Indianapolis based designer/costumer and owner of Rue Violet, Catherine Fritsch is the featured designer in this installment of “Designer Files: Take 5” series. With her busy schedule of running a boutique and making garments for the Indiana Repertory Theater, I genuinely appreciate her taking time out to chat with me. As she answered each question, she took my mind on a journey of her life. I learned so much about the designer’s point of view in the fashion industry.
1.). How did you get your start in the fashion industry?
I have been designing and sewing things since I was little. I had lots of Barbies including my favorite Indian Barbie and made them clothing. There was this cool fabric store in biking distance from my house that I went to with my best friend. They sold scraps by the pound, which for a kid is amazing. It was like a candy store to us! Actually, I think it was right by the candy store. I also sketched designs all the time as a kid. I didn’t actually get a machine until I was in junior high and my dad bought me a serger in high school. (Dads love sergers for some reason).
When I was looking at college, I really had no idea what to do. I had been on a very academic math/science track in high school, but when I visited IU, we walked past the costume shop and I was enchanted. I think the mix of literature and clothing made me feel like what I was doing was less “frivolous” than fashion. I also loved the collaborations that happen in design for stage. I try to carry that over into our local Fashion community but fashion is generally so competitive!
In any case, I had a career as a costumer (I was mostly a pattern maker but also did design) from 1992-2006. I got pretty burned out though and applied for and received a Creative Renewal Grant in 2005 (through the Arts Council). I used that money to create my first fashion collection and hosted a fashion show in 2006. I invited a number of textile artists to show with me and that was my first foray into fashion here in Indianapolis.
Since then, I participated in the Project IMA shows and met with a lot of other local designers, stylists, and photographers. Some of us banded together to create Indianapolis Fashion Collective which is now Pattern. And that is the weird and twisted story of how I ended up in fashion in Indianapolis!
2.). What inspires you when creating your designs?
What inspires me? It’s mostly who inspires me. I know a lot of creative people, and as I said collaboration is very interesting to me. The people I know inspire me to do better, and I find myself bouncing ideas off of my friends and that helps me grow. I also get inspired by colors and textures I see in nature, or in my environment. I get inspired by projects that come through my studio-I tend to combine ideas that don’t normally seem to go together and it’s because of the side work that I do. For instance, a donation of That silks and working on football jerseys at the same time inspired some fantasy runway apparel. Lastly, of course textiles inspire me.
3.). What do you like creating the most? Ready-to-wear or costumes?
It’s a tough choice. I love making wearable items and I really dig tailoring details like pockets, topstitching, seaming details, etc. However, when I’m making ready to wear, those details create a higher cost and make the item less likely to sell in a market where I am competing with discount stores and foreign made goods. The fashion items that I want to design and sell become impractical to sell.
That means I only get to do those labor intensive and fabulous items when I make costumes, so I still do some costume work. I just finished working on a show at IRT, Two Gentleman of Verona. I made several tailcoats, a vest and two long caped coats. I am fairly set for my tailoring desires right now! Back to knits.
4.) How do you prepare for a fashion show?
I try to not do many fashion shows anymore. While I love the hype and “glamour” (see the sarcasm there), it’s a big load of work and very little payoff. Things that people want to see on the runway are rarely sellable. People expect a show but don’t want to buy, which is not a great investment.
But, when I did do shows, I was careful to create a collection of items that were interesting, told a story and went well together. I found models who branded me well, tried my best to get a variety of looks and a nice diversity of race, hair color, etc. I pre-fit my models and altered looks to fit them if necessary, but generally chose models to fit my items. No matter how you prepare, though, the show day is exhausting and in my opinion, rarely worth it. Yeah, you get a few pics in the paper, but then it’s all forgotten!
5.) What advice would you give to aspiring designers?
Advice: be realistic but allow yourself to dream. I guess what I mean is, if we all did all the research before starting nobody would be in this business. It is hard to succeed, takes a lot of money and you really have to be willing to stick it out. So there has to be a balance of knowing what you can afford to do and believing in yourself. But don’t go broke! 🙂