Behind the pulsating dance music and flashy glamour strutting the runway Sunday, it was quaint to learn that quiet times with grandmothers set the stage for some of the aspiring student designers at Kansas City Fashion Week.
Take 19-year-old Elise Lammert of St. Louis.
She and her partner Elly Dongoski, 20, of Chicago, teamed up at the University of Missouri, where both are students, to start a fashion line called Prim and Improper. They were rolling out 24 original dresses for the more than 400 people attending the Student Designer Showcase at the Harrah’s North Kansas City casino ballroom.
The place was charged with excitement as models hurried to change and late arrivers took their seats.
For Lammert, it all began as a child with her grandmother.
“I got into sewing when I was in elementary school and helped my grandmother sew pillows for surgery patients,” she recalled.
“I’d put on fashion shows for my family and in middle and high school got into making garments. My favorite show as a 15-year-old was ‘Project Runway.’”
She used Starburst candy wrappers as the material for her first dress in high school.
Dongoski started sewing when she was 9.
“I learned to make things on my own because I like to wear things nobody else has,” she said.
And 20-year-old Chelsea Riane Smith of Kansas City said her great-grandmother was a seamstress.
“It’s what I’ve always done from an early age,” said Smith, a junior at Missouri State University. “I liked to draw clothes and put clothes together for myself and dolls. I’ve always seen clothes as beautiful and special.”
The Fashion Week season around the globe started two weeks ago in New York City and carried through to London, Milan and Paris. Teisha Barber, executive director of Kansas City Fashion Week, said this was the first big one to occur locally.
The four-day event started Thursday and culminated with the student show at Harrah’s and a party at the Garment District boutique at the Kansas City Power & Light District.
Barber said the local fashion week was intended to elevate awareness of the Kansas City fashion community, which she said employs several hundred people as designers, hair stylists and models.
The event drew local designers, as well as some from St. Louis, Omaha and Chicago.
“Nobody knows about the fashion community in Kansas City and the Midwest, and we’re trying to get them better known,” she said.
The audience watching the models parade their finery greeted their favorites with cheers and applause. One of the bigger hits was an over-the-top-cute ensemble of little children decked out in clothing designed by Chocolate Soup.
Fashion has gotten a lot more high profile thanks to the arrival of reality TV programs such as “Project Runway.”
“People come to see this,” Barber said. “It’s a huge deal, and it’s an opportunity to say I can attend something like this in Kansas City.”