THAW Fashion Show - Q&A: Kate Towers

Tonight I will be attending the THAW fashion show in Seattle. It is an annual fundraiser featuring local independent designers. Proceeds from a live auction will benefit the Huntington's Disease Society of America (HDSA) to fund social services and research. Not all the designers will be present with their collections, but there was one I couldn't let you miss. Kate Towers has a beautiful Portland aesthetic, and can't make it for the same reason we all wouldn't -- 3 hours in the car with a 20-month-old baby. We'll let it slide.

Her work is meticulous, voluminous, and defines the word couture. Her one-of-a-kind pieces embody every grown woman's dream dress-up wardrobe. This feeling of romance and sophistication washes over each garment in an effortless prerogative. If I never attain that 1997 Christian Dior ball gown, she is the one to make the replica.

Darrah: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Kate: I'm 32 years old and even though I'm originally from New England, I moved to Portland about 10 years ago.

Darrah: I read that you studied graphic design. How did you make the transition from graphic design to clothing design?

Kate: Well, I never really had an official job as a graphic designer. It was something I thought I wanted to to in high school and as my focus in college. I never made it there though. I moved to Portland and opened a store by mistake instead. That's when I started designing clothes.

Darrah: Did the idea of competition with other designers ever freak you out

Kate: It didn't necessarily "freak" me out, but it's always unpleasantly present. On the other hand, there is a very tight knit group of designers here in Portland -- people I consider my good friends. At the end of the day, our work and aesthetics are so different that competition isn't really an issue. We all seem to shine in our own ways and support each other -- which I love.

Darrah: Why do you choose to make one-of-a-kind pieces?

Kate: It's just the way I work. I have considered making seasonal collections to be produced every year but it never happens. I find myself going back into my little studio to make what I'm in the mood for. I think it's due to my very short attention span, and having way too many things I want to make. I don't have the patience to think that far ahead and plan and prepare. It makes the one-of-a-kind pieces that much more special! I'm still thinking about production some day. I get quite a few inquires from stores wanting to carry my line, which is great, but I have to turn them away, which is kind of lame.

Darrah: How does a client begin an order with you?

Kate: I've been inching away from custom orders over the years. I find that I end up compromising my art, and am never really excited to be working on someone else's vision. I do wedding dresses every year and it's very stressful. To be in charge of what a woman is wearing on her supposedly most important day of her life - eeek! I prefer to just have things available - offer them up as they are. Plenty of brides have bought my dresses off the rack and seem really happy. This is not to say that I won't do custom - just send a request and we'll talk about it. It also just depends on how booked I am with other projects.

Darrah: What if two customers wanted the same garment? Would you make replicas?

Kate: Possibly. It depends on what it is. Either way, they will still be different because they are hand made. A lot of my garments have very organic details on them, so this makes each piece unique as well.

Darrah: Do you like the boutique scene?

Kate: I like the boutique scene, but I don't make much money that way -- as glamorous as it may seem. I could see how taking things to a commercial level might help me live more comfortably, but that's not really what's important to me. I think it would take an outside party to persuade me. I doubt I'll seek it out on my own. I just want to make things that I love and hope that others love it too.

Darrah: What do you love about the northwest fashion scene? A lot of people think we are fleece wearing granola sock lovers.

Kate: That assumption sucks and is wrong! I think the northwest likes to be comfortable and needs to be somewhat sensible about the weather. However, I see more interesting fashion here than I've seen in a lot of other cities.

Darrah: Like you said, weather is an important factor in our wardrobe decisions. If you could design an umbrella for the fashionable local gal, what would it look like?

Kate: I've always loved those big clear dome shaped umbrellas! It makes sense -- you can see people, and they can see you. Funny enough, I never carry an umbrella. If I had to, it would have white tiers of ruffles made with waterproof fabric of course!

Darrah: How do you go about selecting your fabrics and materials?

Kate: I just buy what I love. Sometimes I have very specific things in mind, but it's not always easy to find what I want. I loll around the fabric store until things grab me. Occasionally, I'll find great things at estate sales, thrift shops, etc. Most of the time I will buy the fabric first and the piece is inspired from it.

Darrah: What's your inspiration?

Kate: Everything. The weather which affects my mood, fabrics, photographs, traveling, day dreams, scenarios I make up in my head. I like to think about where someone might wear something.

Darrah: How do you squeeze in time to design with a baby?

Kate: That's just it - I have to SQUEEZE it in. It's so hard to squeeze in creativity. It's like I have these forced moments. "Okay, she's down for a nap!" Who knows how long, so I'm like, "Quick! Clean up the house, scrub under her high chair from lunch, answer some emails, and quick! Quick!" I might get to the studio and make something amazing with those remaining 20 minutes if I'm so lucky! Babies are so unpredictable, and mine doesn't like to do anything on schedule or be put down much. So yeah, it's hard. Really hard. Somehow you find little bits, as exhausted as you are, and you do what you can. I often miss my time to myself in the studio, but then someday she'll march off to kindergarten and I'll cry.

Darrah: That's the true life of a mommy. So, what can people expect to see from you at THAW tonight?

Kate: A little mix of this and that -- Lots of ruffles and some hand dyed pieces.

Darrah: I can't wait! If someone were to fall in love with your work, (cough, cough) how could they contact you to purchase something?

Kate: They can email me through my website, and I will try to get back to them as soon as possible! If I ever find the time again, I will post things to my Etsy site. It's been empty for the last few months since I've been making things for THAW and other various shows!


lydia said...

Great interview, and her clothes in the fashion show were really REALLY beautiful!!!

The Little Fashion Treasury said...

such an interesting interview, also
like the pictures very much ;)
... and when it comes to your vintage dior ball gown..
it´s great to have a friend in the fashion industry ;)


Savvy Mode SG said...

that dior gown is divine. it's really cool with friends in fashion industry. a gal can get all sort of goodies.

Underfunded Heiress said...

Ooh, absolutely beautiful dresses!

Great interview!

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maureen said...

such a talented designer! those clothes are heavenly.

thanks btw for stopping by at my blog. stay chic:)

Emma said...

those are gorgeous dresses!!

Riot Report said...