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Local Fashion Entrepreneurs Strut Down the Runway at Kansas City Fashion Week

3-microenterprise-kc-fashion-week-little-shellLaunching any business involves more than its fair share of risks and challenges. Funding, branding and Marketing/Sales are all challenges that entrepreneurs face. And fashion designers are no different. They have to fund and promote their fashion lines as they create a brand that is unique and trend-worthy.

Luckily, Kansas City has a way to help designers build awareness and gain publicity for their brands: Kansas City Fashion Week. Launched in 2010, Kansas City Fashion Week is like a Demo Day for fashion entrepreneurs. During the four-day fashion palooza, which takes place at Union Station from March 13 through 16, designers have the opportunity to parade their wares—literally—and drum up interest for their fashions and their businesses.

We sat down with six local fashionpreneurs who will be showcased at KC Fashion Week to talk about their business challenges, inspiration and Kansas City fashion.

Before we get to their insights, allow me to introduce:

Andrea Marie Long Designs: Andrea Marie Long is a designer with a background in theatre and fashion. She’s inspired by everything from Joan of Arc to turn-of-the-century ballerinas and gypsies.

House of Cochon: Courtney Perry is the owner and designer behind House of Cochon, a specialized jewelry and accessory company.

Keefe Cravat: Jordan Williams creates timeless, trendy bow ties for men, women and children.

Little Shell Designs: Michelle Kleineweber is a Kansas City local designer who taught herself how to sew by sewing costumes for the local Renaissance Festival.

Oblivion Clothing Design: Nataliya Meyer is a high-end fashion designer and owner of Oblivion Clothing Design.

Zohreh Zarrabi: Zohreh Zarrabi is an Islamic fashion designer. She designs for the modern woman who wants to dress modestly and fashionably.

What’s your biggest business challenge?

“Balancing my designs with other aspects of my life—money, relationships, work, time and other hobbies. It's a fine line, but designing is something I'm passionate about. Even if it means I put those other aspects on hold, I want to make the best collections I can.”
– Michelle Kleineweber of Little Shell Designs

“It used to be that clothing was utility and not an expression. Luckily, we now have reached a place where women are no longer blending in, but really stepping out and making statements with their clothing and accessories.” 
– Courtney Perry of House of Cochon

“The lack of funding. I refuse to take out a loan, so I created a 30-day KickStarter campaign to fund my line.”
– Jordan Williams of Keefe Cravat

What inspires your fashion?

“Each of my collections starts with a theme. I create look boards with textures, patterns, colors and styles. I continuously find inspiration from those boards, magazines, movies, music, blogs, Instagram, award shows, big designer and the feedback of my family and friends.”
– Andrea Marie Long of Andrea Marie Long Designs

“I grew up in the Ukraine, so I could say that’s one of my inspirations along with the fabulous European houses and the famous designers of the world. The real answer is my inspiration comes from all that and so much more. I see fashion ideas in every part of my life. It is an integral part of everything.”
– Nataliya Meyer of Oblivion Clothing Design

“I create my designs to properly follow the Islamic dress code for women called Hijab. Therefore, my designs are greatly inspired by my faith in Islam. The Hijab is not just for believers of Islam, but it is for all women who dress or wish to dress modestly.”
– Zohreh Zarrabi of Zohreh Zarrabi

How would you describe Kansas City fashion?

“KC fashion is a wonderful mix of traditional, modern and theatre. We have new takes on jeans and t-shirts, affordable local designers making their own textiles and a thriving theatre/art scene that makes it acceptable to wear ‘costumes’ to define who we are.”
– Courtney Perry of House of Cochon

“The fashion presence is still growing in Kansas City, and I believe it has a lot more work to do, but it's definitely going to be one of the hot spots for the fashion world.”
– Jordan Williams of Keefe Cravat

“KC fashion has exploded in the last few years; there's an appreciation for the artists working now. There’s attendance and buzz about shows and events, especially from the fabulous shows KC Fashion Week does each year, and there's a greater national respect from even a few years ago. Overall, I'm excited to be a part of this awesome city and its fashion culture.”
– Andrea Marie Long of Andrea Marie Long Designs

Written by Ashley Anderson, intern, blogger and aspiring fashionista.

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