Starting a fashion brand in rural New Hampshire is no easy task, but self-taught designer Katherine Geneva Haas is facing the challenge with esprit de corps. In her hometown of Lee, the 21-year-old founder of Rabbit House creates feminine, vintage-inspired clothing for modern women.
“My lifelong mission is to fight back against the current ways of fast fashion, the exploitation of feminism in high fashion, and to include unknown faces and artists,” Haas says on her website. “Everyone deserves to be represented. Everyone deserves a chance to chase their dreams.”
We recently sat down over a cup of coffee and talked about sewing class, millennials, and whether her Chanel bag is real or fake.
What’s your occupation?
My primary focus right now is Rabbit House, my fashion brand, which is only possible thanks to my very supportive parents. It is something I’ve wanted to do my whole life. I realize I’m entering an oversaturated market, and that is intimidating. There is so much fast fashion that it feels difficult for one person to make a difference. But the way things are headed politically, it also feels like, why not go after what I love?
Why the name Rabbit House?
My last name is Haas and hase is the German word for rabbit. When my dad would answer the phone in our house, he’d say, “This is the Haas House,” because it had a nice ring to it.
At left, Katherine Haas models a fall look she designed for Rabbit House. photo courtesy of Jillian Benham Photography and Styling
Describe the type of woman you design for.
I design for an artistic person that likes antiquing by day and dancing by night. Someone like a feminine adventuress that’s both strong and soft.
What is your dream job?
Dream job? I would love to have an atelier in Paris with a champagne farm in the countryside. Realistically, if I was able to run a boutique or showroom and make a living, that would be great.
How did you learn how to sew?
My mom taught me. She’s a quilter. I remember in second or first grade I made a pink skirt. It was so crudely made. The edges were totally jacked up. I took a sewing class in high school, too, but I already knew how to sew proficiently. For me, designing is a creative process rather than a technical process.
Where do you find inspiration?
I browse Tumblr. I’ll stumble upon a photo of someone from an era like Studio 54. I’ll Google that person and the year the photo was taken to see what everyone was wearing. The last time I did that was with Bianca Jagger.
What are the challenges you face trying to grow Rabbit House?
Millennials are more apt to understand and get excited about what I’m doing with Rabbit House. When I talk to older people, they are excited about it too, but question how far I can really take it. Millennials seem more likely to support small businesses and independent designers, but they don’t have the money for it.
How would you describe your personal style?
I love vintage. I’m drawn to the Edwardian era. I tend to wear darker colors. Honestly, my personal style has almost taken a back seat. I save all my good ideas for Rabbit House.
What will you be wearing this fall?
High-waisted black jeans cuffed so they look like cigarette pants. Edwardian blouses. An oversized double-breasted pea coat and heeled booties.
Which actor would play you in a movie about your life?
People say I look like Kristen Stewart but I don’t see it. In an ideal world, Leighton Meester. I love how she played Blair Waldorf on “Gossip Girl.”
Describe an outfit you wore for a special occasion that you really loved.
I wore an Edwardian tea dress for my twenty-first birthday. It is made of white cotton with inset lace, pintucking, and ruffles. My family and friends and I went to New York City to celebrate. We had lunch at Ladurée. It was so, so nice to wear something frilly. It’s not like it was a loud dress, but in terms of what you would see up here, it is kind of different. It was nice to be able to wear something like that and feel comfortable.
At right, Haas’ vintage Chanel bag. photo courtesy of Katherine Haas
Describe an article of clothing in your wardrobe that you love.
It’s a tie between a costume jewelry necklace that my Nana gave me — I have no idea how old it is but it has a little photo of George Washington crossing the Delaware on it. It’s a tie between that and … when I was about nine years old, I went into a consignment shop with my mom. There was a Chanel bag on sale for thirty-four dollars. My mom said I could use my allowance to buy it. I brought thirty-four dollars in quarters back to the shop and bought the bag. I always assumed it was fake, but years later, when I was thirteen or fourteen, I did some research and discovered it’s a real 1980s Chanel camera bag.
What is something you love about your body?
Is it vain to say everything? I mean, I am an exact mix-up of my parents. It’s so cool to look at my face and see my dad and my mom.
In what ways do you practice sustainable style?
I prefer to buy used stuff. Previously-worn clothes have formed to a body and for that reason are better fitting.
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