In the nation's couture capital earlier this month, Teisha Barber realized that Kansas City Fashion Week had arrived.
Barber, executive director of the KC event, was in New York to attend Fashion Week. She says: "I was hearing, 'Oh, we've heard of you guys' and 'You all are doing some fabulous stuff.' "
She credits Midwestern designers, 30 of whom are set to bring their best work to the local five-day fashion marathon. Kansas City Fashion Week returns February 27–March 3 with its 2013 spring showcase. The runway dazzle goes down at 28 Event Space. (See kcfashionweek.com for tickets.)
Here's a look at four Kansas City designers who are putting our city on the fashion map.
Line: Janay A. Handmade
On the runway: 10 a.m. Saturday, March 2
Style: "Clean, modern, feminine bridal"
Favorite materials: Ecofriendly
Design inspiration: Nature, femininity, literature, history
Find it: janay-a.com
Cost: Basic dress, $700–$1,300; designer dress, $1,300–$1,700; couture dress, starts at $1,700; alterations included in dress costs
Hopeless romantics, prepare for Janay Andrews' bridal collection to whisk you away to a place where mad, effortless love swirls with subtle surprises and organic whimsy. You know: the South of France.
Andrews was there to attend a client's wedding when she found inspiration for her runway look. "I'm going for simple elegance," she says. "Like, it's after the party, and you have this beautiful, careless look after dancing in the night."
This is KC Fashion Week's first bridal show, and Andrews — a designer of custom, ecofriendly wedding dresses — is also new to this event. She has been designing since 2005, though, and she plans to move her studio and shop from midtown Kansas City to Mission this spring.
Andrews says her collection this week is a fashion-forward, conceptual take on her typical work. She's elevating her look with chunky jewelry, a bold color palette and texture-heavy pieces. Her clean, focused designs are usually made-to-order, and she loves hidden pockets, colorful tulle, open backs and art-nouveau screen printing. She uses only natural, organic fabrics — often a silk-and-hemp blend. She dyes with tea to turn dresses a champagne color.
"I'm very passionate about sustainability, and I definitely feel like the way you live your life should reflect what you believe," she says. "I want to use my work to make people more aware of their impact on the environment and give people a new perception of natural and organic. Ecofriendly weddings go beyond burlap. I also want to show that bridal does not mean stuffy or homespun. I'm certainly not your grandmother's dressmaker."
On the runway: 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 1
Style: "Cutting edge"
Favorite material: Wool
Design inspiration: Latest trends
Find it: christianmicheal.com
Cost: Vests, $80–$100; pants, $150–$200; jackets, $400–$500
Christian Shuster is chasing a mega break this week.
"I'm looking to attract some capital investors, between Kansas City and Omaha's fashion weeks, that believe in my design sense and will take my label from a boutique design house to a full-fledged wholesale label sold to retailers across the country," he says.
He's aiming to sign with a half-dozen retailers, then team up with a manufacturing house to push out 2,000 pieces this fall.
If that sounds ambitious, consider that Shuster's strategy has gone according to plan so far. Without formal fashion training, he set out to build a label while reading Oscar de la Renta's autobiography, and teaching himself sewing and garment construction. He broke into the menswear scene in 2007 with bold neckties, then expanded to six local retailers and attracted a strong customer base.