We had the good fortune of connecting with Karilyn Harper and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Karilyn, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I loathed shopping for clothes for the longest time, anything fashionable never got me properly, and I blamed myself not the clothing industry. I learned almost six years ago now, that not every body is the same, body positivity has played a huge factor in my career, and I enjoy sewing for all sizes. I’m 6’2″ and plus size, standard ankle length are like long capris on my legs, and most regular tees were too short on my torso, it made me so self conscious, I started buying men’s tees and basically lived in hoodies because it was what I was comfortable in. Back in 2014 my grandmother gifted me one of her seven sewing machines, I was pregnant with my second daughter and she told me it would be good of me to teach myself how to sew; she clearly didn’t have the patience to teach me anything more past threading it. So I did. I started with throw pillows, with quilting cotton, then I moved onto something a bit more challenging, a car seat cover for my unborn child. Within a few months I discovered the hidden world of custom fabric on facebook, and I started sewing with knits, making myself leggings, dresses, even underwear. I had a friend back then who encouraged me to start selling my wares and a few weeks later I quit my nannying job and began doing just that. I’m celebrating five years of Sew Rad Apparel in May and I’m humbled by the amount of people who support me and seeing folks wearing my work is some kind of indescribable happiness, my art makes people confident in their bodies and it’s all I ever wanted to be when I was younger, confident in my own skin, and to provide that for others makes my work worth it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’d say what sets me apart from traditional apparel would be my hoodies, I’ve made hundreds of them over the years, most of them are one of kind. I’ve taught myself how to sew zipper tape and install unique zipper pulls, hoodie string accent beads and color block patterns into unique designs. I take a lot of pride in my creative process, sometimes I start cutting a project before I even know what it’s going to look like, I let the fabric decide, as silly as that may sound.
My brand/business name was determined by a few things. I’m a huge fan of puns and octopuses, neither have much to do with the other but I made them work. I’ve always incorporated an octopus into my logo, and my latest rebrand, I included myself into the design, wearing a hoodie inspired by one I made.
I’ve learned that not all fabric is created equal and quality is worth every penny. I’ve learned a lot about sewing machines too, how they work and how to fix the ones I use, it’s not a cheap fix to take your machine to a specialist and have them diagnose let alone fix any issues, so I’ve had to teach myself how to make repairs.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
It’s not exactly Denver, but Tokyo Teriyaki is my all time favorite place to eat in the metro area. It’s a hidden gem and I may regret sharing it’s name, but their Teriyaki Bowls are so good, I’m drooling just at the thought of their food.
Tamale Kitchen is also a hidden gem, there’s a few locations, I always visit the one off of Wadsworth and their breakfast burritos give me life.
As for places to visit, I love the Science Museum, Aquarium and a baseball game at Coors Field is a fun experience that you can’t pass up. A visit to the zoo is always fun, especially if you’ve got kids like me.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Huge thank you to my number one supporter and love of my life, David Harper. He invested in me, and believed in the work I was making, without his belief in me, I wouldn’t be the artist I am today.
Thank you to all the fabric hosts that I sew for, they design the amazing prints I use for my work, and having such a wide array of options is excitingly overwhelming for my creative mind. Zor-elle Fabrics, Retro Stitch Fabrics, Silver Fox Fabrics, Dream Seams Fabrics, and EdenElle Fabrics, to name a few. 🖤
Other: Patreon: www.patreon.com/SewRadApparel