Women in Houston have may have a patron saint of workplace wardrobe, and her name is Merin Guthrie. As the founder of Kit — a dressmaker for the digital age — Guthrie is bringing personalized fit and style to busy women.
During an era of vanity sizing where designers take liberties to create their own sizing scale, often much smaller than or different from the standards established by the American Society of Testing and Materials, women are left to navigate the chaos of arbitrary sizing on their own. This is where Guthrie took her stand.
“Ultimately, my story boils down to a nagging problem, and it’s one that almost every woman has faced — clothes just didn’t fit me very well,” She explained. “I’m a pear-shape living in an hourglass world. I always thought, ‘Surely some enterprising company will tackle fit. It’s just such a big, glaring hole.’ And then…crickets. Nothing changed.”
While working in Washington, DC, Guthrie was witness to many influential women suffering from this ill-fitting epidemic of odd seams, poor fits, skirts the rode up, blouses that gapped — issues no amount of safety pins or double-sided tape could fix.
“I grew up surrounded by strong, smart, stylish women. And then I went to an all girls high school. That made me a passionate advocate for women,” Guthrie said. “To me, that starts at a basic level, even with clothes. Like making clothes that fit real women. Like building a brand around empowering women, not telling them that they need to be thinner, more stylish, sexier. My husband always jokes that I ‘drink the kool-aid’ when it comes to being rah-rah women, but it’s true. I feel like women have such an unlimited potential that they’re just now starting to realize. I’m designing to make clothes that help take them forward, not hold them back. Elegant, yes, but functional and confidence boosting.”
In 2015, Kit was created to combat these fashion frustrations, and give women the wardrobe options they’ve been waiting for. Taking inspiration from real, working women and the hustle and bustle of Houston, Guthrie is dedicated to creating garments that any Texan would love to wear in or out of the workplace.
“We are all hard working women with crazy lives,” She elaborated. “We’re launching a machine-washable silk tunic in different lengths this fall based in part on our Director of Community Experience. She has two kids under the age of five and her day can take her literally anywhere. She loves a tunic because you can wear it with jeans or dress it up with black tights and fun shoes. And it absolutely has to be machine washable, because as lovable as her babies are, they get messy. To me, the idea of making her life easier is all the inspiration I need.”
For guthrie, crafting perfect pieces is a task of reverse-engineering, focusing on finding solutions instead of forcing women to decide between comfort and quality fit. While beauty is definitely part of the overall focus, she wants women to be able to feel good and feel confident that they look their best, and the designs available on the Kit website can attest to that.
“I look at design from a totally different angle than most designers — problem solving,” Guthrie asserted. “When we sit down and think about the next season’s new styles and fabrics, we bring our own problems to the table what garments can we never find? What styles never fit us? We refine our ideas, and then we take it to our customers, surveying them about their needs and challenges. It’s honestly much more like a tech-based product development cycle than a traditional fashion design process. And I think that’s why the industry ends up with a lot of clothes that are beautiful but unwearable. I think about making clothes as an engineering problem with a design mandate. It’s not as glamorous as basing a season’s design on some amazing trip to Marrakesh, but who has time to be going on all of these amazing trips to Marrakesh anyways? I’ve got a business to grow.”
Although she’s focused on growing her business, Guthrie hasn’t lost sight of the community that makes it possible. Kit gives 1% of all of their sales to Dress for Success Houston, a local organization dedicated to empowering women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and development tools to help them thrive in work and life, as well as working with a number of nonprofits, from designing knitwear with The Community Cloth to finding their seamstresses with the Alliance for Multicultural Community Services. Guthrie recently stunned Houston with her designs when she showcased her collection in a trunk show.
“We have tons of fun at our trunk shows because, to be honest, they’re more like cocktail parties,” Guthrie quipped. “We spend a lot of time talking about our customers’ lives, hearing about their lifestyles and the challenges – fit, design and otherwise – that they face. Kit ladies, as I like to call them, as really amazing people. We’re unveiling a host of new fall styles at this trunk show, and I’m so excited to get their feedback and see what resonates with them.”
With a growing popularity and a steady commitment to the community, Merin Guthrie and Kit are sure to become a household name in Houston.