Words Lori Cutler
Kate Wasserbach is the former Associate Designer of Michael Kors who had the courage to go out there and do it on her own. Abel Honor New York launched on Halloween this year — selling 85% of their first collection in under 24 hours.
Fuelled by individuality, the brand has a no-nonsense approach to fashion. With products inspired by the rebellious streetwear culture, while maintaining a sartorial craft. The unique identity is defined by an understated sex appeal, offering women and men present an alternative image and lifestyle with an infusion of high-level style.
We spoke to Kate about how it all began….
Why did you call it Abel Honor?
I wanted to make a brand that empowered both men and women. I didn’t want a masculine brand; I didn’t want a feminine brand… I wanted a strong brand. Over anything, I wanted my customers to feel strong when wearing AHNY. I wanted them to feel confident. So, when I was thinking of the name Abel Honor New York, I made a mind map to enable me to think outside the box. I started to think of strong characteristics that were instilled in me… or strong qualities I find in others. The first strength that came to mind was someone who is a “can do person” (as my mom would say…) A person who is not afraid of hard work or offering a helping hand—someone willing and able. The next trait of strength I came to was a loyal person— an honorable person. It takes strength to be loyal and honorable. So, I pieced out ‘ABLE’, and ‘HONOR’ in my mind map and got ABLE HONOR. I loved the name, it sounded strong. I ended up switching out the ABLE to the name ABEL, to make it a little less literal. Before my grandfather died — the year I quit Michael Kors, to start AHNY- he told me that I have to add New York to the end of Abel Honor. He was and still is my day to day muse, so that was a no brainer. I am so happy I did that too. I am a New Yorker, born and raised – it is a huge part of me!
If you could describe the brand in three words what would they be?
YES YOU CAN. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they could never “pull off” some of the Abel Honor products. And my answer to them is YES YOU CAN! The only thing required to wear Abel Honor is some pride in yourself! I believe anyone can pull anything off if they really wanted to. Think what you believe in, love what you believe in, and wear what you believe in… that is one trend that will never go out of style.
Why have you made vegan-based products such as your furs and leathers? Is ethical practice important to you?
Yes, our fur and leather are vegan due to our in-house beliefs!
What does it mean to be a New York brand?
Abel Honor can find itself in any setting, at any event… but we are truly New York through and through. I was born and raised in NY; this state is SO Abel Honor. It encompasses all types of personalities, seasons, and beauties – and I am not just talking about the island of Manhattan.
What is your first memory of fashion?
Kanye rocking popped pink pop collars in the hip-hop/rap community. He had confidence in his game and in his talent. That’s when I knew confidence was the trend, not the pink polo. Genuine confidence, is a sense of self-assurance. There is nothing worse than someone who is cocky!
Your social media is very strong for a brand in its infancy. What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?
Social media is the key to consumers, collaborators, and content. I remember showing Abel Honor to Barneys and Bloomingdales in February… the first thing they asked me was how Abel Honor’s social media was doing. At the time, I was so busy working on the actual product, than the virtual product, that I didn’t have much to speak to it. Right then and there I knew that I needed to pay more attention to social media whether I liked it or not.
If you could dress anyone who would it be?
What was the hardest obstacle you have faced in the lead up to the launch?
The hardest obstacle I faced was the lack of social relationships. For one whole year I worked out of the living room my New York City apartment – grinding and hustling so hard that somedays I would look up, and it would be 8 pm and I was still in my pyjamas— and hadn’t even eaten lunch yet. Because fashion works one year ahead, that first collection debut it just a year-long chase. It takes a lot of patience and strength! I have waited for this day for a long time—and here we are!