Smart Design

Clothes with Heart

Kim’s “Art to Wear” design for this year’s fashion show
Image Credit: Kim Kirchstein |

Fashion season doesn’t wrap in Raleigh until one special show comes to town. Couture for a Cause is an annual event that matches local designers with local non-profits to create garments that represent the organizations’ missions. It’s a unique show that highlights hometown talent, a few worthy causes, and it’s happening tonight.

One of the biggest reasons I like this event is because it’s about more than leggy models and expensive couture. Many of the designers have personal reasons for supporting the organizations they choose, and they’re using their talents to give back. This week, I spoke with Kim Kirchstein of Leopold Designs who will have two pieces in the show supporting Hospice of Wake County.

Kim grew up in a home with physically handicapped parents — her mother with Polio, her dad with MS — and while it was tough when she lost both of them to their illnesses, hospice made life a little easier. “I am forever grateful to hospice for making the hardest times in my life survivable,” says Kim, and to pay tribute, she’s created two designs that embody the lightness hospice gave her during burdened times.

Butterfly and moth wings are not only a favorite design element for Kim, but an appropriate motif to honor hospice with. “Wings are uplifting and optimistic,” Kim says, “they represent the freedom of a person’s spirit.” To create her designs, Kim uses a technique called batik in which she draws or paints wax onto silk before applying dye. The fabric beneath the wax is safe from, or resists, any dye she applies. Kim repeats the process, laying down wax and layering dyes until she’s happy with the design.

For tonight’s fashion show, the wing motif is in full force. Kim’s first design is a “Ready to Wear” look  — a short silk jacket with tapered sleeves. “I’ve designed a butterfly on the fabric,” notes Kim, “highlighted particularly on the back of the piece.” The colors are a soft teal with a pop of magenta. Her second “Art to Wear” look is a long, more dramatic silk jacket with deep, flowing sleeves. “On this one, I’ve designed a Luna Moth on the fabric. Its long, trailing wings are highlighted on the back and echoed in the neckline.”  The prominent color is a subtle moth green with teal and ecru highlights.

Kim’s work is obviously beautiful, but tonight’s event is about more than pretty clothes. “I think it is important to bring attention to these organizations we might either overlook or be unaware of in our community,” says Kim. “Having these creative representations with personal stories to express their importance will hopefully inspire someone else to become involved and strengthen the effectiveness of these non-profits.”

Watch Kim’s design process in action. She’s featured at :55 – 3:45. 

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