I love seeing the creative process of a fashion collection and always enjoy hearing from designers as to where they get their inspiration from. I had a incredible opportunity to have an interview with clothing designer Kim Elleen of Washington, DC and get some insight into her creative process as a designer and talk about her success in the budding DC fashion industry.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, let’s start off with how you got started in the fashion industry?
Living in DC you go to different events and I was shopping around for a dress for one of the inaugural balls in 2009. I got a dress from Bloomingdales and when I went to the ball, I saw the same dress on probably seven other people in three different colors. It was such a disappointment when you have put so much time and effort into finding a dress and the first thing I thought of was: ” I could have made something that no body else would be wearing”. I knew how to sew since I was a kid, my mom was a seamstress and she taught me at a young age, so over the years I had been making clothes for myself. My friends loved my dresses and more people started asking me about my designs through word of mouth. Finally I thought, maybe I can make a business out of it and that’s when it started. My business officially launched in 2010 and it has expanded to day wear, special occasions, bridal and I did my first fashion show at Crystal Couture this past February. It has grown in a way that I had never imagined it would.
How would you describe your aesthetic? Is it modern, classy, edgy?
What I strive for is classic. Obviously, you do pay attention to current trends and want your designs to look modern but I always want my designs to be an investment piece for my clients. I want my clients to feel comfortable wearing it today, five to ten years from now and not look dated. When you look at styles through the decades they still seem very beautiful, for example the the 1950’s party dress silhouette that I have done a lot of. There is a reason women love that type of dress. It’s very feminine, comfortable and hits women’s curves in way that’s very flattering. I definitely pay homage to different eras but I don’t want to re-create something that will turn out to be the poof dress from the 80’s …lol
What pushed you in the direction of bridal/special occasions side of design?
A friend of mine told me she had a friend who was a fan of my work and wanted me to make a dress for her wedding. She said the friend wanted something similar to what I have made before but in white for the big day. I said “No, I’ve seen Say Yes to the Dress and there’s no way that could work.” But the bride assured me that wasn’t the case and I agreed to work with her on the dress.
When designing for a bride, how do you balance between the bride’s vision of her dress and yours?
Bride in classic cut gown by Kim Elleen.
So far it has worked out really well between the brides and myself. By the time I have met with the brides, they have seen my website or one of my shows, so they have an idea of what they want and we are on a similar page. I have had brides who brought in pictures and I will be honest with them if they present something that I feel is outside of my aesthetic. I like to be honest with my clients, particularly brides because I don’t want to disappoint anybody on their big day. I make sure to balance everything in a way that everyone is happy.
I’m a huge admirer of the intricacies and construction of a garment, how long does it take you to make a lavish dress?
It all depends on the style and the factors involved in creating that look. The fabric they want, when they need it, if they want a print that I have created or something from a fabric store either here or New York. Generally, from the time an order is placed to getting it to the client, is between four to six weeks. I keep this time frame because I try to do one fitting (if possible) since fitting can make or break the entire look. For my brides, it’s usually a couple of months and more than one fitting.
You mentioned you make your own prints, where do you get your inspiration from?
Photo of dress by Stephen Elliot in association with mudproductions.com
A lot from nature. One of my dresses from the last show I did, a blue with pink flowers dress (daffodil print) was inspired by nature. I was literally out for a run one day and the sky was extra blue. As I was running, I saw a tree with these orangy/pink blooms that were over my head against the blue sky. I thought that was just so gorgeous that I wanted to reinterpret that in a print.
Kim’s prints come to life at Crystal Couture 2013
I wanted to thank you again for taking the time to speak with me, it’s been a true pleasure and I really enjoyed the insight. Is there any final remarks you would like to leave us with?
One thing that has been really exciting about this entire experience, is to learn about what a great fashion scene there is in the DC area. I really didn’t know that and there are a lot of really talented designers, stylists, photographers, fashion production people that I got a chance to meet at Crystal Couture. I never realized what a vibrant fashion scene there is in DC right now and it’s really incredible to be a part of it!
It was an awesome experience speaking with Kim and getting the designer’s point of view. You will be seeing a lot more from her this year and I’ll be very excited to bring it to you here!
Keeping it Confident – Patty