Designers Who Work It: Kate Coxworth of Kate Boggiano Ruffles the Blouse Collar of the Fashion World
Kate Coxworth, the genius behind fashion label Kate Boggiano, famous for its gorgeous ruffled blouses and jackets along with camisoles and leggings, didn’t start out with ruffles on the brain. “I was a total science geek,” said Coxworth. At Indiana University, Coxworth worked as a pre-med student for 2 1/2 years. “I never thought fashion was a career,” she admitted. She always loved fashion and sewing, but didn’t decide to pursue it as a serious option until the last half of her college career. She changed her studies to fit an independent major program and created a fashion design curriculum within it. Indiana University was definitely not a design college, however Coxworth doesn’t regret her decision to not transfer. “I liked that I had a solid liberal education behind me so I never felt lacking,” she said.
After college graduation, Coxworth worked in technical design for Polo Ralph Lauren in New York City. “I ironically did bottoms,” she said laughing as her specialty is tops. She eventually switched to men’s merchandising for Polo, which was a fantastic learning experience for her. “I had a lot of meetings with Ralph [Lauren] and I got to hear what he thought,” she said. However, in 2006, when the Chicago’s Fashion Advisory Council, a group dedicated to keeping local talent from fleeing to the coasts, was created, she decided to return to the Midwest. “My plan was to be in New York for five years, but it seemed like such a perfect time to go back,” said Coxworth. So go back she did, and it wasn’t easy.
“I was this big shot merchandiser from Polo and when I talked to small vendors in Chicago, they were like, ‘Who the hell are you?’” she said. It also didn’t help that Chicago doesn’t have a technical garment district resulting in everything being very spread out throughout Chicagoland. Through her trial and error, she went to a bank with a business plan on November 13, 2006, and on May 22, 2007, she launched her Web site with first collection of products. “It’s funny that I remember the exact dates!” she admitted laughing.
Between her business plan and product launch, Coxworth became involved in Chicago’s Fashion Incubator program in late February of 2007, which is designed to provide six emerging Chicago-based designers resources, including work space, curriculum, mentoring, to launch their careers in fashion. When asked how her experience was with the Incubator program, she said that the program gave her a lot of great press and fantastic working space, however she said that during the program, she just didn’t fit. “I was different,” she said. “I had a lot of experience on the business side and that put me in a different category.” However the one thing the program did give her, was respect.
“I wasn’t just some kid doing this,” she said. “It gave me relevance to my customers.” Those customers mainly consisted of working women in the downtown area. Her lines are constructed very well, not trendy but classic. “A 25-year-old or a 70-year-old can wear the same shirt,” she said. What’s next for the iconic blouse designer with the lovely ruffled collars? “Mailing catalogues,” declared Coxworth. With a strong background in direct mail, this is a project near and dear to Coxworth. Expect seeing her “soft test” mailing for her next Spring collection. However she admitted that the mailing wouldn’t be worth it until she had a certain amount of customers. “I have a magic number in my head,” she shared. What that number is, she just smiled and shook her head. Not that Coxworth would jinx her continued success, but being a savvy business woman, we can respect her decision and have faith in her continued notoriety.
And of course, we could not leave without asking Coxworth what every working woman needs. “Well, obviously a great white shirt!” she declared. “You want a great go-to piece that’s a little different than the basic button down.” Would that great shirt have ruffles by any chance? Coxworth’s response: “You can never have too many ruffles!”
First Lady Michelle Obama Wearing a Kate Boggiano Blouse
as Featured in InStyle Magazine