UPDATE: Celebrate TGIF in style with Kate Ciepluch's dreamy BK abode. This story was originally published on March 15.
For Kate Ciepluch, one surreal fashion dream has become a carefully crafted reality. Two years ago she gracefully left her post as Shopbop's fashion director in favor of starting Laveer, her own line of must-have blazers that now — in an uber-chic "Circle Of Life" kind of way — appear on Shopbop's homepage. And though the world of swatches, stitches, and shipments may still be new to Ciepluch, you'd never know it from the calm-under-pressure vibe she exuded when we invited ourselves over for a tour of her Dumbo pad, located at the gorgeous 220 Water Street (a fantastically remodeled 19th century manufacturing building featuring airy loft residences). Yes, the laid-back blonde was busy (as any new designer would be), but with fabric rolls propped up comfortably in one corner and a window-facing laptop emitting throwback tunes in the other, it seems she's got this whole thing down pat.
So, we needed to find out just how the seamless transition from director to designer was made... and obviously how she manages to keep her place (and her ensembles) so effortlessly cool. The answers were so refreshing! While some of her contemporaries have managed to claw their way to the top of a notoriously venomous industry, Ciepluch has done it by being friends — genuinely — with buyers and professionals others may have considered "the competition." Though it would be easy to envy Ciepluch and Laveer (Barneys has already gotten behind the brand with an exclusive launch!), it's even easier to want to hang and chat. Which is why, later on, kicking back by her lobby coffee shop, discussing favorite restaurants, hair salons, and, of course, fellow New York designers, we couldn't help but consider ourselves part of the Ciepluch wolf pack, too.
Click on for an exclusive tour and meet this on-the-rise designer.
Photographed by Maia Harms
Tell us a what you love about your neighborhood.
"Dumbo is a little secret sanctuary — it's a really chill, quiet, and calm area by the water. Being around the garment district all day, always running and constantly racing around, I feel like I can take time to breathe when I'm at home."
Laveer blazer, Nightcap clothing bodysuit, Alexander Wang jeans, Lizzie Fortunato necklace.
What are your favorite home design stores in New York?
"There's a store in this neighborhood called Modern Anthology that's really cool; a lot of my furniture is from Environment Furniture on Bowery, Restoration Hardware, and ABC Carpet & Home. I get a lot of stuff at the Brooklyn Flea Market and antique stores, and I got my bar stools from a really cool place on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice."
What are your favorite restaurants in New York?
"I go to Gemma all the time, Beatrice Inn, Cafe Cluny, a lot of sushi places, and Pulqueria."
How does your interior home design relate to your personal aesthetic and Laveer's pieces?
"I like to mix the old and the new, and make sure there is a nice balance of hard and soft lines. I design Laveer in a way that you can feel relaxed in it, like you could wear it in a cabin upstate, and add feminine details and romantic touches. I love chandeliers and sparkly lights contrasted with cowhide pillows, furry pillows, and patchwork rugs — so, a mix!"
Tell us how the inspiration for Laveer came about — how did you decide to focus on blazers and jackets?
"As I was a buyer for years and years, I couldn't help but think what I would do if I had my own collection. Blazers and jackets are things that I have so many of in my closet — they're my go-to staple. I wanted to have more fun with patterns, detail, and trims and take something that's tried and true — that girls are obsessed with and love already — and add novelty details like special buttons, unique colorways, patches, and reversible styles. There is so much more to be done with this category, and I felt like there was a void at this price-point in the market for novelty blazers and jackets."
Up-close-and-personal with that Lizzie Fortunato necklace!
What other up-and-coming New York designers do you love — and want to be considered in the same family as?
"I obviously love Jonathan Simkhai, I think he balances the tomboy thing with something that's directional and sexy without being overt. I love what A.L.C. does, it's is really wearable with its construction and design, and I really look up to Andrea Lieberman, she's just such a nice person and so down to earth. She just makes clothes that girls want to wear while still having a vey clear point of view. I've always admired brands that stick to what they do best, and there are tons of denim lines and tons of T-shirt lines, but there are opportunities for other categories to take a key item, run with it, and be known for it."
As a buyer, you must have seen brands come and go! What have you picked up from your time at Shopbop that you're applying (or not) to your own line?
"I'm a big shopper and when you love something, whether it's a bootie from Isabel Marant or a button-down from Equipment, you know what works and you want to carve out your wardrobe with all these great staples. So, to be able to develop something that the customer is loyal to, can rely on, that fits her so that she keeps buying it in different iterations, I think I'm able to provide an easy customer experience and makes the search less overwhelming because there is so much out there today.
If you just hone in on your favorite brands — whether it's J Brand denim or rag & bone denim, you buy one wash every season, you know what fits you, and you love the quality — I think it makes for a nice way to display your personal aesthetic."
The fashion industry has a bad rep for being a mean-girl scene, but you're not like that at all. Do you have any lessons that you've learned along the way on how to be nice, normal, and down-to-earth in this industry?
"I want to work with people that I like working with, so you have to think about having those traits in yourself as well. I've met so many people in this industry and made so many amazing best friends that there is nothing more important to me than being nice, and being a pleasure to meet."
For Laveer, it's all about the details.
What's the best piece of advice from your personal experience that you can give to someone starting out in this industry?
"Leaving Shopbop, I was overwhelmed by how much people reached out and offered to help me, telling me where to get the best fabrics and where to find the best buttons, and telling me 'you need to meet this buyer' or 'check out this amazing store.' There's no room for competition here. Even when I was buying at Shopbop, I was really good friends with the Scoop buyer, and the Intermix buyer, and it was never competitive like, 'we're doing the same thing, who's doing it better?' It was more like, 'let's compare notes,' and we all had the same angle in mind.
So, it was nice to leave that role and to be able to call up all those girls I met because now I'm on the other side, and if I was ever mean or competitive, it wouldn't have benefited me at all. The industry is so small, you never know who's going to be your next boss...it could be your intern. It's really important to treat everyone equally and don't burn bridges."
What is a challenge you didn't expect?
"The financial aspect — you need so much money to do this. If I'd have known how much…! Also, the timing, you need to buy all your fabrics and develop your collection at the same time that you're producing your collection. This fashion week I learned a really hard lesson, my fall collection needed to be done by February 1, and then my spring collection needed to be shipped out by January 31, so there were two deadlines within a day of each other!
You need to manage your time carefully, map out when you need to be shipping things to the stores and when you need to be developing your collection, etc. You're always balancing and it's all up to you, so you can program timeframes out in a way that keeps you sane. Also, people expect the best quality, so you need to think of every single last finishing, every single fabrication that goes into the garment. It's truly like you're constructing something from scratch, and I'm learning so much about it all."
You really helped grow Shopbop and shaped it into what it is today — what do you think is going to change in the future of e-commerce?
"The best thing about e-commerce now is how informative it can be, from telling the designer's story to how to best wear particular items of clothes. As a customer shopping in a store, you don't tend to get that kind of information. The creativeness out there in the e-commerce space is getting better and more robust, and there so many beautiful shots out there that you can't help but envision being the girl you see in the photograph. Seeing the story through the pictures and a girl in a certain environment, doing something that anyone can do — whether it's camping or walking down the left bank of Paris — you can picture yourself there, and then click and buy instantaneously...that's amazing, There is so much more room to see editorial in the e-commerce space, because it makes things more shoppable."
Where do you look for inspiration online, or in real-life? What's your mood board?
"It's amazing to live in a city like New York because you're constantly surrounded by people who are putting themselves together in a cool and different way, whether it's a girl my age or an older man. It's such a inspiring city. I'm also obsessed with magazines, I love international magazines. Also, street style is great because it's a real person and you can relate to it."
Laveer blazer, Jonathan Simkhai pants.
Is there anyone killing it right now in street style?
"I love Caroline De Maigret, she's a rockstar, super bad-ass and she wears amazing jackets. She's very inspiring to me. Cara Delevingne always looks super cute."
What is one trend you'd never wear?
"I'm willing to try it all — in my way. You can do nuances of something and not be a victim."
What are your three favorite beauty products?
"YSL lipstick (shade number 2), Chanel metallic nail polish, and Moroccan Oil spray."
Where do you get your hair done?
Jonathan Simkhai bra top, Laveer blazer, Acne skirt, Isabel Marant and Made Her Think necklaces, Aquazzura shoes, Giles and Brothers, Pamela Love, and ALC rings.
What is the one thing you are always re-stocking for your home?
What was your last big splurge?
"I bought a piece of art for my bedroom, from a gallery on Elizabeth street."
Spotlight on those Aquazzura shoes!
Where do you hope your brand will be in the next few years?
"I hope to acquire more amazing partners like Barneys and Shopbop, and I really hope to expand internationally."
Have you had an OMG-I've-made-it-as-a-designer moment?
"Barneys' launch of Laveer exclusively was a dream come true, I was pinching myself like 'What? They like it?' Also, having the homepage on Shopbop with the picture of me — it became full-circle since I used to work there, and I get to work with them now! My buyer is someone that I hired to be an intern, which is super-fun."
Kate's collected bracelets and Pamela Love ring.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Laveer silk varsity jacket, Lela Rose dress, Margiela booties.