Cymru Culture

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Distress to Impress, Interview with Kitty Cowell

(June 01, 2011)

Interview with Kitty Cowell


Kitty Cowell is the face behind the alternative lifestyle clothing brand Distress to Impress. She is also a musician, and in all respects a new up and coming artist who is working hard to take everything she does to a wider audience. This is what she had to tell Cymru Culture:


CC ... What got you initially interested in fashion and design?

KC ... My Mum was a fashion designer and my Dad was a sales agent for all kinds of fashion and accessory companies. So I guess you could say fashion is in my blood! Also art was all I had any passion for in school. Art and music have always been my main to passions in life, and I find they compliment each other really well.

Distress 1

CC ... Was it difficult starting the label in the early stages?

KC ... Yeah for sure! I had no idea what I was doing, looking back! I had a lot of experience from seeing my parents work, but the kind of industry I wanted to be in was the alternative and I had no idea how differently that works to high street fashion. I wouldn't change anything I did, because I have learnt so much by throwing myself in at the deep end and I'm really proud of the businesswoman I am now! But if I were to start a new brand, I'd know how to do it now!


CC ... Is it easier to work with other designers, rather than going solo?

KC ... To be honest I have always designed everything for my company by myself, on my own; but I have always asked for people's input and opinions. I definitely have plans to work with other designers, but I feel very strongly about the fact that a lot of companies use the same designers and end up looking the same. I might not follow the trend by not doing that, but I'd rather stand out for my originality , which seems to have started paying off. I work with my partnerLee Symondsnow, we critique eachother's work. Lee designs YESPLSNOTHNX, which is a shoot off collection and part of my company. We are going to design another collection together, but we are slowly getting into working together on design. It's hard when you have always worked alone, you get very protective of your style! It's silly, ha ha!

Distress 2

CC ... Why do you feel that self-expression, in terms of fashion and accessories, is so important?

KC ... I was born in London, where my parents had this fabulous fashion lifestyle and careers. They decided to move to the country to bring me up, which was a lovely place to live. But I always longed for their fashion lifestyle and the city. Where I grew up I stood out like a sore thumb. I have always been inspired by high fashion trends, catwalk and couture mixed with rock n roll, and the alternative scene. There's not much of an alternative scene in the Cotswolds and I think this made me make one for myself. To start making the clothes I wanted to wear. That's how I started, just by hand customising t-shirts for myself and my friends. I think self-expression was inherent for me. I was so used to my mum wearing her own designs that I felt it was normal to make the things I wanted to wear, because I couldn't buy them anywhere.

Distress 3

CC ... The ranges on your website are very broad, featuring men's, women's, children's clothing and accessories. Normally, designers specialise in distinct areas of fashion. Was it important for you and your label to express itself across all of these mediums?

KC ... There are so many t-shirt companies on-line. So many kids with photoshop and a myspace started popping up and opening bigcartel pages and myspace pages selling t-shirts and I didn't want to fall in to that category. Most of them did it just because it was cool and easy and gave them some kind of status in their area or on the web.

I didn't even have a myspace when I started this company. I started it for my love of fashion, and my belief in having a career I loved. So in order to stand my ground and show I was more than just a bedroom t shirt brand I made it my mission to find ways of getting other products made.

Also, I want my brand to be accessible to everyone! The other reason is because I'm ridiculously eager to design new products!! If I had endless resources and could design anything I wanted, I would be branching out into bags, shoes, dresses, figures, toys etc ...

Distress 4

CC ... As well as being a designer and businesswoman, you are also a musician. Where does all your creative energy come from?

KC ... I am dyslexic. All I've ever known how to do is to be creative. So I guess it's just normal for me. I literally don't see the point in breathing if I can't create something. I am constantly dreaming up new ways of doing things artistically or musically. It may sound ridiculous, but it's just really normal for me.


CC ... What would you describe as your main influences of your collections?

KC ... I take inspiration from rock 'n roll, underground scenes and retrospective design from old skate wear and band designs.


CC ... Is there a particular celebrity/group you would love to design for?

KC ... N.E.R.D or just Pharrell Williams would do!

Distress 5

CC ... Who would you say is your favourite designer?

KC ... Cassette Playa is completely different to me but I love her work and find her very inspiring.


CC ... Three different stockists carry your ranges. Was it difficult to attract buyers/outlets attention for your pieces?

KC ... Yeah it's a very hard task trying to get stores to take you seriously. But you just have to grab your guts and go full force, with the attitude that you wouldn't be doing it unless you believed your company was good enough!

Distress 6

CC ... What difficulties did you encounter when first starting the line and what advice would you give to readers who would love to start designing?

KC ... When I started, I didn't know anything about costs, or which printing companies were the best. These days, there are a lot of good printing companies who have great examples on their sites. Check out who they have supplied and try to find out what the quality is like, or even ask for a sample from the printers. Also, the most important places to spend money are on the product, the website and advertising. If you go by that as a rule (and in that order) you're giving yourself a good starting point!

Distress 7

CC ... What are your hopes for Distress to Impress's future?

KC ... To expand the product capabilities and to be able to market the products at a higher scale.

CC ... Kitty Cowell, thank you.

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