Meet Kat Zarra, The Designer Marrying Jewelry and Lingerie
Emerging lingerie purveyor Kat Zarra reimagines timeless silhouettes with its jewelry embellished undergarments. Founded in 2019, the namesake label redefines the industry’s outdated definition of feminine, swapping out frills and lace for fine fabrics and handmade gems.
“I think there’s a misconception that an excess of frills and lace is feminine, however, a modern woman feels most herself in simple, well-made garments crafted from beautiful fabrics,” Kat shares. “I believe there is a market gap in sophisticated and minimal foundation pieces that can be worn as lingerie or act as an extension of one’s wardrobe and style with an outfit. We fill this gap by creating polished shapes in high-end fabrics that look too good to keep hidden.”
The label, which offers seasonless garments, encompasses elegantly made bras, panties, tops, and body jewelry. The Orchid Thong and Leopard Mesh Set are among some of the perfectly fitting, transformative pieces with the former featuring a center-back jewelry piece handmade by the designer. Other standout designs include the Silk Triangle Bra and Panty, Pearl Cross Necklace, and Silk Cami Dress. Meanwhile, the Silk Harness—in collaboration with Brooklyn-based jeweler Britt Bolton—accentuates the curves with form-fitting ruched straps that wrap around the wearer.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Kat Zarra about founding her namesake label, femininity within the lingerie industry, and working on deeply personal garments among other topics. Read on for our conversation.
What made you want to launch your own lingerie label?
For the past ten years, I’ve been working for other designers, doing manufacturing and supply chain management. I’ve built up all these contacts of suppliers, factories, and vendors, and kept really close with them. About two years ago, I increasingly got sick of working so hard and seeing other people’s ideas come to fruition. So I took a leap of faith and launched my own collection. I went full-time with it in June of last year after I quit my job. I had so many ideas of my own that I felt like I was suffocating in my own ideas.
My designs are very technical, they need to be feasible to manufacture. I think firstly, the relationship women have with lingerie is very much deeper and more intimate. You lust after these pieces, they’re expensive, you hand-wash them, and nicely fold them up. I feel like lingerie is much more cherished and sacred, and I really love the relationship that women have with lingerie. It’s a bit more special in comparison to ready-to-wear. Also, going back to my technical background, lingerie is much more affordable to produce because the pattern pieces are so much smaller.
As a designer, what’s been the biggest challenge for you?
I truly feel there’s a market gap for lingerie. You go into these stores and the assortment is so uniform and one-tone, everything looks the same. It looks so homogenous and I felt like there was a space for someone to come shake it up a bit. Brand awareness is also tricky. Also, getting the word out in a financially feasible and creative manner. The Internet is amazing, but there’s a lot of stuff on Instagram. With us being a lingerie brand, we’re certainly shadow-banned. I’m not posting vulgar things, but because we’re showing skin, it gets pushed to the bottom.
How would you sum up the brand’s aesthetic? How does it relate to the message that you’re aiming to convey through your pieces?
I like to see the brand’s aesthetic as very elegant and timeless but still packs color, flavor, and richness. Our garments are going to stand the test of time, just simple, basic, well-fitting. I really love timeless silhouettes and we’re a seasonless label so we don’t do seasonal collections. I think our garments can keep being worn, but I want to really hone in on our jewelry features as well.
Talk to me about the use of jewelry in your garments—what does your design process look like?
All of the hardware in our collection, I sculpt them by hand in wax so it’s very organic-looking and unworldly. I work with a caster and jeweler in Rhode Island and he’ll make a mold and then cast the production in recycled brass. We are the first only apparel company that makes their hardware in this manner. I’ve never seen another brand that sculpts and handmakes wax prototypes for their hardware like us.
The process we use is called lost wax casting, and it’s one of the most common jewelry manufacturing techniques, but I’ve never seen this process used in apparel. I love juxtaposing simple timeless silhouettes with this chunky ethereal-looking metal throughout the collection and really harness the ethos of using jewelry in lingerie. I don’t let the designs run too wild so they are going to work for someone who’s 20 as well as someone’s 40, they’re simple but elegant.
Let’s talk about the word femininity. What does it mean to you and how does it align with your brand?
So much of the lingerie industry is women covered in lace and these frail outfits, and to me, I don’t think that’s feminine. I think femininity is something that’s well-tailored, that carouses your body, nice fabric that hugs your body. I think that the idea of being dressed like a cupcake and ruffles is very outdated. That’s also why I started this label because I don’t dress like that so why would I wear that in my lingerie.
How would you describe the typical Kat Zarra gal? What are some traits that people who were the label embody?
I think someone who’s very stylish, artistic, creative, and very good at understanding the pieces really well. Something with a lot of style, metropolitan, very social. Probably in their 30s and has a great understanding of creativity and can relate to our work.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a rise in indie lingerie and intimate brands. How do you think the world of underwear is changing?
I believe I’m not alone in trying to bring funky styles into the market. I love all the pushes for dressing a plus-sized body type. It’s constantly on my mind as well, like how I’m going to make this look good on a fuller-busted woman. It’s really difficult to do at times because you have to use special fabric and sowing. It can’t look frumpy, it has to be creative and look good. I love the push towards dressing fuller-figured women and it’s something really cool happening in the industry right now.
What advice would you give to somebody who’s interested in creating a deeply personal product such as undergarments?
The best advice is to keep going and don’t look down. It’s a very scary path, but keep your head up and keep going. There have been times where I’ve paused or slowed down then I’ve gotten an e-mail from a huge stylist asking to pull something. The opportunities come when you least expect them so you need to keep yourself ready. Work hard so you’re in a place where luck can find you.
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