Viennese label km/a embodies the concept of the fusion of fashion, art and performance, while producing a beautiful, functional, wearable collection. As a label, they consistently utilize non traditional, discarded and end of life materials, to hand craft their unique, one of a kind pieces. Employing a range of materials including roofing paper, rice and postal shipping bags, prison blankets, windsurfing sails and decommissioned parachutes, the collection makes an antithetical statement to the fashion systems sense of conformity and production, with each item individually hand crafted and unique. Epitomized by the company logo of a clock, symbolizing the speed that governs the fashion industry, as well as the timeless nature of their designs.
Founder Katha Harrer, graduated form Herbststrasse Wien in 1998, and has designed pieces for Schonheitsfehier’s music videos, uniforms for Coca Cola and Tanzhotel Wien, as well as pieces for Swarovski. Awarded the ISPO ‘Brand New Award,’ the ‘Inside White Award’ and invited to participate in Altaroma, Harrer in collaboration with Michael Ellinger produce a unique collection, as timeless as it is beautiful. Innovative, sporty and functional, many of the designs are also unisex and reversible. Using fabrications and materials not normally used to produce clothing; each piece carries the unique signature of Harrer’s personal style. Her customers are as individualistic as she is, living unique lifestyles, and dressing for themselves, not others.
Harrer’s clever designs always surprise. Producing mostly outerwear in the form of jackets and coats, Harrer eschews the catwalk, preferring to present her creations in fashion art performances that include elements of film, street art, sound art and graffiti, and often involve the audience as participants in the live act. Participating in multiple events throughout Vienna, Salzburg, Bavaria, Paris, Istanbul, Munich, Berlin, Barcelona, Rome and Zurich, Harrer’s presentations are renowned for their performance art component.
As winner of the Absolut prize, she produced an all white collection, items of which were individually spray painted on stage by a graffiti artist, turning each item of clothing, instead into an object of art. Models frozen mid movement on the catwalk, were brought back to life by the performance of the ABSOLUT puzzle dress; a dress made from a myriad of polymer folio bags, each one filled with ABSOLUT VODKA. The individual drinking bags were snapped together, and assembled in the form of a dress, which clothes a 600 kilo ice sculpture of a model. As part of the runway performance, the dress was disassembled into individual drinking bags, leaving the ice mannequin undressed, but bringing back to life the frozen runway models through the action, who then distributed the bags to the audience.
At Altaroma, Harrer used dancers in place of models, each wearing a pure white outfit from the k/white collection, and positioned as window puppets on stage. Each dress was then spray painted by Harrer on stage, giving each item a unique configuration of color and pattern. Embedded within this act, was the performance of a young couple, him dressed in an all white suit, her in white lingerie and carrying a small handbag, only to produce a folded wedding dress from within, at the acceptance of a marriage proposal from the young man, which she then put on, so she could marry him on stage.
The k/white collection, which resulted in her invitation to Altaroma, was made from a base material from the building industry, a paper-like material, completely washable, which retains each and every individual fold and crease, giving each piece its own unique character. The super light fabric was lined with dark denim for comfort, and as always, printed with the company’s clock icon on the interior. In logical progression, Harrer then produced the k/black collection, again utilizing the building material base, only this time in black. The unique characteristic of the fabric meant the reversal of the k/white collection theme, which started life white and ended colored through spray paintng; with the k/black collection starting off black but slowly fading as each scratch, crack and fold revealed the white base underneath. Hence making the customer a co-participant in the creation of the unique characteristics of their garment, individualizing their own clothes in the process. All pieces were lined with dark denim, an ongoing signature of Harrer’s collections.
The prison blanket collection was a continuation of Harrer’s use of unconventional materials. The blankets, from Austrian prisons were produced by the prisoners themselves, as well as used by them. Each blanket tells the story of a prisoner’s everyday life, with proof of wear and use in the form of holes and wear and tear. The reworking of the blankets into coats gives the blankets an entirely new and incongruent context. Each outfit becomes a meeting point of individuality, produced in contrast and tension in dark gray and with the “Justizanstalt” prison name interwoven into the body of each piece, and lined in the company’s signature dark denim printed with the ubiquitous clock logo. The coats are also completely reversible.
The line of coats and jackets made from decommissioned parachutes, carry the tag line “when it was active it carried you, now you can carry it!” Remaining true to her ideals of recycling, this line of jackets coats and dresses are all individually crafted from parachutes, with each item retaining the original seaming, adding to the individualized character of each piece, and with authentic detailing such as closures from the ripcords, oversized packed hoods and proudly displaying the original identifying numbers.
k/ma consistently produce beautiful, understated, sophisticated outerwear, each season from a different, yet equally unique base material, dictating the intricacy and details of the collection, and showcased through performance art. The fashion industry has been guilty for some time now of naval gazing, overly consumed with itself. The multi-faceted work of talented designers like Katha Harrer shine a beacon of light through their cross-disciplinary work, breathing new life into an industry who’s globalized operating system is no longer sustainable.