The Best of the Independent Designer Runway Show

Top ready-to-wear pieces from local designers, straight from the September 2013 competition.

By Laura Cassidy December 1, 2013 Published in the December 2013 issue of Seattle Met

Over the course of its second six-month run, the Independent Designer Runway Show competition provided guidance and industry connections to 10 local designers. On September 25, the journey culminated on the Hyatt Regency Bellevue’s catwalk in one high-style, high-drama evening sponsored by Seattle Met. I joined a panel of judges that included an Amazon business development pro and Fashion Group International’s regional director; we awarded a $5,000 grand prize and two $1,000 runner-up prizes, but this selection of ready-to-wear fashion proves that the city’s sartorial skills run deep.

Image: Dennis Wise

SARSEN Heather Blanchard’s silk-lined melton wool red jackets are built around the hood; the asymmetric, biker-jacket lines, flattering princess seams, and curved, high-low hem are all in response to that dramatic topper. For the all-cotton short-sleeved jersey sweatshirt underneath, Blanchard used angular chest seaming and a sculpting technique on the bateau neckline. Retailers and shoppers are crazy about “statement sweatshirts” right now; Sarsen’s is feminine and versatile. And really soft. Find it at the Ship Song (6421 Phinney Ave N, 206-852-1145; trunk show on December 5 from 5 to 8.


BENU This origamilike asymmetrical sweater dress started as a ball of Loro Piana Italian cashmere on Korean-born designer Claire Kim’s loom; it was then knitted into an extra-wide swath of lusciously soft fabric. As opposed to cutting and sewing multiple pattern pieces, Kim uses a single giant panel made of stretch-cotton jersey that’s been draped, pinned, pleated, and tucked on a dress form as a guide. Kim teams up with Paychi Karen Guh (see below) for the Cashmere Holiday Party at Trillium Custom Tailoring and Design.


WINNER: OZEN COMPANY There’s little to no room for error when working with expensive premium leathers and vintage wool, so even though this men’s blanket jacket is one of Turkish designer Aykut Ozen’s simplest designs, it still takes about 25 hours to construct. Almost everything is different when leather is in the mix. Where a tailor can use pins on cotton and other fabrics, Ozen and his team use staples—usually about 500 for each jacket, and then remove them individually after the stitches are placed. The more complex doctor bag design utilizes old-school technology for the handles; leather-covered shipping rope provides a comfortable grip that won’t break down the way more commonly used plastic does.


WYATT ORR How to combine fashion’s favorite textile—leather—with modernity’s favorite shape—the antishape? Liise Wyatt and Karly Orr, codesigners and 2009 graduates of Ballard’s New York Fashion Academy, say it’s all about making the most of the hide’s natural strength, and silk georgette’s proclivity for stylish swing. “The over-the-shoulder leather yoke provides an anchor for the practically weightless dress, allowing it to move freely and beautifully on the body,” Wyatt says. The line is sold at Les Amis (3420 Evanston Ave N, Fremont, 206-632-2877;


RUNNER UP: PAYCHI GUH Utilizing various knitting machines to coax raised textures and combining different colors of yarn to yield zigzag patterns, designer Paychi Karen Guh gets a lot of yardage from a single material: superfine spun cashmere. Her entire collection begins with that one element, so sourcing is streamlined and sustainable, but the results—jersey for cardigan panels, rib knits for tuxedo-stripe short leggings—allow for a range of creative expression. Guh and Claire Kim team up from 6 to 8 on December 12 for a Cashmere Holiday Party at Trillium Custom Tailoring and Design (10500 NE Eighth St, Bellevue, 425-454-0292; 


RUNNER UP: ERIN ROBY A study in layering and proportion, these two pieces (shown with a flouncy black and teal underskirt at the runway show) provided a sedate but stylishly unusual endnote to Erin Roby’s overall urbane prairie vibe. The cotton-silk-blend dress—essentially an elongated men’s buttonup—and wool gabardine pencil skirt nod at modern Japanese minimalism, menswear, and that peek of pocket that shows up at the bottom of a pair of cutoff Levi’s shorts. Meet the urban planner-turned-women’s tailor at her open studio at 126 Winslow Way East on Bainbridge Island during the community’s first Friday art walks.


MICHAEL CEPRESS COLLECTION Designer, UW professor, and fiber geek Michael Cepress developed this three-season unlined men’s blazer with costume and theatrical tailor Joan Powell, and then taught production sewers how to hand bind the interior seams and craft the expert lines that allow for unbroken stripes—a mark of expert construction—in the handwoven Indian fabric. Try one on for size at Cepress’s studio sale at the Inscape building (815 Seattle Blvd S, International District) on December 12 through 15 from noon till 7pm.



This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Seattle Met.

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