Thursday, March 17, 2016

KCFW: Designer Interview with Laura McGrew of Tomboy Design

It's that time of year again--KC Fashion Week is kicking off with its first runway show tonight! Although I will not be at tonight's show (I'm on vacation with my family and returning in time for the Friday night show,) today I wanted to share my interview with Laura McGrew of Tomboy Design!

Last weekend, I visited Laura in her Kansas City studio where she makes all of the pieces she features on the runway and those she sells in her stores. As a sewing newbie, I was in awe of the huge operation she has going on over there! Laura designs, makes patterns, and sews all of her pieces, so everything featured in the show is infused with her handiwork and style.

When I asked Laura how she got started in fashion design, she told me about how in middle school and high school, she would take apart pieces of clothing in her closet and sew something new out of them. After studying painting at the Kansas City Art Institute, she became involved in the Kansas City fashion industry and eventually opened up her own store in 2003. She closed her store front in 2013, now focusing on selling her line at stores like Threshing Bee and Halls. This also freed up her time to show off her work at KC Fashion Week, where she participated for the first time as a designer in 2014.

The one word Laura would use to describe this year's fall/winter line is "wearable." Her goal is to make clothes that people wear every day (as opposed to high-fashion pieces which are much less practical.) Ideally, Laura's customers would be able to "build their own wardrobe over time with pieces from different collections." The pieces in her line are classic and remixable, with a focus on high quality so they can be worn for years on end! Laura shared that she feels this fall/winter collection is some of her strongest, most innovative work. She cited a fall color palette, new layering techniques, and a switch to using solely knit fabrics as possible reasons for the newfound freshness she sees in this line, and has helped her focus her aesthetic in a more contemporary direction. She called this line a "culmination of something she's been striving towards" for a long time. Hearing this left me so excited to see her line on the runway at the Saturday night show!

My favorite part of my conversation with Laura was our discussion about her philosophy regarding fashion and art. She is passionate about creating "low-impact" clothing with an ethical approach to the environment, labor practices, etc (for example, all the fabric she uses is made in the United States!) Laura explained this concept to me by comparing the art of fashion to decorative art. As she described it, there is a huge difference between a print you would buy at IKEA and a painting that you would buy at an art fair. In the same difference, there is a huge gap between the quality and artistic value of a shirt you would buy from an independent fashion designer versus a shirt you pick up from Target during a grocery trip. Laura believes it is absolutely worth the investment to choose ethically produced pieces from independent designers, and she works to create pieces that fit the bill.

I am so glad I got to interview Laura before KCFW gets into full swing! Talking to her got me even more excited about seeing her pieces in action on the models and even more excited about the wealth of talented independent designers in the Kansas City area! 

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