Some people have the ability to make things seem effortless. It’s not that what they’re doing is easy, quite the opposite actually. But they seem to have found a way to achieve perfect balance between passion, productivity, and rest. Katie Kolodinski is part of that rare breed.
Born in Ontario, Katie has moved homes 26 times. On top of having a degree in psychology, she studied fine arts framing, gilding, acupuncture, and many other practices that would take hours to list. She has spent the last 18 years in Australia. And in the midst of having two kids, she’s also found the time to launch Silk Laundry, a clothing brand focusing on luxurious silk garments.
Now freshly and officially living in Montreal with her husband and two sons—she wanted them to be fully bilingual, thus her moving back—, she welcomed me at her gorgeous boutique in Saint-Henri to chat about everything fashion. From her emblematic slip dresses to her creative process (hint: it involves her kids’ drawings) and some tips on how to work alongside your boyfriend 24/7, she certainly had many nuggets of wisdom up her (silk) sleeve.
Tell me about your background.
My life has been a little wild and everywhere. I’ve always wanted to do so many things! I have a degree in psychology. I’ve also studied art gilding with gold, picture framing, interior design, fashion illustration, and acupuncture, and I’ve worked as stylist for a modelling agency as well as in retail. I feel like every decision I’ve made in my life has somehow brought me where I am right now.
Which brings me to Silk Laundry. How did that come about?
I have pictures on my phone of when I was 21 years old, living in Australia, and all I wore were slip dresses, mostly vintage. But because of that, they were often made out of those horrible fabrics, like polyester, which feels awful when you get hot easily. So I started looking for silk versions, but they were really hard to find. There was no brand you could turn to that you knew had silk options. I saw a gap in the market and launched Silk Laundry in 2014, about a year after having my first baby. It started with a 5-piece collection all in white, black, or merlot.
Today, our headquarter is still in Australia, where most of my employees are and where all my international distribution goes from. We also run two boutiques over there. Here, in Montreal, we take care of our Canadian e-commerce and the store, obviously.
What’s special about the silk you use?
Most of my silk is sandwashed, which gives it that velvety feeling and extra softness. I first started using it because I didn’t want people to think that it was polyester, which often happens with satin silk. Now, I’m starting to expand further from that, with a satin blazer or bias-cut pants for example.
The boutique is gorgeous. What’s the story behind it?
Not long after moving to Montreal, we had dinner at Vin Papillon and as we were walking on Notre-Dame street, we saw a ‘For Rent’ sign. When we called the landlord the next day, he told us that he had literally put up the sign a couple of hours before we saw it. We weren’t actively looking for a space. It just happened.
In terms of the design, it’s my babysitter’s mom who took care of it. We kept it simple hoping that the clothes would stand out on their own. The store has a lot of natural elements as well, like stone, metal, concrete, and a huge floral arrangement installed in the fitting rooms.
What does your creative process look like considering your brand’s DNA is rooted in simplicity?
I’m really inspired by colours, especially the ones in my kids’ drawings. I don’t pay a lot of attention to what’s trendy. In terms of silhouettes, I’ll get inspired by certain elements of old vintage clothing that I will then rework into something cool and modern.
Comfort is also really important to me. I can’t stand wearing a top or pants that are too tight. I literally have to be able to sleep in my clothing and not want to rip it off in the middle of the night. People need to be as comfortable as if they were wearing gym clothes, but nicer.
Silk Laundry is known for its slip dresses. How do you like to wear yours?
I like doing print on a print, like wear our boyfriend’s shirt on top of a dress, buttoned all the way up and both in the same pattern. In the wintertime, I’ll wear it as a skirt with a big sweater overtop, with tights and boots.
Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
It’s more Reese, my husband, who woke up the entrepreneur in me. I’m actually afraid of everything. When we hire our first staff member [they’re now at 14], all I could think of was ‘How are we going to pay this person?’. Reese is really headstrong, he always finds a way to make it work. Whereas I’m more the creative type. I have ideas, but I can’t execute them. If he wasn’t here, I might still have Silk Laundry, but it would definitely be smaller.
Speaking of your husband, do you have tips when it comes to working with your life partner?
This is the first time we’ve been in the same office right next to each other. When we were in Australia, we worked on two separate floors, so we didn’t talk much during work hours. Now that we’re physically closer, we bicker a little more, but it still works. We’ve gotten stronger over the years and we understand each other’s mind more. We see each other everyday and pretty much all we do is talk about work, which is sometimes a little sad, but at the same time, it works for us.
So you don’t have a ‘no work talk’ type of rule at home?
Oh no, it would never work! But I try to not have my phone out when we’re together or with the kids. Also, even though we see each other everyday, we still make sure that we have a date night every Monday and Friday.
What does entrepreneurship looks like when you’re a mother of two?
When I gave birth to my youngest, I only took a week off. At the time, the office was underneath the house, so I literally worked the day before I gave birth. Within a month of him being born, I was on set for a photoshoot with him. I can’t really take time off. My children have gotten used to it. Sometimes, my eldest will come to photoshoots with me and talk about dresses, fabrics, and prints.
But for example, yesterday, my little one was sick, so I had to keep him home and didn’t get to work because I try not to pull out my computer in front of my kids. I started working at 8pm, when they got to bed, until 1am because of that. I don’t think it makes my work worse, but it does make me work crazier hours… and I’m more tired!
But when I’m with them, it’s like my time off. Through the week, they’re not allowed to watch TV, so we do watercolour, painting, and drawing together. It helps me get my mind off things.
What are your future plans for Silk Laundry?
Eventually, I’d like to have a store in all the main fashion cities, like Los Angeles, New York, Paris, and Barcelona. I don’t necessarily want a huge brand, but I’m curious to see where it goes. I’ve never built Silk Laundry with the intention of selling it. I really love what I do. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have it.
PHOTOS BY NAOMIE TREMBLAY