via WWD

Model takes a walk on the other side of the runway — as a designer.

By Sharon Edelson on March 29, 2017

Karlie Kloss has never designed her own fashion collection.

At a time when seemingly every model worth her long-legged strut has stamped her name on a fashion line, Kloss has been an anomaly.

She’s a design novice no longer. Kloss, a brand ambassador for Express, was approached by the retailer with a creative consultant opportunity, which resulted in Karlie Kloss by Express. Celebrity stylist Karla Welch and the Express in-house design team collaborated with Kloss on the limited-edition 17-style line. Priced from $24.90 to $168, the collection bows in Express stores and on express.com Friday.

The 17 styles and 31 total choices, including T-shirts, blazers, maxidresses and bomber jackets, can be combined to create more than 100 looks.

“This is the first experience I’ve ever had on the design side of fashion,” said Kloss. “Every inch of this project and collaboration has been in the works for over a year. We’ve been working on the concept, designs, fabrics and logo — every inch of this project.”

Designing apparel has given Kloss an appreciation for a sector of the fashion industry she took for granted. “It’s the first time I’ve ever been involved in design and I’ve learned so much,” she said. “Normally, I show up at the final hour and walk down a runway or [step into] a campaign shoot.”

Kloss said she became something of a design wonk. “There’s so much that goes into every detail,” she said, “where the buttons are placed, the fabric thread count, how high the pockets are placed and how long the sleeves are. There are so many factors.”

Kloss said she was careful not to lose sight of the end customer. “Thinking about who you’re creating this for was a great exercise for me,” she said. “I have this specific vision in mind for creating the ultimate staples. They’re perfect pieces for a girl on the go, at a price point that’s for real girls. My sisters, friends and I are pretty cost-conscious when we shop. Yet, we don’t want to sacrifice good design and quality.

“I’m very lucky to have a lot of beautiful clothes,” she added. “I’ve been able to build my wardrobe and identify my personal style by getting to wear some of the most beautiful couture pieces. I get to be at the forefront of fashion trends and see and wear the best designs out there.”

Kloss, who travels extensively for her job, came up with a list of her essential items. With all the finery available to her, Kloss finds she packs the “same perfect pair of jeans, blazer, high-wasted trousers, perfect bomber and summer dress that you can dress up or down. They’re pieces that are a good investment and don’t go out of style.”

“Karlie exemplifies a great achiever and is never satisfied,” said Jim Hilt, chief marketing officer of Express. “It was a natural fit to bring a curated and edited collection to customers through that lens. Karlie’s design perspective and her ongoing relationship with high fashion does something more toward inspiring consumers.

“From the first time we met with Karlie, the collection has always been rooted in women living dynamic lives every day and trying to get more out of their day. We identify with women doing more in life. It’s authentic positioning for us. We’re constantly striving to engage young women about how they can do more.”

Karlie Kloss by Express will be launched during a runway show in St. Louis, the model’s home town. Kloss and Express held an Instagram contest where applicants uploaded videos explaining how they live their best lives. Five national winners and five local winners were chosen to participate in the runway show.

“It’s a really special coming full circle moment for me,” Kloss said of the runway show. “I’m excited to bring this launch to my home town. St. Louis is really home for me. Over 10 years ago, when I was 13 years old, I was discovered at a runway show in St. Louis. At 13, I certainly didn’t plan on it being my career. Friends, family, teachers and neighbors pitched in to help me start a career and travel the world at 15. I had a teacher traveling with me to Paris, neighbors would watch my sisters, and my aunt and uncle would travel with me, too.”

“Home is such a big part of who I am,” she added. “For me, St. Louis is such a source of inspiration for why I wanted to do this. All of my friends from home and my sisters are the Express girl. The collection was inspired by the girls I grew up with, who are still my closest friends.”

“Middle America is representative of every American woman,” said Hilt. “In launching the line there, we’re breaking out of the normal place. We know that’s import to the brand and important to our customer.”

“I enjoy thinking about how I can help a woman get what she needs from apparel,” Kloss said. “I realized fashion can be very powerful in the way that it can make you feel like the most confident version of yourself.”