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KZ_K Studio opens new Manhattan studio

By Kristopher Fraser

Apr 19, 2022


Image: BFA
KZ_K Studio has opened a new Manhattan studio on Great Jones Street. The sustainable brainchild of designer Karolina Zmarlak welcomed guests with an intimate cocktail party and a preview of the brand’s Cool Cycle collection. Rather than think about fashion in seasons and mass producing products, the brand drops products by theme focusing on quality luxury. Cool Cycle qualifies as the brand’s next cool-weather collection, what would traditionally be a large-scale fall/winter collection for most other brands. The studio has been a long time in the making since Zmarlak launched the brand with her business and life partner Jesse Keyes in 2009. Now, with a continued focus on direct client relationships, this studio is literally opening new doors. Keyes weighed in on the brand’s studio opening for FashionUnited.

Why did you decide to open this studio?

One of our brand pillars is to employ an "architecture studio mentality," which essentially means digging deep into understanding, connecting with our clients, and becoming friends in a community. That mentality was imbued in me from my earliest years, learning from both my architect father and grandfather, in how they would spend years with a single client relating, dialoguing, and creating a design, and ultimately together.

We didn't design an architect's studio, but we did design a series of spaces that aim to enhance the mentality: a Library Bar, where we could connect socially with our clients, their friends, and their family (it helps that I come from the world of hospitality as well, as operating partner of Hotel Griffou and founding partner at Goldbar), so as to understand and befriend. An outdoor terrace for good weather lounging. A Pattern Design Room that has patterned window mullions with varied glass types and opacities to allow our clients and friends to peek into the inner workings of the design process, without disturbing our working concentration. Ultimately, these relationships grow, and our design awareness of clients' needs grows with it. We also have cool rock rolling time together.

How do you expect this to contribute to your brand's growth?

A vast majority of our clients travel to NYC, and as we all have been reading and experiencing, there is a great travel awakening occurring throughout the world. We will be here on Great Jones Street to host our national and international incoming clients to a surprising and engaging studio experience, where they can imbibe, learn, talk, design, and purchase in our showroom. Afterward, they have a plethora of wonderful restaurants, galleries, and shops in the NoHo neighborhood we occupy everything from Basquiat’s original loft, to La MaMa, to the Great Jones Street Spa, to Enrique Olveras’ modern casual Mexican restaurant Atla, to the Bowery Hotel, are within 100 feet of our studio. We hope to be one of the great stops on a great day on and around Great Jones Street. This same repeatable and personalized experience will be afforded to our stylists on an ongoing basis, so they may build their client business with KZ_K.

How will this benefit the KZ_K customer?

Growth and client experience (which along with the focused, multi-functional, modernist clothing cycles and core collections we design and produce) go hand in hand. Once you have a purpose, via an enjoyable, interactive, memorable experience, and the craftsmanship and design of KZ_K to support your personal and professional wardrobe with our clothing codes that read focused, aesthetic design, we’ll hope you’ll want to keep coming back.

What was the design inspiration for creating the space?

I’ve been looking to Charlotte Perriand (really ever since I was in my teens, more recently, specifically), to find guidance on thinking through the ideal designer studio. Number one, as you’ll see from the floor plan I designed, every square foot of the space is thought about first from the perspective of daily functional use (of which we have many! In designing clothing), and secondly, in creating the flow that interconnects those uses coherently and fluidly.

The practical notion of equipping a space as part of an integrated spatial plan - as opposed to decorating it - remained central to Perriand's thinking, and ours. That means designing every piece of shelving unit to be integrated as “equipment” to enable the maximum use of the space, while wholly fitting all of the myriad accouterment that goes into designing clothing; this storage is the “vector of order and harmony.” The result, the aim, is a sense of ambiance, a vibe, that is cool, clean, connected, but infused with elements of natural materials, technologically advanced materials, and uses that all flow as one.

When did you decide a space like this would be necessary to grow your brand?

It’s always been a pillar of our vision to create that intriguing design/communicate/sell space to engage with our clients. Even in our previous studio on 29th Street, where we were located to be close to the Garment District in Manhattan (where we produce all our clothes, since our inception in 2009), we had a complex plan to transform our design studio INTO the showroom for clients and industry partners. Central to improving upon that spatial multi-use was finding a larger, more flexible space where I could take an open loft as tabula rasa, and really take every square foot and break it down into its functional use, from floorplan, to elevation, to ceiling reflecting plan to plumbing, to the vast number of materials (we use 5 types of plywood alone), so that the clothing could breathe and speak within the many layers of the spatial experience. We also became fortunate to find such a perfect location and space. Our friend Daun Curry has had her interior design firm downstairs in the building for years, and we’ve shot many of our cycle campaigns throughout 35 Great Jones: the roof, the fire escapes, and other open floors. It was really coming home, from a design and studio perspective, naturally.

Image: BFA
KZ_K Studio