You’ll want to go to bed with East Dallas designer Kathy Fielder, but get your mind out of the gutter.
After 10 years as a designer, Fielder had a serendipitous and unrelated meeting with officials at Neiman Marcus, during which she was asked to design eight to 10 complete bedding collections for the locally launched luxury department store. They gave her two months.
“I said, ‘Maybe. I can try,’” Fielder remembers with a laugh. “Eight weeks isn’t a long time to order, produce and all that, but I did, and Neiman’s picked it up. It went really fast and really big with them. It was seven-figures of revenue in 18 months. It was insane.”
She called it the Isabella Collection, after her daughter. Once Neiman’s picked it up, the floodgates opened. She had thousands of orders, and then came the hard part — how to fulfill them all with her small crew of women. She jokes that she “accidentally became a manufacturer.” That was 10 years ago.
“When you have a brand like that … you can pretty much do anything,” she says.
Since starting at the top, she has been working her way down. She still produces multiple collections for Neiman Marcus every season, but she also creates collections for Rue La La, One Kings Lane, and Gilt, “for people who maybe can’t afford Neimans,” she says.
She does it all from her studio on the corner of Greenville and Oram. It’s deceptively large. The front looks like a typical showroom, but there’s a giant work area in the back where the magic happens.
“It’s amazing the things we make, the sheer amount of product,” she says. “It’s everything from very ruched and tasseled to totally streamlined, just something everyday living that you could find at Pottery Barn. All of that is made right here.”
She employs dozens of women. Even Fielder’s mom works for her as a pattern maker. Last year Fielder began working with African refugees, who are a part of a group called the Ahadi Collective, a co-op that works out of White Rock United Methodist Church in East Dallas.
The co-op was started by the Missional Wisdom Foundation to create a sustainable business using their creative skills. Fielder employs a couple of the women once a week at her studio.
“So they’re making stuff for us, and then we’ll tweak it and teach them how to get it up to the quality that we need for our retailers,” she says.
“One of the women spent five years with her husband in a refugee camp, but now they’re here and learning this trade. My mom is working with them so we can use them as a source for our sewing. We’re all women here. Empowering women is important.”
Catch up with Kathy Fielder on her lifestyle blog, kathyfielder.com, where she offers design tips. Catch her on WFAA’s “The Fielder Report” at 11 a.m. on the third Sunday of every month. Her studio is at 2000 Greenville.
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