French designer Coco Chanel not only created some of the most iconic fashions of the 20th century, she also wrote about fashion. She called fashion architecture in its relationship to proportions. She also said, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. Fashion is always of the time in which you live. It is not something standing alone. But the grand problem, the most important problem, is to rejuvenate women. To make women look young. Then their outlook changes. They feel more joyous.”
Some designers adhere to the idea that fashion is art while others treat fashion as the expression of a person’s joy. Whichever case designers steadfastly hold, fashion in Kansas City is burgeoning like never before. For more than 10 years, cutting-edge designers have sought the outdoor runways of the West 18th Street Fashion Show. Others have found Kansas City Fashion Week, the consortium of designers, boutiques, photographers, models, stylists, and artists working together to bring Kansas City to a new standard in the fashion industry. This year, the fall Fashion Week is Sept. 5 to Sept. 9. Others find an outlet in philanthropic organizations hosting fashion shows such as the Harvest Ball Society’s Adorn Style Show Sept. 22 at Bartle Hall.
The five designers featured in this story are Angie Snow, Brittany Davidson, Andrea Long, Yulie Urano and Laura McGrew. They have all been part of the West 18th Street Fashion Show in June. These five designers are part of the vibrant design scene in Kansas City which includes dozens of local designers.
Snow has the MoVi Modern Vintage Mobile Boutique, which has been part of the First Fridays landspace since May. She also parks the Airstream in Westport on Saturdays. Davidson has her online store at www.bmdesignsonline.com. Long’s work can be found at www.andreamarielong.com. Urano has an Etsy site and her own web presence at www.yulieurano.com. And McGrew has Tomboy Design Studio at 1817 McGee.
Angie Snow is the sort of clothing designer who lives what she sews. “Every day is an occasion. Rise and dress for it!” If a person doesn’t believe that, Snow will show rather than tell with her latest print skirt that has been overhauled from the 1970s. Her taste for “upcycling” began in college at California State in Los Angeles where there were no apparent rules to fashion. “Why require a special event? Make it special now with a great outfit,” she says.
Snow and her MoVi Modern
Vintage Mobile Boutique housed out of a refurbished Airstream prove that everything old can be new again. With the recycled pieces, Snow looks for details like the daintiness of a collar or a dropped waist. “My aesthetics are so varied. Different pieces speak to me and they can be fun, artistic, feminine and in turn, I give them a modern feel. I also encourage folks to mix patterns and colors. I want to get people out of their comfort zone.” Her boutique is open First Fridays and Saturdays. “It’s like a beautiful closet that opens up to many women in the community.”
Brittany Davidson is a designer who strives to create everyday women’s wear that can be worn to work or out on the town. “I want my work to be accessible. It is hard to find that balance between art and wearability, but I strive for that,” she says. Davidson, a 23-year-old Kansas City native, studied fashion design and marketing at the American International University in London. She spent some time in Paris and came back home in 2009 to start her women’s wear line, BMDesigns. “Fashion is an artistic expression on the human form,” she says. Her work has been seen in Kansas City Fashion Weeks and at the West 18th Street Fashion show. Davidson is planning some men’s resort wear to showcase at the next fashion week. “I also enjoy different shapes and silhouettes,” she says. Davidson’s aim is to prove that one can achieve a city-chic look. She says her trademark look is “classic with a twist.” “My pieces are always feminine. I suppose that is my design aesthetic.”
Andrea Long studied costume design at the University of Kansas. She created costumes for the Creede Repertory Theater Co. in Colorado during her summers. She spent some time with KC Costume. She also taught English in South Korea which gave her an opportunity to express Asian fashion. Long says fashion, like costuming for plays or musicals, tells a story. One recent collection for Long was inspired by the 2010 floods in Pakistan. Rather than a bleak landscape, Long saw images of color, texture and vibrancy. Is fashion art? Long says absolutely. “We make choices just as an artist does. There are patterns and colors. We have to decide on what message we wish to convey. In many aspects, it is similar to sculpture. We create initially in a 2-D environment, but then we put the fashion on the body and it becomes 3-D. We are constantly editing for fit and movement. We are creating pieces of art. When a costume is worn by an actor, it helps express the character in an even deeper way. It is about expression and I enjoy creating things I find beautiful.”
A traditional knitting class at the Kansas City Arts Institute as part of the fibers program began Yulie Urano’s move to sculptural knitting. Urano, a recent BFA graduate from the Fibers program at the Kansas City Art Institute, is drawn to the unusual, graphic designs of Walter Van Beirendonck, Sandra Backlund, and Yayoi Kusama. However, inspiration started early on as her grandmothers sewed. She made doll clothes while one grandmother would make kimonos. The other knitted. “I didn’t think this would be a career path, but I ran with it. I experiment with everything. The sculptural knitting can be seen in body suits and dresses. It’s all made by my hands. I am still learning and growing, but it is mine.” Knitting has been a family affair as she has received needles from her mother and watched one of her grandmothers. Her Japanese culture has also influenced her. Urano sees knitting as a sort of structural result that sometimes becomes fashion. “Almost one size fits all. It is a little like a costume in a way. It’s not traditional and you don’t get a typical silhouette in my works. I suppose the creativity is a relationship that bridges fashion and art.”
Laura McGrew, Tomboy
Laura McGrew will celebrate her Tomboy Design studio’s 10th anniversary in the spring. She has been part of the Crossroads Art District since April 2003. She is active in the First Fridays events, hosts breakfasts, trunk shows and twice-yearly fashion shows. The next is Sept. 13 at the studio, 1817 McGee. “I am not a big fan of wearable art; I prefer more accessible pieces,” she says. Tomboy designs are tailored, clean with interesting details and often retro looks. “However, I think I cover the spectrum. There is no right or wrong way. I want people to be comfortable in our styles.” McGrew received her degree in painting from the KCAI, but took almost every elective she could in the textiles department. “It’s a joy to unite people with good clothing.”