Inside Colour Queen Katie Kortman’s Technicolour World of Wearable Art
Drawing on her background in fine art and painting, colour queen, textile and (now) fashion designer Katie Kortman uses bold brushstrokes and joyous, chaotic hues to bring wearable art into daily life.
photos KATHRYN BAGLEY
Tell us a bit about you, your inspirations and your creative design process…
I’m a freelance textile designer as well as a fashion designer with my own clothing line. I used all my prints in this line to create fun clothing with lots of punch and whimsy. When it comes to fashion, I design with myself in mind. I want to look like a walking piece of art yet be comfy enough to live my everyday life in them. My prints are an extension of my fine art background. I studied painting in college and my work is very colourful and abstract. I’m inspired by colour, texture and shape: all the elements of art! I usually just start painting and each brushstroke informs the next. It’s very organic and rarely thought out beforehand.
Why is colour so important to you?
Colour brings me joy and I want to bring that to others. I spent years having to search high and low for clothing that felt joyous and colourful enough for me. In the end, I had to learn how to make my own instead!
Colour brings me joy and I want to bring that to others.
Why do you think your Insta movement encouraging people to wear more colour resonated so much?
Adults have largely become scared of colour and how to use it. #WearHappyColour gives them tools and info that helps, but also permission to try out wearing colours again and in new ways. Every year I get myriad messages from people telling me how it made them feel joyous and how others noticed and gave them so many compliments. It’s really exciting to see how wearing colour positively affects people.
Maker or fashion designer – what came first?
Maker for sure. I was an artist who wanted to wear art and who loved working with her hands – I hate it if I don’t have a project to work on! After sewing for myself for a few years, I got to go on Project Runway, which led to me becoming an actual fashion designer. It was a dream I’d had since my undergrad and I never thought it would be possible given that I didn’t go to fashion school.
What inspired Katie Kortman Clothing?
After going on Project Runway I realised that even if I didn’t win, I loved doing it so much. Before that show, I didn’t know how to design clothing, only how to sew with patterns. It was the impetus for me to learn that skill – I had to get textbooks! And then it lit a fire under my bum to actually do something with it. It was definitely the natural next step… I had been sewing clothes for myself for so long, but my closet is really full! It was better for me to start sewing for others. Plus, people had been begging for this for years!
I design with myself in mind. I want to look like a walking piece of art yet be comfy enough to live my everyday life in them.
Tell us a bit about the fabrics in the range…
I love using Spoonflower’s sport Lycra for my headbands and the organic cotton sateen for custom dresses, shirts and in linings and ruffles on different pieces I create. I plan to make some custom quilted jackets and will be using the linen cotton canvas for that. Another of my favourite substrates is their Dogwood Denim. I haven’t produced pants yet, but when I do I want their denim! It’s the best!
Why is print-on-demand fabric so popular?
Because it’s accessible. Before places like Spoonflower existed, you would’ve had to buy hundreds of yards from a fabric manufacturer to have your own fabric printed. And how would you even go about finding those places anyway? This is an easy way to make something custom. I know people who’ve made prints of old photos or family heirlooms. And then if you’re underwhelmed by the fabric options in the stores, you can search and find a print just like what you’re looking for – and even pick the substrate you want. Get it in swimsuit fabric and denim! I’ve done that!
What’s your favourite part about working with Spoonflower?
I love the quality of the fabrics but also the people who work there – they’re wonderful. I’ve toured the facilities and taught a class back when I was their first brand ambassador. I was incredibly impressed with their ethical practices but also the fun-loving work environment. It’s evident in everything they do.
Where to next?
I hope to have my own runway show in the future and to expand my brand in all sorts of ways! The sky’s the limit – but it will take a little time, as I do have four kids and I don’t want to miss their childhoods!