Made by women, for women: Talking with Kate Goldman MacDonald of House Dress

May 4

We recently met Kate Goldman Macdonald, founder of House Dress, in her home to talk about her sustainable design philosophy and newest collection.

I cozied up in Kate’s living room next to her dog Jerry, the unofficial mascot for House Dress. He charmingly matched his human, wearing a jaunty kerchief of Japanese-made fabric. Kate’s home is as artistic and carefully considered as her design collection. Stacks of books and fabric samples cover the tables, while eclectic art objects are displayed at eye level. It’s a home that invites you to settle in and explore.

Kate founded House Dress after years in the corporate fashion industry. She was guided by a philosophy to empower women through clothing, and creates pieces that are “made by women for women who dress for women.” Kate’s designs inspire a breezy new way of being by shifting the focus from dressing for a male gaze to feeling cool, smart and comfortable for oneself.

Her brand offers a “size-free” approach to dressing, which appeals to a wide range of body shapes and sizes. The silhouettes are oversized and leave plenty of room for movement. Kate mentions that this also results in less waste, as the patterns are cut and sewn more efficiently.

That’s only one of the myriad ways that sustainability play into Kate’s work.

In her time working in corporate fashion, she didn’t have visibility into the process nor ownership of her designs after she created them. She didn’t know who would be sewing them or where they would be sewn — and that bothered her.

Now, her clothes are created in a Garment District factory in New York City. To say hello to the people working on her clothes and see the sewing in action, all she has to do is hop on the subway. With this oversight comes a sense of intimacy: she forms relationships with the people working on her designs and can ensure that they are working in good conditions with fair wages.

To her, local production is crucial to the sustainability mission. Aside from the ethical component of creating transparency in the production process, House Dress can also be proud of its smaller carbon footprint. The clothes aren’t shipped from factories overseas, which cuts out one wasteful step in the manufacturing process.

For emerging sustainable designers, Kate says to first recognize the impact that you’re already creating just by embarking on the mission. It’s difficult to start a new business, and sometimes even more difficult to create one with sustainability at its core. Find the time to acknowledge that you are already a positive force.  

She also tells new designers to remember that not every aspect of your business will be sustainable right away. Focus on one area of sustainability, whether it’s environmental or ethical, and make that area into something you can be proud of. Then, as you build your business, integrate more sustainable practices. Sustainability is a process — sometimes an imperfect one. Celebrate your accomplishments and keep on working.

While visiting with Kate, she introduced us to her new collection of beautifully made garments. Kate gets her design inspiration from all over the world. She may be captivated by a colorful organic cotton print made in Osaka, Japan, as well as a men’s vintage Hungarian pajama top from Florence. She’s drawn to the textural qualities of the fabric, ones that tell a story.

I fell in love with a kimono-inspired trench jacket that seems to exemplify the House Dress philosophy: comfortable, elegant and self-assured. There’s a generous drape to the jacket, yet it feels polished as if it’s meant to complement the wearer rather than overshadow her.

House Dress is more than just a clothing company or a sustainable brand — it’s a lifestyle centered around women feeling confident in themselves. Check it out and tell us what you think!