Every entrepreneur, from Henry Ford to Steve Jobs, preaches the importance of passion in business.
Passion, of course, is not enough. Talent, hard work, dedication – a little bit of luck and good timing – all these factors (and more) play their part in every success story – and it’s no different for Durban-based fashion industry designer, Kathrin Kidger.
Building on a family legacy
"I've always known I was going to work in fashion," says Kathrin. "My great-grandmother was a milliner (a hat maker), my grandmother sewed for London fashion houses, and my mother carried forward this love of fashion and its construction, passing it on to me."
After graduating from Durban University of Technology, Kathrin was motivated to get going with her own business. In 2004, she was one of 2000 applicants who entered the Smirnoff Red Fashion Awards. Her designs won the award, along with a business start-up grant, which Kathrin describes as her ‘spring-board into the industry’.
“One thing leads to another, this business has been a real process of osmosis," explains Kathrin. Starting with private clients, then a retail label Reine, aimed at small boutiques, she now has two Kathrin Kidger stores in the Durban area.
Understanding your client is critical to success
Kathrin’s success as a designer is a result of her holistic approach; yes, international runways may dictate seasonal trends, but what are women actually wearing, and how are they wearing it? Her overseas travels allow her to people-watch on a grand scale; "I look for what makes different cities tick, what people on the street are wearing," she says.
Kathrin prides herself on her understanding of clients’ needs, which she describes as a process similar to palm-reading; "I have to envision, where are these clothes going to be worn, and how does the client want to look and feel when they’re there?"
It is no doubt the dream to work for yourself, to be able to combine creativity with commerce, and succeed. "For me, it’s an absolute privilege to be a part of peoples’ lives, their special occasions and milestones," smiles Kathrin. Clients’ needs range from matric dance dresses and work wardrobes, to outfits for a child, or grandchild’s wedding.
Kathrin is all about strong women, and being there to dress them for each of those memorable days that punctuate their lives. "We might not be the oldest brand on the block, but we are a brand with a fair amount of legacy, I would say."
Build relationships, grow networks, support communities.
For Kathrin, her business is all about construction. It’s about the process of seeing a design through to the end product, ready to wear. It’s about building relationships and networks as your business grows. It’s about structuring yourself in the market, and knowing your product has a place.
"At the heart of being an entrepreneur is job creation and satisfaction – helping other people see the value in themselves"
"Yes we could have imported clothes from overseas, as a lot of our competition has done and continues to do, but to manufacture locally is to build up my community through employment. . . and that's why I love humble Till because they are a group of entrepreneurs who share our ethos!"
Both clients and staff are part of a bigger picture and one that has been generations in the making.
Kathrin’s spirited style is her greatest asset in business, and her love of people is the very fabric of her enterprise.
humble Till is proud of our association with Kathrin and her team, long may this legacy continue.
Updated: May 11, 2018