Designer Karen Kane's path to success began 32 years ago in the garage of her Studio City, Calif., home. "We started with a small line of 14 pieces -- all in one fabric, four colors," Kane said, in a telephone interview. "We found a rep and started selling at local boutiques. I sewed all the time. We'd get an order, and I'd make each piece." Though she now has plenty of help, she is still very much hands-on. No design goes out the door without her first trying it on, she said. Recently, she spoke about her design process, her early interest in sewing and how she cultivated that talent. An edited version of the conversation follows.
Q: Your fashions are popular with women of all ages. Do you have particular ages of customers in mind when you design new styles?
A: It just turns out that way. Comfort is key. I want things to be comfortable, and that crosses over to all ages.
Q: How often do you turn out new merchandise?
A: We ship new products every month so that there is something new and fresh for the customers. We also add new colors each month. Right now I have blues and blacks, white and earth colors showing. Next month there will be bright pinks, jade, black and white, and the following month you'll see bright reds, turquoise, and black and white. Look for golds, browns and creams in early summer.
Q: Do you follow color forecasts from companies such as Pantone or go with your own instincts?
A: I do whatever I am inspired to do. I look at the history at what my customers like and what colors, fabrics and prints have sold well in the past.
Q: When did your interest in fashion begin?
A: In childhood when my older sister taught me to sew. I made clothes for my Barbie doll. I later took home economics in a public high school, taking every sewing class I could. When I was growing up in California, there were lots of fabric stores. ... I love fabric stores. I'd go in and touch all the fabrics, look at the prints, and I'd go to the pattern section and look at the pattern books for hours.
Q: When did you realize that you had talent for design?
A: I tailored a coat in the 11th grade, and my teacher entered it in a statewide contest -- and it won. It was brown with sherpa (wool) cuffs and collar, and sherpa on the pockets. It also had wooden buttons.
Q: What kind of formal training do you have?
A: I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. I took every draping and design class they offered. I came out and started working as a cutter and pattern maker, and from there I began my own company.
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...