You may be familiar with Allison Kunath from our Art Blossom feature some time last year. She has since grown as an artist and as a person and now has ventured into the world of fashion. She is currently amidst the launch of her first garment, a dress. Allison has never gone to fashion school and doesn’t really know much about fashion or retail so it seems like a pretty big jump. After speaking her we get the impression, that she knows what she is doing, at least in some instinctual way. Citizens Of Culture wondered if this was not as much of a departure as it initially seemed.
Citizens Of Culture:
So, how did you get into this project?
Allison: I was the kind of person that never really got a compliment on what I wore, then I wore the dress and people were telling me they liked it. So that was a big difference to have never gotten a single fashion compliment and then for it to be about something that I made. I am such a maker that I thought “I could make these for other people too.” So I started making them on a custom order basis.
COC: So then you decided to start a business?
AK: It was originally something that was supposed to be super simple and was going to die because I was getting really frustrated making them all by hand. It became work and the process became tedious because I wanted to make them better than the ones I made for myself because people were paying for them.
COC: Why didn’t you just stop, it seems like you are going in the opposite direction?
AK: A friend of mine who had seen me wear them and appreciates it,just got on my ass about it and was asking me, “What are you doing?!” It seemed like a crazy idea but what is that saying to the universe if I have this thing that could pay the rent and let’s me paint.
COC: Did you decide to get a manufacturer immediately after realizing that you wanted to move forward?
AK: No, but making them myself became un-fun really quick. I like the design process and making them for my self but after about dress five it was just filling an order. I never do the same piece twice, I would never paint an exact replica of a work I had already done.
COC: So this is a way to have the art live on for people without you having to replicate it over and over again..
AK: Yes but also for quality, so that I know that manufacturing matches the design and matches the way a woman will feel when she wears it. One of my customers has called it a “Goddess Dress”.That is a big part of why I am doing it,when people put it on I know they are going to feel very good.
COC: Tell me about that feeling…
AK: The design is very basic and understated but it has a sort of regal feeling. You slip it on and you feel elegant like a queen. The dress accentuates there really beautiful parts of your body like, your shoulders, and neck, and back. Its female empowerment. Here I am trying to convince myself how beautiful and regal I am and if there is a garment that can do that for others that is pretty awesome.
COC: Amazing. Now that you have decided to move forward how are you going to proceed.
AK: I am playing it by ear, I am going to sell them on my site and try to approach a few boutiques but that is where the fear lies. I have no knowledge about the fashion industry. Its scary to jump to into a world where I don’t know what to say to get them in the door. At first I was just to scared to wrap my head around the business part to even get the dresses picked up on time.
COC: How do you feel about it now, looking back?
AK: I don’t regret it, it is all perfect timing, but in theory had I pushed through it. I could have maybe been on my third round of dresses by now. So it is just a lesson in where my strengths and weaknesses are.
COC: What is the risk here versus how you sell your art?
AK: There is no solicitation with my art. People come up and they buy it because they want to. With the dress the rejection is more apparent. It is me needing to broadcast yourself.
COC: How long has it been since you made the first one?
AK: I made the first one for the client the Summer of 2012. I made one for myself the winter prior to that.
COC: When did you decide to go into production or when did you place the order?
AK: I started the pattern-making and buying fabric in June, and I just received them today.
COC: So what is the feeling like to have something that you designed made by someone else?
AK: It feels really good, it also feels amazing to have a quality that is better than what I could have done by myself.
COC: Going back to this feeling and the intent of the dress, how did you come to create it? Is there a central message?
AK: Well I find that there was a theme during the time I created the dress. I was working on a series where I was putting my face on queens from different regions and periods in history. I was surrounded by all these strong beautiful women, and I made this dress. I realized I was making art in all forms to instill confidence in me and find my beauty and pride in my own womanhood as a queen. It all makes you stand taller and convincing myself how beautiful I am. It was so sub-conscious it was really telling.
COC: So you have overcome some of that fear in selling the dress and along with creating the dress created more confidence in yourself. That is kind of prolific.
AK: Yes I realized that there is a really fine line between me, the person that is terrified of moving forward and the me, the person who is paying their rent with their art. It is still scary but it is very simple to take the first step. You just have to just go for it, and forget the rules about what you can and can’t do.
COC: Is there anything else you have imagined that seems far off now but could be possible?
AK: I thing a creative recreation center is an amazing idea, and I think jewelry design would be nice. I am going to be doing my first mural in a museum this spring, and I have never done a mural before.
Allison, has created a garment out of a need to send her self a message of empowerment and recognition of her own beauty. She then, shared that garment by wearing it and received positive feed back on that creation from the people that it resonated with. Now she is making a business behind sharing that feeling for others that need to feel it. There is no other technology capable of sharing feelings so accurately as art. There is no other feeling so worth sharing as the one you hope to feel yourself, as it comes from a genuine place.
This is the true purpose and calling of art, and commerce created in away that truly benefits our culture.
Reach inside yourself, find something worth sharing, and do exactly that. What follows may surprise, you, it may, challenge you, and facing that challenge will help you grow. That growth echoes through your community and collectively we all do.
Thank you Allison, for sharing yourself, and your work. And thank you again for letting us watch you grow.