This 15-year-old designer is taking the fashion world by storm
Being a fashion designer, creating gorgeous clothing lines modeled on the runway at major fashion shows — it’s a dream for millions. For 15-year-old prodigy designer Kate Miles, it’s just life. Kate, from Silver Lake, Oregon, showed her line at Vancouver Fashion Week this month.
Even though she’s only 15 (and a sophomore in high school), Kate has definitely put in the time to get her career where it is today. She’s been sewing since she was four years old and her dream is to work in haute couture in Paris, France. When she’s not putting on shows at major fashion weeks, Kate is insanely busy as class president at her school and taking college classes so she can finish her associate’s degree by the time she graduates high school. She’s that serious about fashion school; she wants to be prepared to jump right in the second she graduates high school.
And Vancouver Fashion Week wasn’t even her first fashion show! This fall, she was one of two “emerging designers” to win the opportunity to show their collection at Portland Fashion Week. We talked to Kate about designing and her plans for the future. Check out our interview (and some of Kate’s designs) and prepare to be inspired.
HG: How long have you been designing and what inspired you to take that path?
KM: My grandmother, Lois Miles, taught me to sew when I was four years old. I started making doll clothes for American Girl Dolls and started selling them when I was nine. Even before I could sew doll garments properly, I remember first draping gowns on my dolls with pins and tape when I was five years old. When I was twelve, a young bride to be asked me to make her wedding dress because she really liked my doll clothing designs. After that I started getting into repurposing dresses by buying old prom dresses and remaking them for prom and events. I have always had the ideas in my head, I have only just recently started growing into the skill-set needed to produce the ideas that have been mustering away in my mind my whole life.
HG: Who or what influences your designs?
KM: Fabric is my main inspiration. I walk into a fabric store and walk down the aisles, feeling the fabric as I go. My fingers just tell me what the dress should look like out of that fabric. I go along, find a textile that pleases my fingers, take it home, and just start making the dress-no really planning involved. Sometimes I come across a “bad fabric” that is really disagreeable to my fingers, and just wipe them off and carry on down the row until I find something more agreeable. Is it weird? Yes. Do I love it? Yes.
HG: Were there any specific inspirations for the line from VFW this year?
KM: Because this show is for Fall of 2015, I came up with a color palette that would reflect some of the rich hues of Autumn. Snippets of the season, like the sparkling plum September twilight sky, beaded with stars and the first frosty patterns encrypted in early October morning windows, or the explosion of cattails at the pond can be seen in this line. Black and white movies from the thirties and forties, with their frivolous trumpet skirts and feminine lines, viewed with the scent of fresh pumpkin pie and the roar of a warm fire in the background, inspired me as well.
HG: What’s next for you in designing?
KM: Next up for me is the Couve Couture event in Vancouver, washington on April 18th, along with Upcyle Oregon, and a few other local shows this spring. I’m going home to the farm in Central Oregon for the summer to work for my brothers and work on some custom bridal party orders.
HG: How did you break in to this industry at such a young age?
KM: Breaking into the fashion industry is not easy-espesially for someone who can’t even legally drive yet. I’m not sure how I’ve even made it this far, but I know that God’s the one who’s blessed me with my gifts and that He definitely is going to take me wherever He wants me to go. I’m just here for the ride. Networking has been extremely important to me, but I know that the connections I make are certainly not something I can take credit for. Long story short, I have been marvelously helped.
HG: What advice do you have for other young people who aspire to work in fashion?
KM: As far as advice goes I do have to say that attitude is super important. You have to be willing to help everyone else if you’re hoping to make it. The fashion industry is all about who you know, and as long as you have a positive mindset and a good work ethic people are going to like you and want to help you out.
HG: What are biggest goals as a designer?
KM: I tend to think that plans are overrated, but I do have a general idea of what I’d like to happen with my fashion future. My “goals” are pretty crazy, but I figure that as long as I aim high I’ve got nothing to lose. My dream is to make enough money producing my designs to set up my production in Cambodia. I’d probably focus on ready to wear, because that is easier to produce than Haute Couture. I know some people there who work with an orphanage that I would like to get involved with. I’d like to go into the school and teach young girls how to sew. Right now there are little to no job opportunities for young girls coming out of orphanages there other than the sex trade, so I want to go into the schools, teach them how to sew, and give them jobs producing clothing. Then in my spare time, maybe I could design a little haute couture on the side. Call me crazy, but this is my dream.
HG: If you couldn’t work in the fashion industry, what would you want to do?
KM: I love fashion design, but coming from a farm I love agriculture as well. I figure that if I run out of ideas and don’t want to do fashion anymore I’ll go home to the farm and carry on the family tradition with my brothers. I work for them in the summers and I absolutely love it, so I wouldn’t mind at all if that’s what I got to do for my future. I also really enjoy cooking and writing, so I think as long as I end up in a field where I can be creative and make other people happy, I will be truly happy.
(Images via Kate Miles.)