosing an outfit, I often pay more attention to how it makes me feel than whether or not there’s a specific influence or inspiration.
ELL: Who are your favorite designers?
KT: Dior is my number one and has been since before the exhibit. He was so convicted in his ideals and his aesthetic. Other designers before and after can say the same, but he was the first to go completely against the grain; he was right to do so and created a hugely successful business and loyal following. Alexander McQueen is just so over the top that you can’t help but love him and his work. There’s something so indulgent about his collections, even though they’re not my personal aesthetic, its fascinating to see them, even decades later. The third is Victoria Beckham. I admire her for rebranding herself into the person she truly felt comfortable and confident as. She had to fight against an entire world’s idea of who she was, and more than a decade later has built a very successful fashion business. I also love that although her collections are always varied, she certainly has a particular aesthetic.
ELL: What are your three favorite places to shop for clothing in Denver?
KT: I’m a big fan of vintage shops and boutiques, because the discovery is often the most exciting part of shopping for me. Right now I’m loving Gold Mine on South Broadway, Stitch Boutique in Cherry Creek, and I tend to really get in “trouble” when I go into Blush in Larimer Square. I’m always looking for timeless pieces that I can mix into my existing wardrobe and these three shops seem never to disappoint on that front. I’d be lying if I didn't tell you I also shop my own collections often.
ELL: What styling advice can you give someone trying to discover their personal style?
KT: So often, we (especially as women) have a tendency to try to fit ourselves into what someone else tells us we should be wearing, but for probably greater than 90% of the people out there, doing that just doesn’t work. Instead, you need to focus on the 3 things I drill into every one of my clients: Purpose, Intention, and Authenticity. You have to know who you are, what you like, and what your lifestyle demands, and then build your style around that. Do this, and your style will not only feel incredible to you and build your confidence, but you will look much more stylish than if you copy trends someone else sets out for you.
The other pitfall I see many of my clients falling into, is just wearing what is comfortable, which usually has about as much to do with an authentic personal style as pajamas have to do with cocktail hour. Working with a professional who can help you hone in on what will truly works for you doesn’t hurt either, which is what my business is all about.
Photography by @estherleeleach
Styling by @kiri_morken