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The Kith Recipe: 2 (or 7) Parts Collaboration, 1 Part Stars

Category: Fashion & Style,Lifestyle

LeBron James and Justin Bieber were among the high-profile guests at the Kith show, which turned out to be one of the major events of New York Fashion Week.

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Ronnie Fieg, left, the founder of Kith, backstage at his New York Fashion Week show.CreditCreditShawn Brackbill for The New York Times

Not all arbiters are created equal. There are the fashion editors and stylists who make their way around town during fashion weeks, dispensing judgments and Instagram posts as they go. They still have the power to move the needle for a brand.

But so does Justin Bieber, who bounced his way into the Kith show at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Thursday night.

So does LeBron James. He doesn’t come to many fashion shows, but he came to this one, as good a sign as any that it had the makings of a major event. Mr. James had even had a preview. Earlier that day, he had posted an Instagram of himself wearing a pair of shorts from a Kith and Versace collaboration that would be unveiled at the evening’s show.

Yes, Versace. That Versace. Donatella Versace is, apparently, one of the many who recognizes the pull that Kith and its founder, Ronnie Fieg, have on the fashion-hungry crowds.

An entire segment of Mr. Fieg’s show was dedicated to a new capsule collection designed with Versace, using its archive prints and some of its cuts. (Mr. Fieg wore a hat reading “Donatella” in gratitude, as a sign of mutual respect.)

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Looks from the Kith collaboration with Versace, shown at New York Fashion Week. CreditShawn Brackbill for The New York Times
Kith also collaborated with Tommy Hilfiger, the 1990s hip-hop Tommy style. CreditShawn Brackbill for The New York Times

Another segment was a capsule with Tommy Hilfiger, in 1990s hip-hop Tommy style. Yet another was with Greg Lauren, part Ivy League, part military base. Another still, the largest, was of Kith’s main collection, larded with yet more collaborations: with Levi’s, with Vans, with Columbia, with Bergdorf Goodman and more. Bleacher seating on a moving track ferried the audience among the four.

The collaborators know the potential benefit. Kith is nothing less than phenomenon. There is a velvet rope stationed outside its NoLIta shop for the inevitable lines that form.

Mr. Fieg said backstage that his partnerships are born out of passion, and there’s every reason to think the brands return it. Everyone could use a little buzz, especially if goosed by the patronage of people like Mr. Bieber and Mr. James, whose opinions reach far and wide.

The crowd after the show was practically vibrating. “The dopest I ever saw,” one well-wisher raced up to Mr. Fieg to say. “Off the charts!” said the actress Elizabeth Berkley, Mr. Lauren’s wife.

Does it matter that this critic wasn’t as enthusiastic? Probably not. Mr. Fieg’s collection in some ways feels more edited than designed, pulling from various trends across the spectrum in a smart, salable way.

In a third collaboration, the label teamed up with Greg Lauren. CreditShawn Brackbill for The New York Times

And yet it can be hard to locate his own signature, what is precisely Kith about it all. When Mr. Fieg brings in collaborators with even stronger design signatures — like Ms. Versace, Mr. Lauren and the Hilfiger company — the Kithness wilts under the heat of theirs, even when his brand name is stitched alongside their own.

Mr. Fieg, reasonably enough, appeared to take umbrage at the question of where to find the Kith in his collaborations. “It’s in the product,” he said. “You’re seeing it right now. The designs are through the Kith lens.”

And so they are. He and his team combed the Versace archive, picked prints, updated silhouettes. He is the one who looked back on his Tommy-wild youth and channeled that ardor into pieces that Naughty by Nature, who performed at Mr. Hilfiger’s own show 22 years ago, would likely have loved.

Without doubt, there is a customer today who wasn’t of shopping age the first time around, to the delight of those who sell the Kith collection. “I love it,” said Bruce Pask, the men’s fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman, one of the collaborators. “There’ll be lines.”


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