Being a fellow Silicon Valley resident and fashion buff, Karen Klein caught my attention through local media. Her practical contemporary and aesthetically appealing designs made me reach out to setup an interview with this clearly accomplished woman and mom of two.
Immerse yourself in yet another vision for fashion and get inspired by Karen’s obvious stamina and talents. And oh yeah; don’t forget to enjoy while reading and absorbing this great content.
Simple designs with a twist …
- Where and when did you first develop your passion for fashion and what triggered it?
My parents were hard working people, and as early as age ten they would give me money to buy my own clothes. I found several children’s clothes boutiques in my home town and would mix and match items from different stores. Kids in school started to look at how I dressed since they noticed I was anticipating the coming trends in fashion magazines. I didn’t pay much attention at the time, but over the coming years women started to ask me to dress them since they liked my taste. When I was considering college options, several people recommended that I apply to Shenkar College (the premier fashion college in Israel and one of the best in the world). I was skeptical at first since they are extremely selective and I had never even held a marker before then. I was surprised to be accepted, but started to think that fashion is my calling.
- With your Israeli background/ roots, extensive European focus (possible Dutch heritage?) and current US residence; are you able to incorporate cultural influences in your designs? If so, how?
I was born in Israel but my family is originally from Germany and Austria. In addition, I had heard that one of my great-grandfathers was Japanese. I was always intrigued by this, and spent much time learning about Japanese culture and art which I found fascinating. My attraction to clean looks and quality fabrics comes from my German heritage. My Israeli upbringing has driven my creativity and innovation, and I keep thinking about how can I play with fabrics or how to wear a certain piece in multiple ways.
Many of these concepts were foreign when I started my business in the US. The items were made from jersey and were much more sophisticated than mainstream clothes you could buy at the Gap. Instead of shapeless T-shirts that would look the same on a man and a woman, our pieces were very feminine and could be wrapped to make a different look, all with the highest quality fabrics and stitching. They were not complicated, but rather easy and flattering.
- Can you tell us more about your interest and experience with oil painting and jewelry?
I have a passion for painting in oil. You can create layers of color, much in the same way I do with different fabrics in a look. This makes the painting much more interesting than other techniques. It obviously takes more time but it’s worth it. My experience with jewelry started with clay. I worked at a boutique just before college and began making items at night, which I sold the next day. I enjoyed touching the material and changing it to the shapes I wanted. It was a wonderful feeling to understand what my customers needed and loved.
- In your latest ‘Silicon Valley’ magazine article, your drive behind comfortable apparel is explained as sourced in the extensive recovery time of a car accident. Can you elaborate on which aspects of the recovery and gained awareness were the main driving force for laying this foundation?
Shortly after giving birth to my first child I was involved in a car accident that had left me bedridden for months. I couldn’t exercise during this time and so couldn’t get rid of the baby fat. I was frustrated that I couldn’t find clothing that would complement my shape while still feeling stylish, so I decided to invent them.
- Do you gain inspiration through spirituality, philosophy and/ or religion when designing your collections? If so, can you share some details on this with us?
I am in awe of 21st century women. They develop thriving careers while also raising their kids, hardly have a moment to breathe, and need to constantly be smarter, stronger, better and harder working. I want them to feel and look good while they are going about their day. This is my inspiration.
- What were the ideas and creative motivation behind your latest collection and can you highlight your favorite piece from it?
After more than 20 years of design, I realized that women are not measured by a size but by their confidence. They want to look and feel good. There are very few brands that offer high quality, fit, and styling, in comfortable and fashionable clothes that last for many seasons. Our new collection is “one size fits all” targeting sizes 0-16 and is very flattering throughout this range. We offer a total look that is easy to mix and match without worry about sizing. It is washable, good for travel, doesn’t wrinkle, and 100% made in America.
- What was your reason to transition from working for major primarily European fashion houses while in Israel to founding Karen Klein Fashion, Inc. in the Bay Area?
My husband’s work took us to the San Francisco Bay Area. When we moved here, I expected to find clothing that was contemporary and sophisticated for a reasonable price. Instead, I was disappointed to find only high-end designer clothing or very basic items. I spent some time talking about this to local companies such as Gap and Levi’s, but realized that they were generally very conservative and not open to ideas outside of their traditional designs and methods. I realized that this was an opportunity and decided to start my own line.
- Considering your stated belief; “Every woman regardless of age or size can be feminine and beautiful with the right fit, fabrics and accessories” and the fact you expanded your new collection’s size range till 16, have you thought about aligning your models and website’s imaging with it?
Our new collection will launch this summer, and with it we will have a completely new website. We guide our customers with videos showing how pieces fit each body type, and how to accessorize differently for them. We educate our customers how to create a total look, and encourage them to share photos, videos, and comments on their own innovative ways to wear the line.
- To what extend and how did motherhood influence you and your work?
I have two amazing daughters, age 7 and 10. The best part of my day is observing them grow and cultivating their hopes and dreams. My younger wants to become a fashion designer like her mother, and my older a venture capitalist like her father. In both cases, they aspire to become strong independent women with their own careers.
- Considering your ability to compare the Israeli, European and US fashion markets through extensive direct experience; what are in your opinion the main fashion related aspects which can be improved in the US?
European fashion continues to lead, and is held in high regard both in Israel and the US. While there are several American designers who have made good progress in recent years, customers can generally find more innovative and stylish designs with the original European brands at a given price point.
- Where can we learn more about your endeavors or acquire your clothing?
Our clothing can be found on our website at www.karenkleinfashion.com, or at hundreds of quality boutiques across the country. If you would like to know where to shop locally, please drop us a line at email@example.com we will let you know where the nearest store is.