MEGHAN KINNEY HAS STAYING POWER TO SPARE WITH HER COVETABLE, CONTEMPORARY COLLECTIONS
Story by Sarah Lennox
Photos provided by Sara Altobelli & Meghan Kinney
As the daughter and granddaughter of boutique owners, Meghan Kinney knew she would one day find her place in the world of fashion. The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) graduate is the designer behind the label, Meg. Her popular collections focus on clean lines and femininity, and are found in Meg stores in Toronto and throughout New York.
Kinney spoke to Plaid about her designs and future in fashion.
How did you get your start in fashion?
How did I get my start in fashion? Well, I went to fashion school. I went to FIT here in New York. I basically begged my way into some amazing internships with designers from the early ’90s like Byron Lars, Christian Francis Roth, Randolph Duke – people who were making waves at that time. Those people were so sweet and generous. [They] told me their stories, shared with me how they got started and shared with me all their resources. I took the information, knowledge and resources and started my own line.
Were those internships for your program or did you just get them for yourself?
I kind of did it by myself. I just lucked out. I got a job and then the job led me to – just one of those things through the friends that I was making in the industry in my early 20s. Just so awesome. Very lucky.
Was a career in fashion always your goal?
Kind of. My mother had a boutique in Calgary for 10 years. My grandmother had a boutique for 15 years in Saskatchewan and I just grew up in shops and I loved clothes. I’d go on buying trips with my mom. I loved clothes. I don’t know why I decided to make them, but I think that was the next progression.
Was there ever anything else that you wanted to do?
Oh, I don’t know. Be Madonna. [laughs] But I had no skills.
I think you found your calling now though.
[laughs] Yeah, I think it was a smart move that I went and learned a trade. That’s for sure. I wasn’t smart to do anything else, so I wasn’t getting into real university or anything.
I noticed that some pieces in your online shop are pretty formfitting while others are loose and flowing. What makes each of these designs distinctly yours?
I know, right? It’s super funny. I’m in a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde, slightly schizophrenic fashion time with my own collection these days. I do a vintage silhouette. It’s got a 1950s-inspired boob, waist, skirt kind of thing and I’ve done it for a long time. People really respond to it. It’s something that I feel like I can never really abandon, but aesthetically, as I’m growing, I’m finding more inspiration in things that are more architectural and less formfitting. I believe in how clothes make you feel and how you present yourself when you’re in them and I’m finding that much of my formfitting stuff instantaneously makes a woman feel like she is feminine and a lady and a little sexy and girly. There’s just something instantaneous about putting on a dress that makes you feel like you’ve got your shit together. On a more experimental side for me and what I find more enjoyable to wear are things that are a little more organic because I like that feeling of being like ‘I don’t know what it looks like right now, but I feel fabulous.’ [laughs] That’s happening all simultaneously. Because I’m in business, I can’t abandon my hardcore, true silhouette, but I’m developing as a designer. I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to marry those two concepts. Every season, I’m trying to do that.
Which of your designs is your favourite to wear?
Every summer, it’s the one that doesn’t touch me. Right now, I love my “V-neck Asymmetric Dress” because I feel like it does all the work and I don’t have to do anything style-wise. It feels like I’m in my pajamas, which is perfect. Every season, there’s a party dress that I’m always amused by. Truly, the piece that I love the most is the piece that I just committed to running in production – the piece that I’ve decided that I love and that we need.
What process do you go through to create a new collection?
It’s so not as glamourous as I wish it was. It’s kind of scientific. Right now, I’m working on Spring/Summer 2013. There’ll be a hankering. I’ll see somebody on the street wearing something that looks really fresh to me. I’ll be like, ‘Wow, that’s how I would like to move forward.’ Something that just feels really new – whether it’s something I found in a magazine or some concept I just came up with from some inspiration, or whether it literally ends up being from somebody I saw on the subway. I start looking for fabric. I start feeling the fabric that feels the energy that I want to do for a season and then I start pulling the fabric. Then comes the mathematical part where you go, ‘Okay, which pieces did well last year and how could we recreate those in a way that would be new, but would fit the same niche?’ Then you go, ‘Okay, we need so many dresses that people are going to wear to weddings. We need so many dresses that people are going to wear to work and we need stuff that people are just going to want to buy for Sunday brunch good times – a playsuit.’ There’s a math.
The collections have now grown to probably 55 pieces per season. There’s actually a divided up math in that. We need tops, bottoms, suits, party dresses, work wear. [It starts with] inspiration, then fabric, then silhouette reviews, then the things that I want to bring into the program that I think are new and exciting and all of that ends up being how it gets done. We make a bunch of samples and I get together with my team. They tell me whether I’m ridiculous or whether they’re into it. [laughs]
How long does it take to go from the concept to sales?
Like, six months.
Do you ever use trend forecasters or is it all based on what you see?
I kind of don’t. I’m not going to lie. I go to the fabric shows and I’ll see the mood boards that people have created. I’m a small boutique. I’m an independent designer. I feel like that’s not my place. My place is to be a person that helps create stuff that hopefully ends up being on somebody’s mood board eventually, versus a person that’s taking it from the mood board. I’m not really trying to sell to the masses. I’m just trying to cater to the clients that are into what it is that I do.
Are there any current trends that you wouldn’t follow?
Honestly, if I see another high-low hemline, I think I might barf, but I get it. I get it and it was fun. I’m glad that it happened, but it’s exhausted in every fabrication possible. I’m really annoyed by cheap chiffon prints with baby hems – poorly finished, cheap, polyester print dresses. I get that they’re cute and they totally satisfy a lot of girls. It makes me want to go towards things next season that are a little more weighty, more masculine and definitely more structured. Those are the two things that are annoying me right now.
Have any celebrities worn your designs?
I’ve had stores everywhere for so long, it’s sort of funny. Julia Roberts bought my stuff. Molly Ringwald bought my stuff, which made me really happy one day. [Rosario Dawson] was fabulous. She lives in the East Village and she shopped with me through the beginning of her career almost exclusively. I kind of didn’t even know who she was until my employees told me. She’d wear my stuff to premieres. It was super cute, but it was pre-her being as famous as she is now. She wore my stuff for a lot of time, which is really great. Gretchen Mol bought dresses from me in L.A. Who else bought stuff from me? Paris Hilton in L.A. because she just buys things from anywhere. They’re bad examples, but they’re people.
Are there any celebrities you hope will wear your designs?
Honestly, after having lived in L.A. for five years, the whole career attached to celebrity-dom is slightly annoying. I want anybody who wants to wear my clothes to wear my clothes. I would love, as I attempt to grow my business, to get more exposure so that my products can be in places to be seen, but no, there isn’t any specific celebrity that I’d love to see wear my stuff. I would love everybody to wear my stuff.
I saw many positive reviews online for the Meg stores. How do you make your shops stand out from those of other designers?
I don’t know. I know we try really hard. We’re big believers that the client is king. We actually really love what we do. It sounds weird, but we go through quite a lengthy process to hire a sales associate because the skill that we expect that person to have is pretty high, not to mention their personability. We run our whole scenario like it’s a girl club. I find my girls lend their own jewellery to clients when they think it’s the most appropriate thing to go with a dress. We take what we do really seriously. We love what we do and we really want to make people happy. We really enjoy dressing people, styling them, fitting them in the clothes. It’s important to us. What’s so beautiful about those lovely reviews is it shows that that rubbed off on the client. We’re all stunned. People say to us all the time, ‘You have such a phenomenal rating on Yelp. That’s insane.’ We’ll just be like, ‘Really?’ It makes me proud and it makes the girls proud. We work hard for it.
Most people only go online to complain, but these people are all going out of their way to say positive things about your shop.
Yeah. There’s no trade off or anything. I was having a conversation with somebody yesterday about reviews and the level of sincerity of them. Whether it’s just people trying to build an online presence or whatever. It’s coming straight, organic, beautiful.
What are your goals for the future?
You caught me at a good time where I might have a plan. After having a weird franchise in Dublin and my store in L.A. for five years and having a baby and moving back to the east coast; I have my mentor, Christina from Calypso. I don’t know if I would take her total path, but ideally I want to build an east coast brand. I want to do that through, probably, seven to 10 shops. I just signed my lease on my fourth. I just feel like I want to do what I do and just keep it totally east coast and tight and, hopefully, build a brand that’s recognizable for its location. That’s my 10-year goal, but after that I don’t know. I had a moment in my 30s when I was feeling ambitious and I was like, ‘Let’s go global!’ Then I realized that the world, as small as it is, is actually really diversely different. It’s complicated to dress people everywhere when you’re doing it with such a small group of clothing. I just feel like my goal is just to build an east coast brand and I want to do it through my own shop.
You said you had a baby. How do you balance being a mother and a designer?
I have to say, I have more energy now than I did in my 30s and every minute is totally precious, but I’m 10 times more productive knowing so. It’s a big balancing act. Any mom would tell you so.