Anyone who watched the second season of Project Runway Canada knows that Kim Cathers has a competitive side to her. But make no mistake—this Vancouver designer is not just out for herself.
She has a strong sense of cooperative spirit as well, and the proof is in her latest project, Haiku Studios (410–207 West Hastings Street). That’s where she heads up her kdon by kim cathers headquarters and runs a new communal retail space for a rotating roster of local designers.
Every Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., a different Vancouver indie designer is featured in a one-day sale at the shop. The highlighted artisan gets to showcase his or her wares in the best spot in the modest space, set up concession areas as the designer chooses, and throw a themed party that’s open to the public.
The other 10 or so labels that set up mini stands in the remaining floor space for the event range from whimsical upstarts such as Piknic Designs to established labels such as cuchè bikinis.
“My philosophy on community—which is what we’re trying to build here—is that a community is best set up like an old-growth forest. So you’ve got big old cedar trees, tiny little shrubs, and you’ve got all different shapes, sizes, and colours and plants all working together to make a really healthy ecosystem,” says Cathers, who recently gave the Straight a tour of her Gastown showroom.
“I mean, I’d like to keep some sort of aesthetic, even if it’s just the way things are displayed and the way they’re hung up,” she continues, “but as far as the product in the space, I’m open. I just want good, well-made items, a variety of price points, and a variety of people coming together to make one space, so it’s not one of those mono stores where everything is minimal.”
For example, on one rack, you’ll find the bright and beautiful Hand Crafted by Jayelle “festival skirts” ($40). Made from brazen ’60s and ’70s flower-child patterns and reclaimed fabrics, these pleated minis come with built-in carabiners for your keys and water bottles, so you can mosh freely without losing your essentials. On another rack you have Lou Evans’s luxury wraps, shawls, and coverups, including the Haiku Japanese Rayon Cape ($150). This beautiful pink floral number has Carrie Bradshaw written all over it.
Elsewhere are Lexi Soukoreff’s superhot, hand-tie-dyed Daub + Design bikinis ($110 to $115). For her night in the spotlight, she put her suits on sale for $80 and threw a big indoor beach party, complete with Stanley Park brews. She’s hoping to use her time at Haiku to network with other designers and reach a broader base of clientele. And it just might work too. With her eye for gorgeous colour combos, Soukoreff could easily be to tie-dye what Anna Kosturova is to crochet. She just needs a break in the marketing department.
Meanwhile, Cathers uses her chunk of floor space to showcase her complete kdon spring/summer 2011 line, as well as to sell off discounted pieces from her fall/winter 2010 line. Among some of the best buys here are her funky A-line, high-waisted, satin-back corduroy skirts with big leather patch pockets for $40 (regularly $160). Rhoda Morgenstern would be jealous.
To cover the cost of rent, designers pay a monthly fee, but they get to keep 100 percent of their respective sales.
“I want people to come here and know that,” says Cathers, referring to her financing setup. “When they come here as a destination, they’re supporting our local artists.”