The emergence of Strita.
Strita is hoping to shake things up with the way we perceive lingerie. Mixing the cool of streetwear with playful femininity, the pieces in Strita can be worn on their own or layered as part of an ensemble. We caught up with it founders Cathleen Cher, Esther Yoon, and Huyen to talk inspiration, challenges, and their favorite music.
What are the origins of Strita?
Strita is named after St. Rita, the patron saint of the impossible. Women who are in seemingly “impossible” situations have prayed to her for help to overcome difficult obstacles throughout history. We admire her persistence, embodiment of female empowerment, and dedication to her dream, and strive to work in the same manner. I (Cathleen) originally created Strita as a music centric creative consulting company, we created the DTLA branch for the lingerie line, as everything is sourced and made in DTLA. All of our pieces are also named after streets in LA.
Where were each of you creatively before your St. Rita collaboration?
Cathleen: I come from more of a music background. I have toured with Kanye West, DJ’d around the world, music supervised, produced, etc. This lingerie line was actually birthed from an idea that I was discussing with Virgil Abloh, someone whom I worked with closely in Kanye’s camp, who has started the amazing clothing brand OFF-WHITE and is also touring the world now DJing. Virgil thought the idea was something I should really pursue, and so I did. I didn’t have much fashion background, but I had ideas and together with my two business partners, we actualized them!
Esther: I always knew that I wanted fashion to be a part of my life. For a long time, I suppressed my passion for it because I wanted to do something more “meaningful.” So, I went to college, got my degree, worked a handful of jobs, and kept trying to figure out my life. I kept pushing back my desire to jump into the fashion world, but I just couldn’t contain my love for creating. I would make clothes on my own at home, look endlessly online at fashion shows and collections and online stores, and think of ways I could create new outfits or looks. Finally, it wasn’t until slight nudges from a handful of friends that I made the jump and moved to LA and started taking styling and designing seriously. I was lucky enough to have Cathleen already be in LA and connect me with people and jobs and finally…start Strita! It was once I realized and acknowledged that I had talent and appreciation and the work ethic for design that everything started falling into place.
Huyen: There’s nothing that brings me greater joy and gratification than being able to create beautiful things. Fashion is one of the best outlets for my creative mind. I came back to Los Angeles three years ago to pursue this passion and hopefully make a career out of it. I knew that in this city will be the perfect jump-off for my fashion pursuits. After working for bigger design brands, I realized that I have a stronger voice that was being muffled under all the corporate madness. So when I was offered this opportunity to partner in the launch of lingerie that speaks far beyond the bedroom, I instantly found my artistic voice again.
What was the driving force that brought you to making the collection?
Cathleen: Originally, I was inspired by the lack of female representation in the male dominated streetwear industry. I loved that culture and style, but wanted to dress feminine as well, and it was difficult to find anything that could cater to that. I wanted to do lingerie as I’ve always loved the style of layering, and wanted to create something that would become another layer to an amazing outfit.
Strita seems to come in and push the boundaries of femininity and masculinity. Can you give us a little insight into your motivations?
Cathleen: I grew up with two brothers and I always found myself trying to do “boy” things in order to fit in. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found it really difficult to embrace and express my femininity. I think trying to be one of the boys my whole life has made it difficult for me to let myself to just be a woman. Strita was an outlet that let me make pieces that made me feel sexy, comfortable, and proud of my lady parts. I don’t have to hide who I am, physically or emotionally or mentally anymore. I don’t want any woman to have to do any of that. That’s what Strita is about.
Esther: I’ve always struggled with what I’m supposed to look like and how I’m supposed to act as a woman. Words like “ladylike” and “provocative” continually popped into my head when I thought about how I should or should not dress or the actions that I should or should not make. Strita, to me, is the embodiment of all that is woman. You can be feminine, or you can be masculine. You can be covered up, or you can be revealing. You can paint your nails, or you can paint a car. Anything and everything is and can be woman, and our pieces reflect exactly that.
Huyen: Strita represents a powerful message. Women can be smart, sexy, funny, beautiful, strong, masculine, feminine, and most definitely every woman can be all of the above. We want to create a line that embodies all of those attributes. We want to craft pieces that can seamlessly transition from lingerie to ready to wear. Whatever the occasion, our pieces will make women feel sexy from the inside out. We want our Strita women to feel beautiful and fearless.
We’ve already seen the pieces donned by some of our favorite artists such as George Maple. What sort of music do you listen to on the reg?
Cathleen: I grew up listening to a lot of hip hop, the first CD I ever bought was Jay Z – The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. My childhood idol was definitely Mariah Carey though (it might have been our naturally raspy voice connection). I fell in love with electronic music during middle school and it just grew in college when I first discovered dubstep. When I got my chance to work with Kanye West, my love for hip hop was reignited– working for one of my favorite artists of all time and someone who is genre defying in many ways was inspiring. A few years ago after my experience on the inaugural Holy Ship!, an electronic music cruise, I knew that I needed to spend the rest of my life in the electronic music world and that’s kind of what I’ve been doing ever since.
Esther: Most of my musical influences stemmed from my family members, which explains my diverse taste from rock, hip-hop, jazz, and classical. I grew up listening to The Rolling Stones because of my dad, Boyz II Men, Green Day, and Common because of my sister, and 10,000 Maniacs, R.E.M., and Billie Holiday because of my brother. My siblings and I all grew up playing instruments, so classical musical was also a huge staple in our household. My whole family has a pretty strong affinity for musicals, as well. So…it’s all kind of random. But, give me some good R&B and I can call it a day.
Huyen: Music has always been my escape. I was that kid that waited patiently by my boom box for my favorite song to come on the radio, so I can record it on my cassettes and listen to it over and over again. I loved jumping around in my room listening to the latest pop songs. Mix tapes, was truly an understatement. My eclectic taste in music will leave anyone puzzled. I frequented many rock festivals when I was younger, crowd surfing for the first time when I was 13. As I got older I became a huge house head, partying it up all night in every city I traveled to. But music means so much more to me than great party music. It’s so mesmerizing how music can take you to another place and make you feel like you’re on top of the world. Music is a true art form. While watching great songs translate into amazing music videos, it inspired me to find my ability to make art that is significant and ingenious. I want to be this inspirational one day.
What’s the most difficult thing you had to overcome with creating Strita?
Cathleen: Being your own boss is probably the hardest thing. The work never stops, there’s always something more to do, but you have to know how to prioritize. Also, working with friends seems like a fun thing to do (and it is!) but it can also be very tricky. I’ve been so fortunate to be working with some of the coolest girls around– our biggest problem is communication, which I think may be a lot of peoples’ issues in work, and in any relationship. It’s a difficult thing to stay on top of when you’re so busy, but it’s so so important to just be honest and communicative and open.
The first collection, consisting of 5 sets, is available now at www.stritadtla.com.