By Caitlin Ryan
Kathie Sever jokes that she’s taken “slow fashion” to a whole new level with Fort Lonesome, a custom western wear and chain stitch embroidery company. To create a single, custom piece for a client, she spends hours upon hours behind a chain stitch machine. But that’s the intention of Fort Lonesome to, as Sever explains, “generate a bit more of a consciousness around how people interact with the things that they choose to have in their environment.”
The decision to diverge from the traditionally fast-paced fashion industry doesn’t fall far from the Fort Lonesome aesthetic, one that can only be described as “outlaw.” Sever’s embroidery is deeply rooted in Western heritage, harkening back to colorful designs from famed rodeo tailors like Nudie Cohn who dressed the likes of John Wayne, Gene Autry and George Jones. “I think a lot of people in the United States have always romanticized everything about ‘The West,’’’ she says. “I can’t think of any type of style that is that enduring and that pervasive.”
Originally from California, Sever’s reverence for cowboy culture formally gelled once she moved to Montana to live on a ranch. “That’s where I got a fully fleshed out picture of how [Western wear] actually exists in a more pragmatic way,” she says. “I thought it was so fascinating — the rituals involved in terms of the way that the way you wore your hat, cuffed your pants, tucked in your shirt. It was such an interesting dichotomy to me, considering the fact that the rest of the life on the ranch included a lot of danger, a lot of risk, and a lot of freedom … it fit together really nicely.”
She brought this acute cultural awareness with her to Austin when she started her first business, a children’s clothing line called Ramonster, in 2000. Though it saw great success and a loyal clientele, she eventually became disenchanted with the modern manufacturing process in which “cheap, fast and easy” always seemed to win out. It was on the heels of that frustration that she sourced some chain stitching machines and began seriously exploring the older, time-intensive manufacturing technique.
“These machines, to me, felt like the perfect response [to mass production],” Sever says of founding Fort Lonesome. “They are so sensitive to the technician that you can’t make two things that look exactly the same. It’s kind of like using an Etch-a-Sketch or driving something with a steering wheel in that your personality, your energy, your handwriting is transferred when you’re doing this embroidery.”
When Sever meets with a customer regarding a potential commission, she sees it as her job to “interpret their narrative into their garments and textiles that they have around them.” It usually starts with a candid conversation, an agreed upon color scheme, and a black and white sketch. After that, it’s in Sever’s hands. “The process of embroidery can be such a fast-changing experience,” she says of her fluid working style. The words she uses in assessing someone’s sartorial vibe range from “vintage” to “cosmic” and “subtle with modern edge.” Considering the amount of time invested in each piece of art Sever creates, a jacket back-piece starts at $300 while pricing for an entire custom garment begins at $450. The result is a one-of-a-kind heirloom-worthy piece.
She now counts bona fide celebrities like Richard Linklater, Jimmy Kimmel and Bill Murray among her clients, and has done work in conjunction with Levi’s for Sufjan Stevens, First Aid Kit and Leon Bridges. One of her personal favorites, though, is country artist Nikki Lane out of Tennessee. “She’s part of this scene in Nashville right now that’s trying to shift the country music industry back to something that’s a little more outlaw,” she says of Lane’s “sexy, sassy” spirit and striking on stage persona. “When I am tired and frustrated or feel overworked and I get to dig into something for Nikki. It’s like taking a vacation.”
“Clothing has always been a funny way of telling a story,” Sever reflects, “so why would you want to tell any story other besides your own? The machines and the garments and the aesthetic all kind of coalesce. They’re all about individualism. That ties into our thing at Fort Lonesome.”
by Joanna Steblay
As the warm weather begins to set in and patio parties hit our calendars, we can’t help but embrace that summertime has returned to Austin. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be celebrating the return of the season with decadent ice cream, healthy smoothies and icy cocktails from your favorite local spots.
For those days when it’s too hot to venture out, we went to Austin’s sweet treat professionals and compiled the ultimate collection of DIY recipes to make from your home. Click through the galleries below to learn how to make everything icy and sweet, from poptails for date night to ice cream sandwiches for a dinner party.more
The spring edition of the Renegade Craft Fair returns for its seventh year in Austin May 14-15 at Fair Market. With over 125 makers on the roster, the scene is sure to be bustling with local artisans and DIYers slinging their unique, one-of-a-kind wares. In addition to great shopping, the RCF offers activities, special showcases and plenty of food and drink options for visitors. This year, celebrate your hard work shopping with a snack from Burro Cheese Kitchen and Lucky Lab Coffee Co. before commemorating the afternoon with some snapshots from Magnolia Photo Booth Co. But before...more
by James Ruiz
Inspired by the beautiful outdoor living spaces featured in our May feature The Space Between, we went window shopping and found some great outdoor furniture and accessories to liven up your outdoor patio, porch and pool. Flip through the galleries below to see how you can add a pop of color and style to your outdoor hideaway.more
Hundreds of people are moving to Austin each day, and downtown is one of the major hubs of growth for the city. Local real estate expert Jude Galligan discusses smart urban growth and what to expect this year as the skyline continues to evolve.
Your blog keeps Austin updated on the latest news in downtown. What is the most exciting development happening right now?
From my point of view, the most exciting development is the Waller Creek District Master Plan. Decades in the making, this transformative project came to life after designers competed for the contract. It is finally coming to downtown, bringing an imaginative chain of parks,...more
by James Ruiz
As you flip through the pages of our February Love Issue, one thing you’ll notice is the beautiful blooms that pop up throughout the magazine. We got some major googly eyes for the bouquets featured in our "Real Weddings" features, and earmarked the TRIBEZA Wedding Guide for even more Pinterest-worthy petals.
Instead of letting all that inspiration go to waste, we tried our hand at flower arranging to see what we could create. Since we consider ourselves floral design novices, we asked a few top designers...more