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Money & Culture

Ladies and Gents: It’s Time for Your Own Designer-for-Hire

March 6, 2015
Walking the runway

When you hear the words “fashion designer,” names like Yves Saint Laurent or Isaac Mizrahi may spring to mind, along with visions of crazy clothes in catwalk sizes that aren’t even real numbers.

Now while it’s true that custom-made haute couture gowns may feel out of reach, working with a fashion designer for a unique wardrobe is not.

Look first for designers at or independent clothing shops, says Jennifer Lezan, who runs children’s clothing label Bella+Sophia Clothing and is an adjunct professor in the fashion department at The Illinois Institute of Art in suburban Chicago.

Kahindo Mateene, founder and designer of women’s clothing line Modahnik and a contestant on season 12 of Project Runway, said clients find her ready-made pieces at fashion shows, designer showrooms, or independent boutiques.

In fact, trunk shows at independent retailers are a good way to meet a designer and see an entire collection, said Borris Powell, who designs clothing for women and men. At a trunk show, shoppers can buy clothes off the rack or have their measurements taken for a custom fit, Mateene and Powell said. It can take a few weeks or months for custom clothing to be finished, so ask your designer about the timeline.

Prices vary. For example, in Modahnik’s fall/winter 2014 collection, a full-price, off-the-shoulder dress goes for $294, as does a pair of pants. Lezan’s children’s clothing starts at $30. Powell said his custom-made gowns start at around $1,000, with day and cocktail dresses starting around $500. Ready-to-wear dresses at his showroom start at $350, as do blouses. Men’s suits start at $1,300.

Mateene said once she forms a relationship with a customer, she can also create unique pieces and will take input from the client. That can mean anything from a special-occasion outfit to a wedding dress; her one-of-a-kind dresses start at $400.

“That involves custom fitting to make sure it’s perfect,” she said, adding that she’s had clients bring in their own fabric selections.

And what’s truly beautiful? Buying from an up-and-coming fashion designer can help the local economy, since many sew in small studios or employ local talent to help stitch.

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