Kate Ross is not only the talented designer behind the bowtie brand Distinguished Cravat, she is also an intellectual woman with a deep sense of history and love for fashion. In 2009, Kate combined her unique aesthetic and innovative spirit to build a brand with a sincere focus of reshaping people’s expectation of quality and service. With each handmade cravat that she intricately designs, Kate Ross tells a story of self worth and determination. Her message of positivity brings home the fact that fashion should not only make you look good, but feel good as well.
Kate Ross left her position at a prominent NYC non-profit group to start the Distinguished Cravat brand. Working as a legal advocate inspired the young designer to create a line of accessories that would uplift the self esteem of those who wore them. Specializing in handmade neck attire, the brand uses an assortment of vintage patterns combined with signature designs to give the final product a truly “distinguished” look. By incorporating materials not often associated with neck attire such as leather, twine, and denim, her cravats are modern, chic, and very creative. Each collection in the Distinguished Cravat brand has a significant meaning or purpose. As seen in with the Our History Collection which pays homage to great thinkers of the past and the World AIDS Day Collection meant to educate and bring awareness to individuals dealing with the deadly disease, it’s clear to see that Kate Ross cares a great deal about people.
Kate Ross’ personal style is one to envy! She refuses to be boxed into any category and her genderless fashions radiate a new possibility of androgyny. Combining both modern day and vintage pieces give the designer a look that is all her own. With freedom comes self expression and Kate Ross has certainly used hers to inspire the world. That is the reason why today, we honor Kate Ross as a woman making history.
Let’s get right into a little Q&A!
M.I.S.S.: What woman, besides your mom or grandmother, do you find inspirational?
There is no single woman I find inspirational; so many angels have crossed my path throughout my life. Since that is the case, the next collection entitled, Our History will honor two women of recent inspiration. The Our History Collection will be a 50 year collection beginning this year. The goal of this lifelong collection is to make the world view Black History as World History. This 50 year collection is my “I have a Dream Speech.”
This year I am honoring two phenomenal women: S.E. Harris, the first African American colporteur and Harriet “Moses” Tubman, the mother of the Underground Railroad. Both of these women wore neck attire; Madame Harris wore a black silk cravat, while Madame Tubman wore a cotton cravat. Both pieces worn by these women inspire me because History is like silk and cotton in many aspects. It can either create a smooth conversation like silk or it can rip into the flesh of human beings like a cotton torn when the not so beautiful aspects of history are discussed, such as racism, sexism, and all the –isms that have divided mankind since the beginning of time.
M.I.S.S.: How would you describe your personal style?
I am just me and I do what feels comfortable for me. If I had to call it something it would be “vintaristic” (vintage + futuristic).
M.I.S.S.: How did you get your start as a designer?
I have designed all of my life, I just designed in different aspects of life. I don’t just design cravats; I elevate the minds of many that I come into contact with and even that is designing. Communication is the art of language and every time I speak, I design my world through my thoughts, words and deeds. Cravat is an evolution of many revolutions, in my life and the lives of others…even characters in books…smiling. I didn’t find my passion it found me. When asked how I designed my first cravat, I tell people it wasn’t me it was the Most High. I was just the vessel chosen to bring the design to life. My passion is natural, life is my canvas and I paint on it daily.
M.I.S.S.: What was your motivation behind starting Distinguished Cravat?
The brand was found on the desire to help rebuild many human connections that have been broken down by materialism. Distinguished Cravat is focused on rebuilding self esteems to help clients reach their dreams. So through our neck attire we inspire people on many levels and aspects of life and that was a major starting point for the brand. I designed for a young man in Brooklyn, NY who sold drugs on a corner everyday and one day of having people greet him differently while he wore his cravat put him on the path to completing a Bachelor of Science degree. For him, all it took was being greeted differently by others to change the rest of his life. At this point I knew I was completing part of my destiny on this earth.
M.I.S.S.: What’s your favorite piece that you’ve created?
The Our History Collection has my favorite piece entitled, “S.E. Harris,” which honors a woman whose life is seldom celebrated. The piece was inspired by a painting from internationally known painter, Patrick Earl, named “S.E. Harris, Colporteur.” The fabric is quilted cotton with a tassel middle piece; this is the release of our first collection of all black pieces designed for elegant events such as black tie affairs and other formal events. With that said for now it’s my favorite, until I out do myself with the next designs coming Spring 2011…smiling.
M.I.S.S.: Who do you want to work with or see wearing your stuff?
I would have to go back in time, smiling…and say, the one and only Gabrielle Chanel. Like myself, she saw a special need for equality in clothing; a woman should be able to be as comfortable as a man and still have a right to call herself a woman. For quality, it would be Yves St. Laurent, as his brand defined quality. At Distinguished Cravat, we embrace everyone. So when asked who would I want wearing Distinguished Cravat, I would say the entire human race, being that I founded the brand with the hopes of taking something as small as a piece of neckwear and setting the foundation to allow someone to rebuild their self-esteem. I would also like for more women to reclaim the bow, as it can add elegance to any outfit when placed in a dandy manner.
M.I.S.S.: What part of your process is the most challenging and do you dislike the most?
Breaking into an industry that is male dominant is still a struggle for female designers such as myself that embrace the new identity of androgyny.
M.I.S.S.: Any advice for ladies who are just starting out in fashion?
Everything that you see around you, that your hands can touch, started out as a thought. Therefore, know that anything you think, you can create. Believe it and achieve it. Allow creation to be your elevation.
For more information on Kate Ross, be sure to visit Distinguished Cravat
We would like to thank Kate Ross and her team.
Photographer: Keith Selby
Artistorian and Mentor: Patrick Earl
Editor: Nina Granberry
Image Layout: Feesh
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