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    Photo by Fahrudin Omervic

    You could call Louisville Bespoke a fashion incubator: equal parts fashion community, co-working office and fabricating space. Its founder, Yamilca Rodriguez, learned to sew in her native Venezuela when she was 18. She studied graphic design and industrial design, and during her 13 years at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, she attempted to create her own line of clothing. “I found it super-difficult,” she says. “I didn’t have the right resources.”

    After moving to Louisville with her husband in 2014, Rodriguez threw a successful fashion show in Portland, with about 400 people turning up. At that moment, she saw an opportunity to create a space in Louisville for the fashion community to come together. Originally, Rodriguez envisioned Louisville Bespoke as more of a manufacturing hub. But she quickly realized that would be too complex — she would have to recruit a team to sew, and managing the operation would have been time-consuming.

    As it gets on its feet, Louisville Bespoke offers a physical working space at the old Hope Worsted Mills building on Swan Street in Germantown, complete with sewing machines, cutting tables and natural light for a photo staging area. Those interested can take courses in everything from sewing and leather making to social media and marketing. Although there are currently no formal members, Rodriquez would like to run Louisville Bespoke on a membership model. (She says there are about 25 designers involved in various fashion shows and pop-up events throughout the city.) This month, Bespoke is helping produce a fall fashion show in conjunction with a Women Empowering Women breakfast series, at the 300 Spring building in Jeffersonville.

    For this story, Bespoke pulled together five artists — a milliner, clothing designer, stylist, model and photographer — to assemble an original look. The group’s success at putting the venture together with just two days notice speaks to Rodriguez’s ability to mobilize a team to work toward a shared goal.

    Sarah Havens

    Sarah Havens has been making hats for nearly 25 years. Originally from Louisville, she has a background in costume design and has worked in theater. Havens already had a workspace in the Hope building, so it was only natural for her to collaborate with Louisville Bespoke after it moved in. “This city is finding a niche in fashion,” Havens says. “And it takes a village to run a business.”

    Lisa Kahl-Hillerich

    Lisa Kahl-Hillerich worked in tech sales at places like BellSouth and AT&T for 25 years before turning her focus to a creative passion: custom-made jeans. 

    A Louisville native, she learned that the city has a historical connection to jeans — it’s where Levi Strauss first lived after emigrating from Germany. Kahl-Hillerich launched her company, RoxyNell, in April. Kahl-Hillerich descends from the family that created the Louisville Slugger baseball bat, and some of her jeans have baseball stitches. Others (like the pair this model is wearing) are soaked in bourbon. “What I’m trying to do is bring out the history we have,” she says.

    Kahl-Hillerich and Rodriguez meet every two weeks to brainstorm ideas for Louisville Bespoke. “We could become a fashion hub in the Midwest,” Kahl-Hillerich says.

    Stylist/makeup artist:
    Lisa Hickerson

    Lisa Hickerson, who owns Sharp Images Spa and Salon in New Albany, has participated in fashion shows everywhere from Paris to the Cannes Film Festival to Dubai. She says many people can’t afford the designs of the people who showcase work in places like New York and Paris, but they still want to be fashionable. “Louisville has really grown a great food community,” Hickerson says. “I’d like to see everyone create…the same for fashion.”

    Brooke Peters

    Hickerson recruited Brooke Peters to model for this photo. It was Peters’ first time doing so. She currently works from home as a customer-service representative for a software company, but she’s always been interested in fashion. She makes her own clothes at home and is really into Project Runway.

    Fahrudin Omerovic

    Originally from Bosnia, Fahrudin Omerovic moved to Louisville in 1997. Though he was the photographer on this shoot, he’s also got a background in illustration, painting, drawing and design, having attended duPont Manual High School for visual art and later the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Omerovic also designs shoes in his free time. While in other larger cities people “copy and borrow off of each other’s ideas,” Omerovic says, in Louisville he has found many people pursuing original ideas. “Louisville’s voice is small but mighty,” he says.

    This originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

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