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Indie label Kurt Lyle’s winter coats get people talking. “My sister always says that when she wakes up and picks out a coat, she has to decide if she wants people to talk to her that day or not,” Virginia Craddock, the designer behind the brand, tells me. “Because if she puts on a Kurt Lyle coat, people will talk to her.”
For the record, had I seen someone wearing one of her coats on the street, I definitely would have stopped them to ask where it was from.
Instead I came across the bold, 80’s-leaning collection of outerwear while shopping at Concrete + Water, a small boutique in Brooklyn that I stop in sometimes on my way home from work. After falling in love with the vibrant patterns and masculine-meets-feminine silhouettes, I called Craddock to find out more about her brand.
Craddock launched Kurt Lyle in spring of 2015 as a side project from her day job as cofounder of International Playground, a fashion brand collective and online shop that represents labels like Kowtow and H. Frederikkson. “I wanted to do something more creative, because my day-to-day is really sales- and development-focused, consulting with these brands,” Craddock says.
She started off designing jam pants before realizing she didn’t want to box herself in with one item. The following season, Craddock added outerwear. Ready-to-wear soon followed. But the coats, she says, will be a staple we’ll see returning every season.
Last fall, there were double-breasted coats and short-sleeve dolman jackets in a colorful appliqué cloud print, a black-and-white appliqué grid pattern, and a bold flat wool print in blue, red, and white ($206—$259). You can still shop last season’s coats on sale on Kurt Lyle’s site and Garmentory, but sizing is limited.
This season, the brand stuck to flat wool in bright patterns: a bold purple, yellow, and blue plaid cut in a long double-breasted coat ($398) as well as a reversible cape ($340); the same double-breasted silhouette in a geometric white, green, black, and gray pattern dubbed Deco ($398); and a long woolen vest that Craddock calls “Spock-inspired,” which fades from a zig-zag, tweed-y chevron to black, ombre-style ($294). There’s also a slubby, unlined sweater coat that looks like the world’s most comfortable thing to wear from September through March ($398).
According to Craddock, she’s inspired by her childhood and many of her reference points come from the ‘80s and ‘90s. “I grew up in the country, so my access to fashion really was just through magazines, the mall, and my mom's closet,” Craddock says. “That double-breasted Veronique coat, that is definitely something from that time period. I remember she had just the most beautiful camel-colored double-breasted coat, which was very similar to that.”
As might seem fitting for a brand that launched with jam pants, more than anything the label seems to be about fun. It’s about fun for Craddock, who says she makes design decisions for Kurt Lyle based on what she feels like designing, rather than what she thinks will sell. With such playful pieces, it’s also fun for the wearer.
And while you might think a statement coat could be hard to pull off, the truth is just the opposite.
“If you're wearing a Kurt Lyle coat, your look is done. You could pretty much put anything else you want underneath.”