Designer brings vintage-inspired styles to O'Fallon's Strange Folk Festival

News-DemocratSeptember 22, 2013 

Kylia Kummer has been sewing since she was 7.

She designed and made clothes for herself and family until a few years ago when she branched out, creating a business called Lavender in Brown.

"I did my first craft show in 2011, making clothes for women," said Kylia, 33, who lives and works in Chicago.

She's one of 150 indie vendors who will be at the Strange Folk Festival from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at O'Fallon Community Park.

Look for her bold, graphic print dresses, skirts, tops and totes. She'll make sure to have several full-length mirrors and a dressing room.

By day, the former high school history teacher works in the education department at the Chicago Children's Museum. Evenings and weekends, she's preparing for the show, designing and sewing dresses, skirts, tops and totebags, and making pins and bracelets.

"I honestly think I have two full-time jobs," said Kylia, in a phone interview. "I have the regular 9-to-5 gig, and I spend 40 hours a week sewing, weekends included, and after work from 6 to11."

How did you hear about Strange Folk Fest? "From a friend. The crafting community is really diverse here in Chicago. Doing shows around town, you get to meet a lot of new people. They talk about their favorite shows, those they'd love to do again. One of my craft friends told me about Strange Folk Fest. I did it last year. It was so much fun. The young lady (Autumn Wiggins) who organizes it is so organized. I wanted to come back again and visit with people down there."

What will you be bringing? "Some pieces from my new fall collection. I'll bring skirts, dresses and great new tops. And something brand new, jewelry I have been working on. And tote bags. I spend quite a few weeks making dresses and different items to have as much inventory, variety and sizes (as possible)." Sizes range from extra small to extra large.

What's your style? "I make colorful, bright, vintage-inspired clothes. I call them 'curated pieces,' something special that stands out. I do my own patterns and all my own sewing, all handmade in my studio in Chicago. Everything is original."

What inspires you? "Designers from the 1950s. One of my favorites is Claire McCardell. (From the 1930s to the 1950s, she was known for designing functional, affordable and stylish women's sportswear.) She revolutionized women's sportswear. I draw a lot of inspiration from her, how daring she was. I see how I can push it a little bit and still be classic."

Do you have a favorite fabric? "I love cotton. I use a lot of African print that's 100 percent cotton. Hollandaise wax prints are popular in West Africa countries but come from the Dutch. I have to import. There are a few shops here in town and in New York that carry African wax prints. I'm working with a lady who has contacts in Ghana."

What's your most popular item? "A cocoon vest I make out of sweatshirt fleece. It's a little wrap jacket that women love." Second is her palazzo pants.

What do you like best? "I have a lot of favorites -- each for different reasons. To date, my favorite piece is a gathered waist dress with a square neckline and classic bodice made from black and white kente fabric. The style is classic but made edgy by the geometric print and the unusual neckline. I love it because it looks great on a variety of body types, and it makes me feel pretty when I wear it."

What's your price range? From $2 for cute little buttons that go great with the cocoon wrap -- they look cute on hats, too -- to bracelets for $5 to more intricate dresses up to $120."

What's one of your designing challenges? "It may sound silly, but for me, the hardest part of clothing construction is the hemline. I'm a petite woman and think like a petite woman. I goofed more than once and made garments with unintentionally daring hemlines because I failed to consider women of average height."

Do you have help setting up? "My husband or sister will join me the day of the show. My husband Scotty, he's super supportive. He's been a great cheerleader. He's sold his fair share of dresses, too.

"At the very beginning, he helped me get the business stuff together and read the fine print so that everything was good to go and I could have the best experience possible."

Are you a Chicago native? "I moved from Arkansas to Chicago six years ago. I met a man and married him. My sister lives here. She's a paralegal. She said, 'I met the man you are going to marry.' I came up on an education conference. We went on a blind date. It was so fun we started dating."

How did you come up with the name Lavender in Brown? "I really wanted something that reflected me and my philosophy of life. Lavender represents calm, serenity, something familiar, with a little flair to it. And Brown? I am brown skinned. I wanted to reflect who I am."

To see more of Kylia's work, check out lavenderinbrown.com or look for her on Facebook and etsy.com.

8th Annual Strange Folk Fest

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: O'Fallon Community Park

Cost: Free admission and parking

What: 150 indie vendors selling handmade, upcycled and vintage wares. Live bands, unique exhibits and DIY activities for kids and adults, a variety of concessions, and new this year, the Running with Scissors 5K on Sunday morning.

Information: www.strangefolkfestival.com

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