At Work with Karen

Saturday, July 24, 2021
At Work with Karen

What does a typical day at the office look like for Karen? Angie Cox from You Look Fab visited to find out.

The Kane Family at work

The Kanes, from left to right: Lonnie, Karen, Michael, Birdie, and Robert.

I spent a day at Karen Kane Headquarters in Vernon, California, touring their design rooms, factory floors, dispatch area and all the satellite sections that make the operation flow and function.

Karen Kane is a family based business with Karen herself as head of design. Her husband, Lonnie, is in charge of production and finance, and her eldest son Michael is director of marketing. Karen's younger son, Robert, works on the design team and produces his own brand as well as assists mom. 

Karen and Lonnie built their premises almost 30 years ago and it is big (135,000 square feet). My husband, Greg, and I were greeted warmly by Karen and Michael at reception. Karen was casual yet uber chic in skinny jeans, black silky blouse (her own design), wedged sandals and gorgeous chunky silver jewelry. Michael looked hip and cool in tapered grey jeans, slim-fit button down shirt and industrial boots. Right from the outset I knew that this was going to be a fabulous day.

We headed to a conference room that contained the final samples for the next six months of delivery. Michael had laid out beautiful design illustrations and photos of fashion shoots on the conference room table. Karen's team actually shoots the photos for their look books in this building and all over Los Angeles. I was itching to look through the rails of final samples, but restrained myself until later.

As I expected, my buying days came flooding back as soon as I walked into the Karen Kane building. Before long, my head was exploding with questions. Over the next few hours Karen would answer every one of them with great insight, humble grace, infinite patience, and a confident dignity that one rarely sees in the fashion industry. Without question, she is a leader at her game.

Karen and her sister, Lorraine, reviewing artwork.

We started in the “Work Room”, which is where Karen’s design process starts. It is filled with trims, swatches of fabrics, drawings, sketches, photographs, outfits for photo shoots, and all sorts of other things that fuel those creative juices. Karen has a team of associate designers who translate her designs into computer-made sketches of clothing, but for Karen, it’s still about a small sketchpad and an old fashioned pencil. She sketches her ideas and sticks them on large white boards with fabric swatches. After mulling over her ideas, she has the styles made up in her Design Room. Once that happens, every design is tweaked until perfection, at which point, it receives an official style number in red ink. Karen sketches up many designs but only the best make it onto the final line. 

After that, we walked down the hall to Karen's office. Karen doesn’t spend too much time in her own office, because she spends most of it in the Work Room, Sample Room and in other parts of the factory overseeing the design process and attending to the hundreds of queries that come up in a day. Michael told us that it’s not uncommon to see a queue of 20 people waiting to speak to Karen at any point in the building. 

Michael and Karen picking fabrics for an upcoming season.

While Karen’s design focus is squarely on one season, the company actually juggles six seasons at once. To stay organized, Karen collects fabric swatches and ideas and puts them into separate drawers that are associated with a particular month of the year. I asked Karen what part of her job was her favorite, to which she replied: “Seeing something new come down the line each day.” After experiencing the buzz in her Design Room, I totally understand why that’s the case.

To learn more about Angie's visit with us, check out her full recap on YouLookFab. She also highlighted some of her favorite picks from our Spring/Summer 2021 collection based on great reviews and recommendations from her clients and forum members.