When Anne Kuehn’s grandmother told her, “If you want clothes for your teddy bear, you’ll have to make them yourself,” she had no idea that it would pave her path to a career in fashion.
“She was so convincing that I went home and started sewing things. There weren’t any patterns for teddy bear clothes, so I had to make the patterns. That’s how I got into pattern making,” Kuehn says.
Kuehn now has a company, Design to Fashion, that works with fashion designers on product development through teaching pattern making and technical fashion design. It’s a side of fashion a lot of people don’t see or think about before a beautiful garment hits the store racks, she says.
“I tell teenagers who are interested in fashion that it’s not all art and design and a little bit of sewing. It’s three-dimensional garment construction. There are a lot of mathematics. It’s complicated and gets very technical,” Kuehn says.
Kuehn also heads her own design brand, Eliza and Edgar Clifton Fashion. The name uses a combination of her middle name, her grandmother’s name and her father's name. The operation allows her to stretch her pattern-making skills to create extreme designs. Her collection includes a three-point lapel blazer and a dress inspired by music sheets with invisible darts to give it hidden shaping.
She's now getting ready to show her collection at the DenVhere Magazine annual fashion show on Friday, January 14. She’s dressing fifteen models in both men’s and women’s wear that will be a combination of previously shown apparel and new ready-to-wear and custom pieces.
The DenVhere fashion show is in its ninth year. It was started by DenVhere Magazine editor-in-chief and creative director Georgez Dabit when he was in college studying event management. “I always dressed very funky, and I looked around, just thought people didn’t dress well. I wanted to do something about it, create change,” says Dabit. “So I went to the office where they create school clubs, and they supported it. I started a club and took it from there.”
Dabit has been running DenVhere Magazine, which is published annually, since 2011. He handles most of the production tasks and likes to include a vast variety of fashion looks, models and hair-and-makeup artists. For him, fashion is a passion, especially working with local creatives in the industry. “I like to show new designers," he says. "I know a lot of them don’t have the opportunity, because the fashion shows want big names. There are so many people who aren’t big names, and they’re so fun to work with, and they come up with such creative ideas.“
For Kuehn, who has participated in several DenVhere runway shows in the past, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate what she can do. “I use my brand to push the boundaries of pattern making to create a portfolio," she says. "I want designers to know I can do things that are more complicated than the average garment.”
Kuehn says the collection she’s presenting in the fashion show isn’t for sale, but she’s considering creating sewing patterns and kits that include the patterns and pre-cut fabrics so that others can venture into sewing the pieces on their own. She says the biggest issue she’s heard from the designers she works with is the lack of good seamstresses and quality manufacturing in factories.
“They can’t produce high-end garments; the quality just isn’t there," she says. "I have clients going from factory to factory, and they just can’t get the samples up to par.”
Kuehn is the Colorado chapter president of the national Association of Sewing and Design Professionals. She says she’s currently working on an apprenticeship program for alteration businesses.
“The Department of Labor approved the work process. So now any alterations business approved by the association can use that program to train people," she says. "We want to create a standard of quality.” She says she’s considering making the next program for garment construction in factories to improve manufacturing across the country.
She hopes she can help more designers make their visions come to fruition. “I love working with clients. More creative ideas come out of working with other designers than I could ever come up with on my own,” says Kuehn. “Just seeing the excitement on a designer’s face when they see something come to life with labels and sizing and ready for sales — it’s truly alive when the final product starts selling. It’s really gratifying.”
The DenVhere Magazine fashion show, 8 p.m. Friday, January 14, Vista Ridge Community Center, 2750 Vista Parkway, Erie. Get tickets, $30-$60, and more information at denvheremag.com.