November 2019

C2 Exclusive Interview with Kathryn Brolin

Author: Iain Denholm | Photographer: Krisztian Lonyai

Asilio Black Corset Cut-out Bodysuit
Lanvin Gold Plate Elastic Belt

Having already established Midheaven Denim as the go-to brand for tall girls, otherwise uncatered to by other jeans brands, Kathryn Brolin has expanded her line to truly represent her goal of providing an inclusive range that caters to all women. On top of this, the stunning entrepreneur and her husband, actor Josh Brolin, recently welcomed their baby daughter into the world. Here, Brolin discusses balancing her brand with being a new mom and all things “fashion.”

Iain Denholm: You’re just back from New York Fashion Week. How was it?
Kathryn Brolin: This was my first experience of Fashion Week, and it was crazy! It’s like going to an exhibit for an amazing photographer or sitting at a concert and listening to somebody’s beautiful music. Fashion Week is like that for designers, and you’re able to see the clothes up close and just allow your mind to get blown at how specific those decisions have to be. Fashion, to me, is a little daunting in some ways. There are parts of the industry that I don’t have a ton of respect for, but to see the manifestation of somebody’s art walking down a runway brings me back to the reason why I love what I do.

ID: Whose shows did you see?
KB: I didn’t want to leave my baby for too long, so I only went to one show: Cynthia Rowley. Fashion, to me, means self-expression, and I have never seen as much of that as I did when I was sitting at her show. There were so many different types of people, and everyone was reflecting Cynthia’s brand in their own way and expressing themselves according to their own personal vibe—and I love that. Cynthia’s an amazing designer, but she has also become an amazing mentor for me and a voice of guidance with my Midheaven brand. I don’t come from a fashion background, and I’m still learning every day.

ID: Tell us about Midheaven Denim. What inspired the name?
KB: Midheaven means the highest point a celestial object reaches in its daily traverse of the sky, which suggests looking upwards, and I really liked what that meant for tall women. Often, tall girls feel the need to hunch their shoulders over or come down into conversation, which creates this emotional deficit in a way, because you are losing that physical confidence. I think any tall girl could attest to that. You’re gonna be hard-pressed to find a tall woman who really likes to wear a pair of heels, because they don’t like to be taller than the rest of their friends or their boyfriend, or girlfriend, or whoever it is, and so I liked what that represented for me. It makes me want to reach for my own personal midheaven of sorts and hold my shoulders back and be really confident in my body; everything I do with my brand is with that intention. I really try to promote body confidence and feeling good in your skin, no matter what you look like.

ID: Celebrities such as Nicole Kidman and Cindy Crawford have worn your brand. For you, who is a Midheaven girl?
KB: It feels like everyone tries to get their product on somebody who “matters,” [Kathryn gestures air quotes] and I have always been very resistant to that idea. It is the people who are making those people celebrities who really have the power. To me, a Midheaven girl could be a celebrity, but she could just as easily be a girl in middle America who happens to be six foot two and can’t find a pair of jeans that fit her. That girl, sending me a message saying, “Thank you so much for creating this brand,” is just as exciting to me as any celebrity.

Balmain Black Silk Mini Drapey Dress . Gold and Crystal Snake Wrap Dress

ID: The Midheaven mantra, “Take back your height,” sounds very empowering.
KB: Absolutely. Midheaven is not just about jeans for me. It’s about the emotional impact of not having something that feels like it was made for you, and what I’ve really attached myself to are the stories of the people who order them. In fact, we’re about to do a video series of people sharing their own experiences of not being able to find what they want in the marketplace and their reasons for shopping at Midheaven. It’s been really cool to watch people peel back their own layers and start talking about feeling self-conscious. You often see brand advertisements that indicate that fashion equals happiness and people are feeling so great because they have this and this, but honestly, no one is documenting how someone feels when they are in a dressing room and they can’t find anything that fits them, and they are sitting crying. I have felt that way myself. In fact, that’s why I started Midheaven. It wasn’t so much a fashion statement as fulfilling a need for me. It’s so much more than just the aesthetic of fashion, and it’s so much more than just clothing.

ID: Do you plan to expand the Midheaven line?
KB: Yes. We originally started as a jeans line specifically for tall women, but we’ve now gone on to cater to a wider audience, which was so important to me as I want Midheaven to stand for inclusivity and diversity of size. Our sizes go from 24 to 34 in premium denim, so I like to describe our brand as having something for everyone. We’re also working on sleepwear and a couple of dresses that are not denim, which I’m really excited about.

When I started Midheaven, I didn’t want to include lots of different types of clothing or a ton of different styles. I just wanted to do a few really great pairs of jeans. Number one, because I didn’t want to overwhelm my audience, but I also didn’t want to overwhelm myself. I really had no expertise, and so I felt I needed to become really good at garment construction and get to know this business well before I started trying to do everything for everyone, which I know isn’t consistent with what we are seeing out there right now. Most brands offer so many different options, and I’m curious to know how they do it, because garment construction and production is very expensive.

ID: Was it important to you that Midheaven Denim was an eco-conscious brand?
KB: Incredibly. It is very expensive to take a more sustainable approach, but I was interested in spending the extra money to know that I wasn’t trashing the environment. There isn’t anyone running a fashion brand that doesn’t feel the pressure—which is great! We’re all accountable, and I think that is a beautiful thing. Stella McCartney is pioneering that side of the industry. She is doing a great job, and I have a lot of respect for that. We source our denim from Candiani, just outside of Milan, and the mill is in a national park, so they have to follow different regulations from the average mill. All their waste is recycled, and they also are the best denim in the world, so it was great to be able to provide both. It costs us so much money to import that fabric, but we are not priced any higher than the average denim brand because we are direct to consumer.

ID: How would you describe your own style?
KB: My style is pretty understated. It’s very simple, very plain, and I don’t really like a lot of prints. I’m honestly always in my Midheavens and a black or white tank top. I also love to rock a pair of leggings and just be in gym clothes (laughs). My husband makes fun of me. He’s like, “You have to wear some color some time. You’re a colorful individual on the inside; let’s represent that on the outside.”

I’m like “Hmm, okay.” I see myself as a mom who can’t focus on what I’m putting on, and it takes effort, which is hilarious because I have a fashion brand (laughs).

ID: You looked beautiful at the Avengers: Endgame premiere back in April.
KB: Oh, thank you so much. That carpet was crazy. It was just so cool to see Josh being celebrated for the amazing hard work he did on Avengers. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but it’s so good.

ID: Do you enjoy the red-carpet experience?
KB: If you want to study human behavior, then go to a red carpet. It’s crazy. A premiere is about the representation of a movie and how incredible that artform is, but that all gets lost on a red carpet because it’s about the cosmetic representation of the people who are there. That being said, if you want to see some really great fashion moments, then red carpets are so cool. Jessica Paster is the person I worked with for the Avengers: Endgame premiere and, talk about color and the need for it, she doesn’t have to try at all. She knows the brands that will represent what I love about fashion in such an effortless way. I have so much respect for stylists and what they do, especially Jessica.

ID: Your daughter Westlyn Reign turns one in November. Has it been a quick year?
KB: Oh, my goodness, it’s been so quick. She’s about to start walking! Somebody said to me that the days are long, but the years are short, and I totally believe that. Having a baby has changed my entire life, and it has changed how I structure my day. I’m up in the middle of the night with her often, and I don’t really like to rely on other people to do any of the work for me. So, she is very attached to me, and I’m with her all the time. She’s upstairs right now.

ID: Women sometimes speak of feeling pressure to be on top of everything—career, marriage, children. What are your thoughts, and how do you find that balance?
KB: It is hard to be a plugged-in person in our technology-ridden world and not feel the pressure to be everything. It’s almost like there’s this blanket statement of, if you don’t do everything and have multiple roles then you’re failing, and I couldn’t disagree with that more. Especially now that I’m a mom, because I see that all of that time spent on social media, trying to promote my business and push it forward, is time that I’m spending away from my kid or with a phone in my kid’s face, which is not acceptable to me. I wonder if there will start to be a general acceptance of humans at their base level and an acceptance that we are enough, and we are good enough, because everybody I talk to feels like they are not enough in some way, and that’s not healthy. That is not teaching our kids that they’re enough as they’ve been born to be. That’s why I was saying that I don’t care if it is a movie star wearing my jeans or somebody who isn’t in the public eye. They’re both equally important to me.

ID: Finally, career wise what is next for you?
KB: Growing Midheaven is a major priority of mine. But being a new mother has hit me in such a deep fragile place, which I was not expecting. I was the type of person who was pushing hardcore-forward to create a massive career, but to try to dip into too much right now would take away from my role as a parent, and that’s what I’m really focused on. Having a baby has been incredible, and to balance her with Midheaven, she wins out every time. Anything I do that takes me away from her has to be important enough to justify that time, but I’m very thoughtful and very fast in my decision-making now. Honestly, I think that having my baby has made me a better businessperson, and the business has made me a great mother.

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