Independent Designer Showcase: Kate S. Mensah
“What I love about the fashion is discovering the way we’re all connected, but still very different.”
Growing up in Paris, designer Kate Mensah was surrounded by beauty and style from an early age. And while she grew up with this love of fashion, she never felt confident enough to pursue it as a career. After moving to the Pacific Northwest in the year 2000, a friend saw some of her fashion illustrations and urged her to start designing. She eventually enrolled in the New York Fashion Academy (located in Seattle) where she worked to bring the classicism of France with Seattle’s edgy grunge vibe, as well as clean lines of the Asian influences she found in the city.
Kate first began her career designing textural ready-to-wear looks inspired by the beauty and versatile of women, as well as their connection with nature. After several years, when her own search for a perfect handbag turned up empty, she decided to shift focus away from apparel to work on a signature line of bags that suited her style. “I didn’t want the bags to be square or symmetrical, because we as women are not symmetrical,” she says. “We are rough. We are tough. We have softness and edges. Women draw strength from so many places, and the ways they express themselves are completely different from one to the next.” Featuring soft, embossed leather and functional design, each bag is named after a specific woman Kate hopes to empower.
When she thinks of the future of fashion, and what it means to be fashion forward, Kate sees the industry better adapting to people’s changing lifestyles. “Unfortunately, we just aren’t shopping in person anymore, because of the coronavirus, yes, but also because of the nature of our digital lives,” she says. “Yet I still think it’s important to be able to touch and feel things before buying them. Hopefully the fashion world can find a way to incorporate that in-person experience at home.” She’s also glad to see fashion seasonality going out of style, favoring small collections and on-off releases over releasing full collections on the traditional schedule.
Aside from being a designer, Kate works as a fitness coach with a focus on boxing and yoga. In the future she hopes to fuse her fashion and fitness worlds into a single business. “There’s such a connection between your health, your sense of self, and your style,” she says. “You have to be clear and healthy in your mind and body to feel comfortable in your clothing. To feel like it’s really you.” This holistic lifestyle brand would incorporate fitness and personal styling. Regardless of what shape her future takes, Kate makes an incredible advocate to lift up women and cheer them on.