Interview with the designer Karin Oèbster

At the age of seventeen Karin Oèbster created her first clothes. She initially conceived and created her designs in absence of patterns. Her fashion skills were enhanced upon her move from the mountainous countryside of Salzburg to Vienna to attend the “Michelbeuern” fashion college. Until 1999 she worked as a designer for Austrian and Swiss labels. Today she has established as one of the leading avant-garde fashion designers in Austria.

KAYIKO offers fashion and accessories in exclusive limited editions and individual pieces for self-conscious, cosmopolitan people who value design, quality and individual luxury. KAYIKO was founded in 1998 in Vienna. After international appearances in Milan and New York, Karin Oèbster decided in 2008 to concentrate on her own shop in Vienna.

We are delighted to have an opportunity to ask Karin Oèbster about the signature style of her creations, the recent collection and the inspiration behind it.

Karin, tell us about the clothes you create, what is your signature style?

I create clothes for every day, not for special occasions like evening dresses. Even people think, my clothes are so exceptional that they only would wear them visiting theatre or attending events. But this is not my intention. My signature style is that there is never a classic waist-line. And the idea that people should move their clothes not the other way round.

What is the philosophy behind the brand?

I don’t have a defined philosophy for my brand. I design clothes of which I can imagine that people wear them with pleasure. I never would do a design of which I believe that it hides the person wearing it. It is interesting, people with a strong personality always look exciting in my clothes. On the other hand, weak persons often seem to be disguised.

What is the woman/man of Kayiko like? And who are your clients?

I don’t see a special person or type when I create my collections. I see a person with great individuality and this obviously cannot be a single one. I approach persons with the imagination of their own characteristic look. My clients like timeless things, no short-time trends. They want things crafted in small manufacturies, no mass production. For my clients this is luxury. In my shop I have a wall tattoo with a quote by Coco Chanel: “Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity.”

How would you describe your brand in three words?

Less is more.

«I design clothes of which I can imagine that people wear them with pleasure»

How did you come to establishing your own brand? What was your route to fashion industry?

I worked for a Swiss designer and one day I thought why not put my creativity in my own label. Designing clothes was a dream of my childhood. At that time I had no idea of fashion, it just was clothes I wanted to make. But I started my education in fashion not until I was 23 years old when I came from the countryside to Vienna. Today I am very happy that I started not too young into fashion. Fashion, or better the fashion business, can break you when you have not enough self-confidence.

Where do you find inspiration for your collections?

Always and anywhere. Sometimes I sit still and see a movie inside my head. It is a lot of fantasy. But the inspiration is not all, I even have to research a lot.

Could you, please, describe your creative process and also the process of creating and manufacturing your clothes? What fabrics do you prefer?

I start with a theme for my next collection. This could be a phrase or a single word. When I choose the fabrics it helps me to find a matching selection. Fabrics, this is a special topic. I am always tempted to buy more fabrics than I need because they feel so good to the touch or have a special looking surface. When the fabrics are delivered to my studio I test them how they react, are they falling or flowing, are they stiff or flexible. Sometimes I treat them additionally. Only then I go ahead creating the models, designing the patterns and sometimes testing a sample. After that we directly manufacture the collection. Meanwhile we produce the majority inhouse in our own studio two floors above the shop.

«I don’t see a special person or type when I create my collections. I see a person with great individuality and this obviously cannot be a single one»

What is the best part of designing? And what is the most challenging part of your work?

The really fascinating thing for me is the journey of the idea in my head into a pattern on the fabric to the sewing and finally to the model on a person. When that process works I feel fantastic. On the other hand, I have ideas that take days and days to be realized. Then I feel depressed and have sleepless nights.

Do you have style icons? And what is your idea of beauty?

No special ones. I love people who are doing things in their own way. My idea of beauty is an imperfect one. Beauty has to be vibrant with rough edges and corners. So I don’t like uniformity.

Could you, please, tell us about the Global Jacket Project idea?

I was invited to make an exhibition in a gallery near Vienna. To show only clothes was not the right approach for me. So I decided to start the Global Jacket Project. In Vienna we have a strong lady, Ute Bock, who helps refugees that have stranded here. The idea behind was that fashion can transcend all boundaries, why can’t people. I sewed four jackets and gave them friends who took them with on their journeys around the world. People from everywhere signed the jackets and have been photographed in the jackets. We documented the project in a blog and auctioned the jackets to the benfit of Ute Bock on the last day of the exhibition in the gallery. One year later I started with three other labels from Vienna a second round of the Global Jacket Project.


What is the story behind your latest collection? What was it inspired by?

I was inspired by the so called Kalasiris. This is the first ancient form of a shirt or dress. When I researched for the collection I noticed that the pattern of my simple shirts is very close to the Kalasiris. To make a whole collection based on such a simple pattern was a challenge. How can I develop other forms, what about fabric manipulation. At the end the collection felt very rooty. Together with my photographer Mischa Nawrata and my make-up artist Alix Stria I decided to realize this rooty style in the pictures of the collection.

«My idea of beauty is an imperfect one. Beauty has to be vibrant with rough edges and corners»

How does traveling inspire you and what are your favourite places/cities?

… because I travel so often (smiling). No, the most journeys take place in my imagination. So there is no favourite place or city I could name. But I most love the places at the water or even better at the sea. There I can relax my soul.

What are the most exciting places in Vienna that you would advise our international readers to visit?

… because I go out so often (smiling). What I really can advise for summer is the waterfront of the “Donaukanal”. This river runs directly through the city. Here you find a lot of bars and restaurants where you can enjoy the sun just a few steps away from the heart of the city. In winter I love to visit the Loos Bar – great drinks and handsome staff.

Where can our readers buy your clothes?

I sell my clothes exclusively at my own KAYIKO shop in Vienna. I think, people who are travelling a lot love to discover special things they can’t buy in other cities. The shop is located in one of the most beautiful Baroque houses in the sixth district. It has an absolutely private atmosphere that can barely be seen from the outside. I don’t sell online or by mail order except for my customers whom I have seen once. So I know what would fit them and I provide them with photos or send them a selection of clothes. They keep what they love and send the rest back to me.

Thank you very much for the great and inspiring interview! We wish you a lot of success! 

 Our readers should definitely pay a visit to KAYIKO shop at:

Windmühlgasse 16, 1060 Vienna, Austria

To learn more about KAYIKO check the website at:

Photo credits: KAYIKO

Portrait: photographed by Mischa Nawrata
Carolin Dichtl photographed by Mischa Nawrata
Johannes Krisch photographed by Mischa Nawrata