She Turned Her Love of Pajamas Into a Thriving Career
The Intimate Story of Amber Watts
July 16, 2019 .5 min read
Local Philadelphian designer, Amber Watts, made a name for herself in the intimates world by designing for brands such as Oscar de la Renta, Carole Hochman, and Anthropologie. But Amber knew that designing for high-end designers was just one of the many stepping stones she had to take before going off on her own to create her legacy, Kaki Intimates, a line that would later allow women to feel empowered and beautiful in their own skin.
Growing up, Amber was no stranger to creativity. With an artist for a father and a home filled with love and encouragement, Amber was always inspired to tap into that “art gene" she inherently picked up.
With that, it’s no surprise that Amber’s hunt for a creative outlet started at a young age. As a baby, Amber was drawn to the feeling of her mother’s silk nightgowns and slips and when she was old enough to sew, she began creating her own pieces.
By the time she was ready for college, Amber knew she wanted to study fashion design.
So, when it came to deciding on what college she would attend, Amber chose to attend Drexel University.
Amber was intrigued by studying abroad at the London College of Fashion and the Co-Op program Drexel offered their students. The opportunity allowed their students to go and actually work in the field they would hope to one day work professionally.
And through her Co-Op opportunity, she was able to land an internship in New York City with Nanette Lepore, which gave her a rare high-end fashion runway experience. And while the internship was indeed an amazing one, it presented one major realization for Amber, what she did not want to do with her professional career.
She realized she did not love the high paced lifestyle of Runway.
So, after her time in NYC, Amber returned to Drexel to continue taking courses and to finish out her degree. After exploring a few classes, Amber figured it out.
She knew what she wanted to do.
She wanted to go into designing lingerie.
This was apparently the right direction to go in because shortly after defining an area of fashion that she wanted to take on professionally, Amber went on to receive the Carole Hochman Award in her senior year of college, which granted her award money and an opportunity to intern with the designer, herself.
However, that internship opportunity actually turned into a full-time job offer instead.
Amber accepted the offer as an assistant designer and went onto work for Carole Hochman, a former Drexel grad, who has been designing intimate apparel for more than 30 years and is considered one of the most influential women in the intimate apparel and sleepwear business.
During Amber’s time at Carole Hochman Design Group, she was given the chance to design for Oscar de la Renta signature sleepwear. Through the position, Amber and team provided designs to the Oscar de la Renta team which were approved by his step-daughter Eliza Bolen and sold at high-end department stores.
The opportunity was not only resume-building, but it was an opportunity where Amber was able to experience high-end fashion but in a more laid back environment.
It was perfect.
And during her two and a half years at Carole Hochman, Amber moved quickly up the ladder.
Not only did Amber get promoted to Associate on the Carole Hochman Midnight brand but she was also asked to help design for other brands such as; Jane And Bleecker, Carole Hochman signature, and Midnight’s religious.
Carole Hochman Design Group was later acquired by Komar.
But right before Carole Hochman Design Group/ Komar moved offices to Jersey city, Amber was approached by Anthropologie for help on starting their own lingerie line.
Amber accepted the opportunity and made her way back to the Philadelphia area.
Working for Anthropologie was, in a way, freeing. Freeing in terms of the experience that is, especially for a designer because the company gave them the ability to explore and try new things with their designs.
But with that, came some challenges.
Once Amber joined, she became responsible for helping to build out an entirely new category that Anthropologie had never been a part of before, a new lingerie line.
With that came processes, new vendors and a lot of trial and error.
Amber ended up working with Anthropologie for just over three and a half years designing their sleepwear, lingerie, activewear, loungewear and resort collection. However, she eventually decided to step away to challenge herself more and start her own brand, which would later be known as Kaki Intimates.
With not a single thing to her name but the experience she obtained with Carole Hochman, Oscar de la Renta, and Anthropologie, Amber knew that this was the only time she could really go out on her own.
She was young and in the perfect position to take a risk.
This was her opportunity.
So, Amber took her savings, went to a bank and asked for a line of credit.
With nothing but her savings and her experience in fashion, the bank granted her a small line of credit which was later used to help fund her first collection, “Your something new and something blue"
When creating her first collection, Amber knew she wanted to create a quality collection that would allow any bride to feel beautiful. No matter their body type, Amber wanted every bride to feel special. So, she created mix and match pieces that would allow women to show off their best features and feel as if each piece were made with them, specifically, in mind.
“The designs are meant to instill confidence and beauty on a brides special day & night. The collection consists of four interchangeable pieces; bralette, panty, cami, and tap short."
Amber’s first collection launched in Summer of 2018 and was sold to BHLDN.
By the way, this was a huge deal, especially for a small designer. Amber was able to sell four styles to BHLDN, which later turned into 480 pieces, allowing for just over 100 pieces per style.
But through her experience with BHLDN, which was terrific, Amber realized not only what was important to her but what experience she wanted and needed her customers to have with Kaki Intimates.
Amber realized that quality and price should go hand-in-hand.
Amber wanted her customers to enjoy a garment that was not only made of quality in America but came at a reasonable price. So, she turned her focus on trying to sell her products direct-to-consumers
She also realized that connecting with her customers directly was not only essential but crucial.
With that, Amber chose to attend festivals, trunk shows, and popups. These opportunities were found to be more satisfying to Amber as she could directly communicate with her customer. The connection was not only direct, but it was genuine and authentic. It gave Amber the opportunity to directly speak with her customers about the brand and was able to receive feedback in real-time which she could immediately implement if needed.
So, where is Amber Watts today and what does the future of Kaki Intimates look like?
As of today, Amber has been busy in business for herself for just over a year and has put much of her attention on creating quality and flattering pieces at a reasonable price. In addition to that, Amber has taken a more hands-on approach with her customers by attending events. She also continues to offer custom hand made pieces for the perfect fit and style.
In terms of the future, you can expect to see a holiday collection this year from Amber, so stay tuned for that! And as for the long-term future of Kaki Intimates, Amber hopes to continue to build as a direct-to-consumer brand with occasional sales to more prominent retailers every once in a while.
To show your support for a woman run, small business start-up, visit Kaki Intimates at www.kakiintimates.com.
Meredith is a Philadelphia native with a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from Duquesne University and has worked in digital marketing for over seven years. She’s passionate about writing to women to help them feel more confident in their financial lives.