Former Tory Burch Accessories Designer Katherine Fleming Strikes Out on Her Own

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Katherine Fleming Photo: Cy Karrat

Until now Katherine Fleming has been best known for launching Tory Burch's accessories — and we all know what a hit those were. But the 29-year-old Miami native recently left the label to launch her own namesake bag collection, hitting Barneys and Opening Ceremony later this fall. Though she's starting small, she plans to branch out into more styles, shoes, and jewelry. We had to ask the rising star how she met Tory and what she can't live without. (Hint: It's not a bag.)

How did you get started in design?
I’ve wanted to be a designer as long as I can remember. I used to make clothing for all my dolls. When I was 14, I saw Unzipped, the Isaac Mizrahi documentary. He talks about Parsons in it, and I decided that was where I needed to go!

How did you wind up at Tory Burch?
My friends [Proenza Schouler designers] Jack [McCollough] and Lazaro [Hernandez] recommended me to Tory to design her handbags and small leather goods.

What can we expect from your own line?
My debut collection is very tight: four styles in four colors, plus python. I put a lot of thought into the core designs because they’re the foundation of my brand. The collection is inspired by the past but is also slightly futuristic. I am interested in developing new techniques for making hardware and mixing different textures. The end result is a timeless chic that’s slightly sinister.

Katherine Fleming's debut collection.Photo: Katherine Fleming

Do you ever plan to design clothing?
I am focusing on accessories — that’s my passion.

How would you describe your style?
Sometimes it's very casual; other times it's more polished. I wear a mixture of designer and vintage. I always have a lot of accessories, jewelry.

What’s the one item in your wardrobe you can’t live without?
My grandmother’s Geoffrey Beene dress that I shortened. Whenever I don’t know what to wear, I throw it on and it saves the day! I also am obsessed with my M. Graves porcelain-doll-head necklace.

What designers do you love?
Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Proenza Schouler, Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga — the list goes on.

What trends do you like for fall?
I love opaque tights with short dresses, and tight black pants with heels. I also have an obsession with scarves — it's like wearing your blankie.

What trends do you wish would go away?
Teeth whitening. It gives me the creeps when someone has blindingly white teeth.