KASSL Editions’ Search for the Perfect Coat
How the collective turned an old classic into a modern uniform.
Discovering the coat that started KASSL Editions was a happy accident for Bart Ramakers. About three years ago, he went for lunch with a friend in New York. His friend was wearing a vintage fisherman’s coat that she had bought at a flea market, and Ramakers instantly fell in love. He took the coat back to Amsterdam, and began the search for someone making something similar.
“What I really liked was how it is quite technical, it had a certain attitude,” Ramakers says of the coat. “There’s something universal about it, it fits well on a lot of different people and it’s practical.” After discovering the coat, Ramakers showed it to two friends: Ilse Cornelisses and her husband Tim van Geloven, owners of the Antwerp concept store Graanmarkt 13. The trio of fashion insiders were then joined by Camille Serra, who had previously worked at Maison Margiela and Joseph.
The newly-formed KASSL Editions began working with the manufacturer Josef Koch and his factory, in the German city of Kassl — giving the label its name. Koch is known for producing hard-wearing outwear — which has previously been described as “near-indestructible” — and also supplies coats for the German police and fire brigade. “They don’t just make a coat,” says Ramakers. “They do heat tests, put it in the shower; they do a lot of different things to make it work.”
“The perfect coat is a coat that can get dirty, that you can actually wear, that you can travel with and that you can use. It’s not just something that hangs in your house.”
These tests are important to Ramakers, who believes that durability is the key to the perfect coat. “I think the perfect coat is a coat that can get dirty, that you can actually wear, that you can travel with and that you can use,” he adds. “It’s not just something that hangs in your house, it’s a coat that you can wear all year round and is functional but also makes you look good.” For Ramakers, these ideas of durability and wearability allow the coats to become part of a uniform. “You buy something and you don’t throw it away next season. You treasure it, you layer it, you build your wardrobe based on these essentials,” he says. “I think that’s what KASSL is about.”
The durability of KASSL Editions’ coats has won the attention of major global retailers, with MATCHESFASHION, SSENSE and Lane Crawford all stocking its collections. Damien Paul, Head of Menswear at MATCHESFASHION, believes it is an important part of what the label does. “More than ever before, our customer engages with craftsmanship and the journey of their garments and KASSL Editions’ pieces are produced with longevity in mind,” he explains. “The use of neutral earthy tones and a clean silhouette add a modern edge to the classic fisherman style. The combination of technical fabrics and traditional glue-sealed seams elevate the concise collection and ensure that each style is a long-term investment.”
The classic fisherman’s coat is still the centerpiece of KASSL Editions, with the brand sticking to its guns with each collection. “I think it’s a time where it is good to be clear about what you stand for,” Ramakers says of being an almost one-product-label. “You wouldn’t find ruffles, flower prints or something very fragile in our collections. It doesn’t change 360 degrees. I like being a one-product-label: it’s clear, and you can stick true to the partners you work with.”
Despite the importance of the coat to everything KASSL Editions does, the brand has begun to experiment with other product categories in recent seasons. This expansion began with padded tote bags, which are constructed from the same materials as the coats and are now a mainstay of the brand’s collections. “Camilla had wanted to do bags for a while,” Ramakers explains, “she started experimenting with leftover fabric and became obsessed with the puffiness and how the oil-coated cotton that is our signature fabric translates into a bag. When you look at the bag it’s a bit organic.”
“You buy something and you don’t throw it away next season. You treasure it, you layer it, you build your wardrobe around it.”
Another evolution for the brand has been the official move into menswear. Up until this point, the coats have often been packaged as womenswear, although they have enjoyed a crossover appeal. “We have friends who share the coat,” Ramakers adds, “my mum and dad do that, although I think it looks better on my mum than on my dad.” This means that no major changes were needed, although KASSL Editions has slightly tweaked its coats to expand this audience. Men’s coats from the brand have buttons on the opposite side, slightly longer arms and tend to eschew certain finishes and fabrications. “There are some subtle differences but it is still the same world.”
After launching bags and menswear, KASSL Editions is still exploring new ways to expand its world. One of the most recent projects was a collaboration with furniture designer Muller van Severen who created a sofa out of deadstock fabrics. Despite these new avenues, it’s important to Ramakers that all of the new products stay true to KASSL’s core message. “The coats fit in nicely with the bags, it’s the same fabrications, there’s overlap you can wear them together,” he adds, looking to the future. “There is a dream to do shoes. We would love to create the perfect boot to wear with your coat, so you could get even more dirty.”