Johnathan “Kayne” Gillaspie is the President and Creative Director of Johnathan Kayne. Born and raised in Nashville, TN, he became enamored by fashion by watching his favorite country music legends perform and walk the red carpet. Two stints on Project Runway (season 3 in 2006 and All Stars season 2 in 2012) plus appearances on ABC, Bravo, E!, NBC, TLC and The Style Network have earned him celebrity designer status and a roster of star clients. Heidi Klum dubbed him a “genius designer” and Michael Kors lauded him as “a designer who knows how to make clothes and fit a woman’s body.” Stars across the entertainment spectrum including Jennifer Lopez, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Kelly Pickler, Tanya Tucker, Lee Brice, Rascal Flatts and his favorite country legend Dolly Parton have worn his designs. He is a magna cum laude graduate of The Fashion Institute of Technology.
Kayne showcases gowns in his Johnathan Kayne showroom
We caught up with Kayne as he prepared his largest Fall collection to date for the April 2017 VOW | New World of Bridal Market.
Tell us about your creative process.
When I design, I really think about the woman. In social occasion, it is so important to know your customer. Where is she going? What is she thinking? What does she want to look like and how does she want to feel?
If my customer is wearing a social occasion gown, it’s because this is an important day or evening for her. We have the girl who has been nominated for the Homecoming Court, the woman hosting a gala and the pageant contestant who has a shot at the title. Or maybe it’s her first time wearing gown.
I keep all of this in mind and once I see fabrics, I put everything into place.
What is the design cycle?
I start on the Fall collection right after the Spring show closes. For this collection, I started earlier than ever – I actually spent 200 percent more time on it!
In October, I created the sketches for the gowns and sent them and my mood boards to my factory.
In January, I went to the factory to see how everything was coming together.
We received the samples in March. We photographed them and prepped them to show to our buyers at Market.
Where do you see social occasion fashion going?
The biggest shift is in the new generation. Designers have to have something new and innovative to keep them interested. Social media shows consumers something beautiful and inspirational all the time, so we have to keep up.
We stick to our guns by creating the sexy gowns that we are known for, while innovating the construction. For example, one of our new gowns has a hidden zipper in the plunge that makes it versatile and work for multiple women. We also have convertible pieces that can change up the look of the gown so it can be worn multiple times while looking fresh and new.
What are your three tips for success for social occasion retailers?
Look at the girl’s body and how she is built. Know your gowns’ construction so you can make recommendations that will flatter her the most.
Talk to the customer and see what her vision is for her gown. Ask what she is dead set on and what can be compromised. Then go the extra mile to get her exactly what she wants.
Do it with grace and be good to people. Truly be humble and thank your customers for their business. Do it with a smile.