Layer by Layer
The One Seattle-Designed Wardrobe Item That Every Seattle Woman Truly Needs
It's not a rain boot or a rain jacket, and no high tech fabrics are involved—unless you consider cashmere high tech. (And after you read this in-depth primer, you might.)
Sure, those couple of 80-degree days we had were amazing, and the climate change reports signal overall warming trends, but let's be honest: the sixth month of the year is not known as June-uary for nothing.
In Seattle, layering can be a year-round sport. I trust you have the winter trials down—fleece, box-weave thermals, flannel, repeat. But local designer Kathleen Baxley's line of luxury underpinnings, Mere Basics, offer beautiful spring/summer options that allow Seattle women to pull on short sleeve tops and lightweight dresses well before it's actually warm enough to do so.
I know because I've been road-testing one of her spare, lovely, cream-colored cashmere camisoles for the last two months. And by road-testing I mean I haven't taken it off since I put it on. (Except on those 80-degree days.)
"Mere Basics has been percolating with me for years," Baxley told me. "I usually wear an undershirt of some sort because I crave softness and warmth. Problem was that traditional offerings did not suit my style; the neckline was too conservative, the knit too bulky, the shape too baggy, fabric too ugly. After years working in finance in New York, I came to a point in my career where I had flexibility to do something new so I relocated to Seattle and grew to believe that Mere Basics was an idea that had legs. I see it as not just a business, but a style platform for women who believe in taking care of themselves."
Taking really good care of themselves.
"Technically, cashmere is defined as the soft underbelly fiber that protects goats during the harsh Mongolian winters, which average 22 below Fahrenheit," explains Baxley, getting at just how and why cashmere is so sumptuous, and so expensive. "Given their extreme living environment, cashmere goats have evolved so that their coats are eight times warmer than sheeps’ wool. Moreover, the global supply of cashmere is 6,500 metric tons versus two million metric tons of sheeps’ wool, so the raw materials are harder to come by."
Baxley explained the various metrics—the luster, crimp, and fineness of each fiber to begin with—that go into grading cashmere, too. Suffice it to say, she says her Mere Basics—not just camisoles but cap sleeve tops, leggings, tap pants, and more—are made the top shelf stuff. The line is manufactured in Inner Mongolia; as with, Baxley tells me, 70 percent of the world's cashmere.
"The technology required to produce Mere Basics’ lightweight, fine-gauge knits does not exist in the United States because it is very expensive and the market for such specialized, delicate fibers is limited."
I am of the mind that one-style-fits-all claims are generally bunk, but here I'm making an exception. Baxley tells me that the line has broadest appeal in the winter—in fact, "Sarah Jessica Parker recently bought an assortment of pieces to wear under jeans, but Mere Basics is intended for year-round wear," she said.
I'm ready to call it, too: these Seattle-designed pieces are an all-city, four-season staple.