Most Americans have an off-the-rack wardrobe, comprised of clothing purchased in stores or online. In other parts of the world, however, custom pieces are the norm. “In Venezuela, you don’t just go to the store and buy a dress—you have it made for you,” explains Yamilca Rodriguez, mastermind behind fashion atelier Louisville Bespoke. The problem Rodriguez had was that the dresses of her childhood were never designed quite the way she would have liked. So, at the age of 18, she enrolled in sewing lessons and was able to customize her wardrobe to fit her aesthetic—but she was still unsure about her desire to be a fashion designer.
Instead, Rodriguez obtained a degree in industrial design at the University of Cincinnati and worked in visual identity at Proctor & Gamble. Eventually, though, she was driven—almost literally—back into fashion. “I went to a makerspace for a creative session in Columbus,” she recalls. “It was on the drive back [home] that I thought, ‘I could do this for fashion.’” Once she met developer and entrepreneur Gill Holland, the wheels were set in motion. Rodriguez quickly began reaching out to every Louisville designer she could find. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
“It’s a centralized place for the idea flow to happen,” says Finespun Clothing’s Matt Multerer. “It’s about collaboration and resource sharing.” Multerer, who has a background in banking and finance, approaches his design strategy with this professional experience—often creating specific pieces for specific events. Louisville Bespoke, which will also offer classes in the design space, will give him the opportunity to learn about others’ strategies, as well as tap into resources he didn’t previously have access to. Currently, he says, “You almost have to be an insider to get any kind of information whatsoever.”
Rodriguez is working to change that, by not only uniting those who work in fashion, but also by creating public events so the community can get involved. Her first is the Louisville Bespoke Fashion Event on Friday, October 21. In addition to a fashion show featuring pieces from 20 designers—most of whom are from Louisville—the event promises food trucks, a cash bar, an appearance from Gunnar Deatherage of “Project Runway” and lots of shopping.
Multerer is one of the talented 20 and will have his jackets, cuff links, neck ties and custom fabrics in the show. Among those pieces will be designs from Ann Deevelyn, which is owned and operated by the one-woman team otherwise known as Frances Lewis. “It seemed like something I had to be involved in,” Lewis says of Louisville Bespoke. Though she has been in the fashion industry since graduating from college in 2010, it wasn’t until the first Louisville Bespoke meeting that she was able to meet designers she had previously seen only on social media. Lewis is enthusiastic about the event and eager to partake in all that Louisville Bespoke is going to offer. “I’m excited about the change in the culture that it’s going to create,” she says. “When people think ‘handmade,’ they won’t think it’s terrible or frumpy.”
Lisa Kahl-Hillerich, who is part of Rodriguez’s founding team and makes custom jeans in her garage, will likely be able to help break that stigma. Her three jean lines, Bourbon-Blue, League and RoxyNell, will all be in the upcoming fashion show. Each of the lines gives a nod to Louisville and Kahl-Hillerich’s roots—League has a baseball stitch; RoxyNell is named after her grandmother—and is 100 percent made in the U.S.A. “There’s as much history of blue jeans here as there is bourbon!” she exclaims. In addition to having jeans available for purchase, Kahl-Hillerich’s event booth will also include a demonstration station, complete with the bourbon barrel and pitch fork that she uses to dye her pieces.
Both Kahl-Hillerich and Rodriguez are eager to get Louisville Bespoke going and introduce it to the community on October 21. Adds Kahl-Hillerich, “I think we’re going to be the start of a new industry.” VT
Louisville Bespoke Fashion Event is from 5 to 7 p.m. on October 21. General admission is free, but registration is required. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/louisville-bespoke-fashion-event-tickets-27264306274
By Lennie Omalza, Contributing Writer