Photography by ChiChi Ubiña
We are delighted to celebrate Katie Fong’s 10th Anniversary this year. Before launching her own line, Katie built a deep foundation in high end fashion. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC in Fashion Design with specialization in Eveningwear. She mastered the business with stints in Public Relations at Stella McCartney, Sales and Merchandising at Vera Wang, and three years at Oscar de la Renta with the Design team. She experienced retail at Wishlist and mass market fashion at J.Crew Corporate and Maggy London where she learned about overseas production. Katie began with made-to-measure dresses for clients and in 2013, decided to take a leap of faith to start her own business.
How has your design style changed over the last 10 years?
I have always believed in simple designs that are beautifully made and timeless. Most of my designs from 10 years ago are some of my best sellers today. I am inspired by fine European fashion, vintage silhouettes, and beautiful fabrics. If my style has changed in any way, I would say I am probably into a bit more drama with shapes than I have been in the past. Statement sleeves are definitely making a comeback!
What have you learned about the retail business?
I opened my Boutique 3 years into business and it was the best decision I ever made. I love having a special, intimate environment for clients to visit, whether they are visiting from near or far. The retail business is constantly changing, and as a brick-and-mortar company, we are always trying to find ways to stay engaged with our community and give back as much as we can.
When COVID hit in 2020 and we had to close for 2 months, I had no idea what to expect. I made a few face masks out of fine shirting cottons and elastic I had in stock, sold out immediately and realized that there was a need for them. Over the next year, my seamstresses who were working from home, my factories who were family owned and I, sewed and sold over 4,000 masks and donated about 1,000 to healthcare workers. We shipped all over the country, and we heard stories of people stopping each other on the streets when they recognized our signature embroidered heart sewn on the masks. When we reopened our doors in the Spring, we had shoppers waiting outside our shop to buy masks and our new accessories to treat themselves and/or friends. Since then, our wedding business has nearly doubled and we have been so busy!
What do you love about the Greenwich community?
I love that Greenwich has an amazing sense of community. As someone who was born and raised here and eventually moved back before even starting a family, I’ve always felt that way. I’ve reconnected with so many people I grew up with and they all say the same. Many of my friends who have moved here from places like California and New York constantly talk about how wonderful our community is and how kind and welcoming everyone is.
What also makes Greenwich so incredible are the many opportunities there are to partake in our community – no matter your age or your interest, there is somewhere to get involved. When I was younger, I volunteered at local nursing homes, tutored children at the Boys and Girls Club and volunteered with special needs students at Greenwich High School. I also volunteered with the Bruce Museum a few years during high school and that relationship is still going strong to this day! Over the past several years, I’ve been so lucky to work closely with the Bruce Museum and Greenwich Hospital on their fundraising efforts. Both organizations are near and dear to my heart.
What’s your favorite thing to design?
Every garment has a place in my heart! However, I do love it when I have clients who leave it completely to me to envision something for them. Typically, when I meet with clients, we discuss their likes and dislikes, and what they gravitate towards when they dress on a daily basis. Then I usually have a vision of what I see them in. Almost every time I do a custom sketch for a client, I have a gut feeling of which one they are going to pick and I’m usually right!
How do you work with a wedding party? What sort of timeline to you put on a project leading up to a wedding?
Typically, it starts with the bride! One of my current clients is an entire bridal party – from the bride to the mothers and the bridesmaids. We started first with dreaming up the bride’s perfect wedding gown. From there, we chose the bridesmaids’ fabrics and colors. Then we worked with the Mother of the Bride and the Mother of the Groom. Everyone’s outfit is uniquely theirs, but also complements each other beautifully. I can’t wait to see the final photos from their wedding this coming May!
The timeline all comes down to our capacity at the moment the order is placed, the complexity of the garment and the availability of the chosen garment. I typically need at least 5 weeks in advance for a made-to-order piece from my current Collection and a minimum of 12 weeks for a made-to-measure custom designed garment. During our peak season, April – October, our lead times are generally longer.
Tell us about your made-to-order Collection and made-to-measure bespoke services.
There are two parts of my business – my existing Collection, which can be customized in over 300 colors and my made-to-measure design services.
My existing Collection, which is showcased by samples in my Boutique is a variety of silk separates, dresses and gowns, all which could be adapted in over 300 colors. The garments are ordered by standard sizing with customizations to my client’s figures. For example, we can offer combined sizing if a client is a size 4 on top and 10 on the bottom. Clients can also alter necklines and add sleeves to anything in my Collection. Rather than working by season, I am always adding new silhouettes and rather than carrying stock, everything is made-to-order to avoid fabric waste. Leftover fabric is donated to fashion students at Greenwich High School, passed onto interns and/or sewing enthusiasts in town, or the Waverly Project, which is a girls’ empowerment program that runs in Greenwich, the Hamptons and Palm Beach.
My made-to-measure services are a completely bespoke experience where a garment is designed especially for one person. This can range from a simple shift dress for a client who has a hard time finding clothes, to a wedding gown. The process begins with sketches and fabrics and many measurements. Our patternmakers then create a mockup of the design in a fabric called muslin, which we then fit on our clients. After the muslin fitting, we have the garment sewn in the chosen fabric. Many people love this experience because it is unique and truly one-of-a-kind!
Are there any jewelry and accessories brands that you love for brides?
At the Boutique we carry a variety of jewelry and accessories including some great options for brides! Many of our brides end up purchasing jewelry and clutches to go with their outfits for their wedding weekend and even honeymoon. Some of the brands include Andrea Del Bello Jewelry, Alanna Bess Jewelry, Dunay Joaillier, KOSA Jewelry, LLF Studio, Rory Worby, Redone Rebel and Into the Woods. We also have amazing cashmere wraps and toppers in a variety of colors. For fine jewelry, I usually refer clients to our neighbors just down the street – Manfredi Jewels (on the Avenue) or Serpentine Jewels (on Mason Street).
Any suggestions for bridesmaids’ gifts from the bride?
For bridesmaids’ gifts, I actually refer to our Merchandising and Marketing Coordinator, Nikki Capablo! Nikki does bridal styling on the side, and she curates beautiful packages for bridesmaids that include items unique to each bride. Her current favorite suggestions include Andrea Del Bello customized jewelry that complement the wedding aesthetic the bride is going for. She also loves Intimissimi pajamas and robes as “getting ready” outfits for the bridal party, since they are of higher quality at a nice price point and size inclusive.
Your family is a big part of Greenwich.
My grandparents, Thomas and Jean Fong, came to Greenwich in the 1950’s and started their own business, Thomas Cleaners, alongside their real estate developments. They came to this country with the American dream and truly accomplished it – to this day they are an inspiration to me. My grandpa is 96 and a brilliant business mind, and my late grandmother was a great leader with a huge heart who also loved to make her own dresses. They had three children; my father Robert, and aunts Lillian and Cindy who all reside here in town as well. My mother, Heidi, was born and raised in Hong Kong with 5 brothers and sisters and immigrated to the States when she was 19.
My parents met in Connecticut and had my brothers and me at Greenwich Hospital. My brother Steven is a private school teacher in New Jersey and is co-founder of Greenwich Cars and Coffee and Michael is living his best life in New York City working in finance!
Owen and I met in New York City in 2012 and always knew that we wanted to end up in Greenwich. Owen is originally from Denver, Colorado but is an East-Coaster at heart. He works in the city, and it is so convenient being so close!
We have lived in Cos Cob since 2015 and have two boys, James 3.5 years old, and Bennett who is almost a year old. James attends First Presbyterian Nursery School, which we absolutely love!
How do you see your business evolving over the next 10 years?
I would love to do more pop-ups across the country to a curated selection of shops! I have many clients who travel to shop with us, so it would be an amazing opportunity to pop up and share my work with those who aren’t able to come to our Greenwich boutique. There is something very luxurious about being able to customize garments in the color of your choice, or being able to tailor the fit of a garment exactly to your liking. As the fashion market changes, more people are looking to buy less and buy better. What we have to offer is a high quality product that is sold in a direct-to-consumer model, which allows us to sell at an affordable luxury price point.
Katie Fong Boutique, 60 Lewis Street, Greenwich, CT