We sat down to interview Cañada student, Kathy Conroy. With three more classes, she will earn the Custom Dressmaking/Small Business Certificate.

Cañada Fashion Department (CFD): What was your journey to taking classes at Cañada College?
Kathy Conroy (KC): I was doing alterations as a small business, all through word of mouth. Also if I knew more sewing techniques, like tailoring, I understood why clothes were constructed in certain ways. I wanted to learn more about fitting and pattern making so I could incorporate these things into my business.

Kathy's sewing area.
Kathy’s sewing area.

CFD: Can you tell us a bit about some of the people you’ve worked for?
KC: I am drawn to working with artists. The first artist I worked for had an art school for kids and she ran the art program at my kid’s elementary school. I volunteered to help file artwork for 500 kids. It led to me bringing her “beasties” to life which she sold to raise money for the art school. I’ve worked with silk painter, Ellen Brook, for over 5 years, bringing her wearable art pieces to life. I worked with a jewelry designer who carries clothing in her boutique for a few years, until she moved out of the area. I just started working with a shibori artist, creating some pieces using her beautiful fabric. I also had a few interior designers that I work with.

CFD: We were talking, and you mentioned you are working on a lot of prom dresses. What can you tell us about those?
KC: I have altered 18 prom dresses, still working on 2. It is mostly hemming, but there are fit issues as well, usually in the bust. However I am adding sleeves to one and a modesty panel to another. There are also graduation dresses that may come in for alterations, just a few so far. I was asked 4 years ago to alter a client’s daughters prom dress. Then she told a few friends, … It has grown every year. There are many repeat customers and their friends. I enjoy seeing the girls every year, I’m always impressed how polite and interesting the girls are. I always get the lowdown on dates, pre and post-prom activities and more!

CFD: Is this a hobby, or a business for you?
KC: What started as a hobby and favors to neighbors and friends has grown into a small business. The best part being, that since I live in a small town, all my business is word of mouth. I tend to get wonderful, interesting clients, many who turn into friends as well.

CFD: Do you have any long term goals with fashion?
KC: I wish I was younger – to start my career a while ago!! But for now, I am content where I am. I like the flexibility I have with my business to travel. I love how I can keep learning – so many great classes in the Bay Area and online. I just want to keep learning.

CFD: In addition to taking classes, how have you helped with Artistry in Fashion?
KC: For many years I have helped with Publicity for Artistry in Fashion. It is a great group of women who each take on a piece and get it done. A very giving and creative group! I have also modeled in the fashion show, getting the opportunity to wear some fabulous clothes!

CFD: Is there anything interesting that we haven’t asked about?
KC: Although I may start doing alterations for clients, it does turn into more – a custom piece for a special occasion or to deal with a fitting issues, cushions, pillows, furniture slipcovers. My favorite projects are the unusual – creating dresses out of tape (like caution tape), remaking family wedding dresses, turning a skirt into a top and jackets into vests. I like to be challenged in designs and materials!

Many thanks to Kathy for sharing her fashionable life with us.

2 comments

  • Wonderful interview. Always inspiring to hear how people get into the fashion business and expand their vision as they learn more. Kathy sounds like she is having a great time with her career and plans to move ahead with new and exciting projects.

  • Great interview!! I have always admired Kathy’s work!! Especially, loved her bustier project and the cute blue wool jersey dress with metal details on the neck. I’m jealous of how neat and clean her sewing space is too!! 🙂

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