Fashion's Phat Cats. (Career Spotlight)
Smothers, Shani, Black Enterprise
Kitties are known to purr, meow, saunter with eclectic style. K.A.Kitties (www.kakitties.com) are no different. This 2-year-old company is bringing fresh flavor to the fashion industry. Dorothy "Dot" Antoine, Zareth "Z" Edghill, Kianga "KiKi" Peterson, and Jazmin "Jaz" Ruotolo are partners in a New York-based fashion design and consulting firm that works with urban fashion labels, including Sean John, Mecca, Gasoline, FUBU, gocawear, and Nataki Naliaka.
Antoine and Peterson met while working as head designers for FUBU Ladies. They got to know Ruotolo when she was hired as a freelance designer. After several internal changes within FUBU, the three "kitties" decided to put their long-term goal of starting their own company into immediate action. An article in the June 8, 2000 issue of Women's Wear Daily put K.A.Kitties on the fashion map. Peterson says that after the article appeared they began building clientele.
A year later, with the help of former FUBU Ladies CEO Elliot Lavigne (now president of Sean John Loungewear), the kitties registered their business as a limited liability corporation and moved into an office. Edghill, Peterson's cousin, wanted to help, so she left her job at Happy Kids, another design firm, to bring business management and production expertise to the company. The K.A.Kitties got a major boost when they won $20,000 in the Olde English 800 Making It Real Business Series and Grant Competition last year. Their business plan was judged to be the best among the New York companies that were entered into the competition.
The partners' fashion ambitions definitely began with a teenpreneurial mindset. Peterson, 27, says, "I've wanted to do fashion for as long as I can remember. When I was in kindergarten, I used to get in trouble for drawing women with clothes on all over my desk and homework." Antoine, 27, says she was the same way: "I wasn't even in high school yet when I started making prom dresses for high school students. …