When Josi Severson first formulated the idea for her textile design company 10 years ago—and then officially launched Home Fashion Fabrics five years later—she had no idea where it would take her.
The Minneapolis-based designer, who originally dreamt of a career in fashion, discovered her passion for patterns as a student of fine arts and economics at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. She then went on to the Academy of Art in San Francisco before taking her talents to design powerhouses Thibaut, Joseph Abboud, Premier Prints, and others (check out her recent collection for Crate & Barrel).
Comfortably settled in her retail location of one year in downtown Minneapolis, the entrepreneur is now ready to tackle her next challenge: turning her own pattern designs into a line of dresses, and manufacturing them using funds gained through the popular crowdsourcing tool, Kickstarter.
With only days left in the campaign, Mpls.St.Paul Home & Design spoke with Severson about her latest venture, the transition from home design to fashion design, and trends for the summer season.
Tell us more about your Kickstarter campaign. How did you come up with the idea for this project?
I've been producing textiles for several years now, and I also collaborate with other companies that produce items from my designs. I thought it might be a natural next step for my company to start manufacturing items myself. It's not something I'm familiar with, but you have to start somewhere, and I thought Kickstarter would be a good way to raise the funds and serve as a good platform for the project itself. It's a good way to promote what you're doing, to get yourself out there.
Is this the first time you're creating a project from your own patterns?
I've done pillows and some tabletop stuff, but in smaller quantities. I've really stayed away from garments in the past because it's kind of a scary thing. There are so many aspects involved, even in something as simple as these dresses, regarding the sizing, the overall construction—it felt like there were so many more barriers. This just seems like a completely new step for myself than what I've done in the past.
Has it been difficult to transition from designing patterns for home products to designing patterns for clothing?
They operate a little differently. With home, people are thinking about having a design in their collection for five years, so it’s more of an investment. Fashion is in and out in six months, so it’s quicker. But, honestly, I approach it all the same way. A lot of people have mentioned that I could be using my designs in so many different areas. I’ve worked with kids, I’ve worked with women’s wear and men’s wear, with home companies, so many different areas. It was really tough for me to stick to one market. There seemed to be a universal appeal to my work and it’s up to interpretation how people want to use the design.
The name of your dress collection is Emerald City, from The Wizard of Oz. Where do you draw inspiration from?
For this collection, I named it after a book I had read that highlighted Emerald City as being a place of possibility. It was something I could gain energy from and be inspired by. When I put collections together, I have my own personal meaning behind them, so they’re not always going to be clear to other people. I hope that, in any case, it comes across as authentic and personal. I’ve also always looked up to Diane von Furstenberg and what she did with the wrap dress. She’s such a print-heavy designer. Most of her collections are centered on new prints and they’re very bold and graphic. I like that she started with a simple-style dress. You can do so much with one style. It’s amazing how much it will change just by putting a different color or pattern on it.
The "Goodness" pattern from the Emerald City dress collection.
The "Magic" pattern from the Emerald City dress collection.
For this upcoming summer season, what are you noticing in terms of trends?
Color is always the biggest thing people gravitate toward. People like the pattern sometimes, but it really depends on the color it’s used in. As far as what I’m using in my collection, they are the colors that were forecast for spring/summer 2014—greens, blues, oranges.
There are five days to go in your campaign and you’re close to meeting your goal. What would you like to tell people who are thinking about contributing?
I’d like to say that they would be playing an important part in helping me develop an idea, a dream of mine, that I’ve had for a long time. I really want it to be about helping people understand how the garment is made, how it’s manufactured, and what I have to go through in order to do this, because a lot of people don’t see behind the scenes. A lot of people are interested in the background. I think it makes it more personal and they get excited about it.