Abel Honor New York

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?

Princess Diana.

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!