Katie Holmes on Fashion, Beauty and Crafts

The actress sits down with WWD to discuss becoming the first face of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, as well as her fashion and acting projects.

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Katie Holmes

Photo By Stephen Sullivan

Katie Holmes and Bobbi Brown

Photo By Stephen Sullivan

She's been feeling her way in the fashion business since 2009, but Katie Holmes admits the retail world still has the power to surprise her.

“When you go in and you show your clothing, you think that they’re going to buy the whole collection,” she said with a hearty laugh during an exclusive interview with WWD on Tuesday, minutes after inking a deal with Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. “And when they don’t, you’re like, ‘What do you mean? It all goes together. So what do we do with this?’ So that was new, but I think that’s kind of a life thing — ‘What, you don’t want all of me?’”

Holmes, along with business partner Jeanne Yang, will stage Holmes & Yang’s first New York Fashion Week presentation on Wednesday. Clad in a long-sleeve cream silk blouse from her fall line, the actress sipped coffee with soy milk as she answered questions ranging from the origins of her ready-to-wear label to the scope of her new beauty deal.

The 33-year-old Holmes will appear as the first celebrity face for the 21-year-old Bobbi Brown brand. According to executives, she also will act as the brand’s muse and a full-blown collaborator. Her face will appear in a new ad campaign, due to break next spring, as well as on-counter visuals at point of sale. In fall 2013, her name will appear on a capsule collection of color cosmetics. While Holmes, Brown and executives from the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., which owns the brand, declined comment on details of Holmes’ contract with the brand, industry sources estimated the actress is being paid between $2 million and $3 million over the course of a multiyear deal.

While personable, Holmes adeptly sidestepped questions that veered too far into the personal realm — as with the topic of where her six-year-old daughter, Suri Cruise, will start school this fall (reportedly Academy of the Sacred Heart). All Holmes would say was, “They’ll find out in due time.”

Despite the press’ frenzied efforts to ferret out the smallest of details regarding her past few months (ignited by her high-profile divorce from Tom Cruise), she doesn’t trash the Fourth Estate: “I have a lot of feelings about the press,” she said with a smile. “There are a lot of people with much bigger problems and who are less fortunate. I try to keep it all in perspective.”

But she grows animated when speaking about her Holmes & Yang collection, which launched at Maxfield’s and is carried by such retailers as Barneys New York and Dallas boutique Forty Five Ten. She and Yang chose this season to stage their first formal New York Fashion Week presentation “because the brand is growing and expanding, and so we thought we would have something a little more substantial.”

They’re hoping the week will help expand the brand’s reach at retail, said Holmes.

A presentation rather than a full-blown show felt right, said Holmes. “We’ve been very gradual from the beginning, and part of that has been because we’ve wanted to take the time to get to know the business, get to know the right stores — and, most importantly, to get to know the customer and what she needs. In terms of the presentation versus the show, we felt a presentation was more appropriate for the clothes we sell. It’s a little more our speed in the way we wanted to go about it, and more of a transition for us from meeting privately with buyers in a hotel room to going right to a big show.”

Holmes describes the Holmes & Yang aesthetic as “very simple, with very classic lines. We use a lot of silks and leathers and suedes. This year, we’re excited because we’ve incorporated a lot of new trims. It’s basically pieces that have evolved from basics, but not too far. They’re just nice, well-made luxury items that highlight the woman wearing them.” Price points start from about $700 and range to $3,000, she said. “We have a lot of casual, and gowns, some unique jackets.” Details include shirts lined in silk — “the silky part of the shirt is on your body all day,” she said.

Yang worked as Holmes’ stylist for five years before the two founded their brand. “She has incredible taste, and I look to her for a lot of guidance,” Holmes said of Yang. “I’ll have an idea, and I’ll say, ‘Jeanne, is this good or is it not?’ And she gives her opinion, and she’s very generous. She comes from one way of looking at things, I come from another, and we always meet in the middle and are very appreciative of the other person. We’ve never, in all this time, gotten into a fight over a look. It’s usually like, ‘Oh, really? Yeah, that’s perfect! I’m so glad you thought of that.’ It sounds like, ‘Yeah, right,’ but it’s true. Even when I’m leaving the house, I’m like, ‘Jeanne, is it good?’

“When Jeanne and I decided to do this — we’re both mothers; our daughters are very good friends — and I said, ‘Jeanne, this has to be something that we enjoy, because we want to do it with our girls here.’ We started off because we wanted to have shirts that were well-made and went with everything. I just want something I can wear all the time and nobody’s going to say, ‘Oh, I saw that yesterday.’ We try to make beautiful things, and we’re not so trend-driven. We try to do a touch of rock ’n’ roll with our stuff, but keep it very classic.”

While they’ve dabbled in children’s wear and have a deal with Valextra for handbags, Holmes noted that she and Yang, for the moment, are focusing chiefly on their ready-to-wear offering. Of children’s wear, she noted: “It’s a lot of work for a price point that really doesn’t make sense for that age. Obviously, they can’t wear them very long.”

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