Spend just minutes talking to Kate Wasserbach Moore, and it’s clear she is a born and bred designer. Designing and creating runs through her veins, and is demonstrated with every fiber of her being. Wasserbach Moore is simply a master at her craft, evident through her extensive training, unparalleled passion, and the brainchild of her years of working in fashion – Abel Honor New York.
Before founding her brand, which she leads as the creative director, Wasserbach Moore studied the greats, worked alongside them, and found her unique sense of style in what can often feel like an oversaturated industry. But not for Wasserbach Moore. Abel Honor New York has staked its claim in intersecting grunge and glamour at its peak of cultural relevance, and with Wasserbach Moore at the helm, the label has shown no signs of slowing down.
Hot off the heels of a successful footwear launch, Wasserbach Moore continues to strut her way onto fashion’s frontier, with her innovative, cult-favorite pieces that have stories and thematic messages woven through them, leaving those who wear Abel Honor New York feeling truly empowered, emboldened, and like its founder, effortlessly cool.
Throughout your career, how has fashion influences changed and evolved?
I could be a little partial, but I believe that my years in design school were one of the last that truly appreciated the craft of fashion. I felt that fashion was more of a culture and a study – whereas, today, it seems like more of an idea. My generation of creatives were so passionate in fashion as a subject. I mean, the day that McQueen died, the halls of Parsons were flooded (literally) with tears. You would have thought the president just was assassinated! But that is what I mean… we studied, appreciated, and we idolized the values, beliefs, and attitudes of our past time, and how they shaped our industry and field.
I feel that that has been lost in the younger generation of fashion followers today. I see it often – mostly when I am hosting interviews for roles in the company. One candidate (with a highly impressive resume) did not know if Coco Chanel was a male or female! Not to age myself, but when I was going to school Chanel, YSL, Dior, Lagerfeld, Westwood, Kawakubo – to name a few – were our ‘fashion influencers’.
When we start a collection at AHNY, our team takes a full month dedicated to concept. This consists of strictly reading and studying our theme for the collection. It is a full day’s work of doing nothing else but studying – a lot of the times we go to the library where we have access to old propaganda, books, magazines, write ups – everything really! We research the work of other designers and creatives of our past. It is a crucial point in our design process and I hope my team can understand how important that is. Abel Honor, and myself, vow to bring back quality to the consumer through the history, understanding and appreciation of the historical and cultural context of what fashion truly is.
How did you find your sweet spot in street style, and how do you hope to leave your unique impact on the genre?
Again, the years where I was at my peak of fashion studies, there was a rise of luxury streetwear. I believe this was due to a combination of factors, including the rise of social media and the increasing influence of hip-hop culture on fashion. I mean, the emergence of the A$AP Mob – led by Rocky – was ALL the hype when I was a senior at Parsons. I truly think they popularized streetwear in my generation. They blended high- end designer brands with streetwear staples like hoodies and sneakers. They were early adopters of Givenchy, Rick Owens, and Balmain, and helped to bring these labels to a wider audience. When Long.Live.ASAP came out, all creative avenues were inspired. They changed the game for streetwear, and me too. I loved the irony and contrast of it all. Making something that is not seen as high end, be high end.
Even the luxury designers began to experiment with incorporating streetwear influences into their collections. Tisci, was particularly instrumental in this shift towards streetwear. Tisci’s designs for Givenchy often featured bold graphics, oversized silhouettes, and athletic-inspired details. Remember the Givenchy’s Rottweiler and Shark prints?! They were such iconic symbols for luxury streetwear. So, overall, because I came from this era, you can see a lot of odes in my own designs. Our RecWear line has an emphasis on bold graphics, oversized silhouettes, and logo-heavy designs.
Now, just like a lot of the fashion world today, there is an oversaturation of ‘trends’ where streetwear has become so watered down… it has become ‘athleisure’ which is the opposite of what streetwear originated from. So, we maintain that primary love for luxury streetwear – like I did in 2013.
You’ve been merging glamour and grunge for years before its resurgence in 2020. How do you as a designer trend forecast to always stay ahead, and define the times?
Having a hi-lo contrast to my work is a staple of mine. It always has been since I was a little girl. The challenge of it all really sparks my creative juices. So, the glamour-grunge is just a product of this overarching concept. I do not follow trends, so I am happy that the masses are taking to this movement!
Tell us about AHNY’s emergence into footwear. What inspired you to make the jump, and how did the Swan Lake influence take precedence?
Well, the footwear venture was a passion project of mine. I am my own customer, and to be honest, I was dreaming about this boot (now The Reverence) that I needed in my wardrobe. I couldn’t find anything like it, anywhere, so I decided to make it. Professionally speaking, we are always trying to build our brand and its abilities and network. Eventually we want to become a multi-disciplined brand, so expanding our ability in luxury goods is par to the course. Footwear was naturally the next step in our repertoire.
As far as the Swan Lake concept, that came from the movie Black Swan. I watched it back in 2021 and thought the concept of good vs. evil was very aligned with our brand DNA. I fell in love with the delicateness of ballet, but the evils that come with social pressures. I thought I could make something really amazing from that idea.
What was the most impactful experience on your impressive resume that ultimately led to the aesthetic and feel that you curated for ANHY?
I think the aesthetic and feel of AHNY came from my personal expressions as a creative. Abel Honor has been a dream of mine since I was very young, and the brand itself is just a product of me. I came up with the brand and name of AHNY back in 2010!
But ultimately, there was not one specific teacher, apprenticeship, job, or experience that led me to create AHNY. Abel Honor harmonizes all the work experiences I have had in the industry. I took the sense of lifestyle from Ralph, refinement from Dior, and accessibility with diffusion lines from Kors. All my knowledge gained from those experiences is something I carry with me in my day to day of running AHNY.
AHNY is so multifaceted. Tell us about the couture side to the business and your passion for creating such beautiful garments (like what was on display at your wedding). I would say couture designing and executing is my true passion. It is the closest fine art and fashion can get. I am a fine artist first and foremost. Fashion is my medium of choice for business, but I draw, paint and sculpt as well. I have a BFA degree. So, couturism is beyond exciting for me. When I did my wedding dress, it was the most fulfilled I have ever been creative-wise. It will forever be the most special moment in my career.
What cultural influences most inspire you as a designer?
Overall, I think music, art, film, and social media are the main cultural influences that takes place in my design process. I VERY much so get inspiration from other creatives and are tremendously inspired by their vision. As we know, Swan Lake was inspired by the movie Black Swan, and The Avant Contention collection was inspired by the Sex Pistols.
I always revert to the hip-hop culture, which has had a major impact on streetwear and urban fashion. Plus, Hip-Hop is the epitome of American culture because it originated in the United States. Being an American brand, this is important to me. Hip-hop reflects the country’s diverse cultural heritage. Whether it is film, music, or art, I hope to someday collaborate with an artist from a different medium – like Jeremy Scott did with Keith Haring and Jeff Koons.
Lastly, social media has also had a significant impact on our outreach to our customers, particularly among younger generations. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok can certainly help to bring AHNY to a wider audience. As much as I am a print gal and used to collect every issue of Vogue, we must adjust to the times!
What does the remainder of 2023 have in store for you, and for AHNY?
We have a ton of new products ready and waiting to be launched. We have split this selling year into deliveries instead of releasing the collection all at once. Along with our forecasted product releases, we still take our VIP custom projects as they come in – which are always exciting and crazy at the same time. We always are working on the past, present, and future here at AHNY, daily. So, look out for the signs of the next drop – it is RIGHT around the corner!