Kate Towers is a sparkling gem in the world of Portland fashion. A self-taught seamstress, designer, artist, and business owner, Kate has helped foster the fashion community over the past two decades; first with her store Seaplane, and then her own line. Frances May has been blessed by Kate’s artistic vision in many ways over the years, carrying her beautiful pieces, and most recently displaying her work in our windows over the summer. Kate also collaborated on the hand-painted mustard shirt dress for the release of Frances May Houseline’s latest collection. We had the chance to visit her in her bright, colorful studio, and learn more about her take on dressing, work, and designing what she loves to wear.
FM: Where are you from and how has that shaped or inspired you creatively?
KT: New Hampshire, Live Free or Die. Both of my parents are creatives. We never had a ton of money but they made sure to get my sister and I out into the world to see and experience things. I remember them hosting weird theme parties and we were always making things with our hands. My father wanted to be an architect. He built cool lighting fixtures and furniture around our house. He built the most amazing pirate ship in our backyard to play in. It was very mid-century minimalist and painted gray and white. My mother made clothes for my sister and I and we never bought our Halloween costumes. We spent a lot of time outdoors, in the mountains, traveling around. It was a fairly romantic childhood.
FM: A pearl of wisdom to give to your younger self on dressing…
KT: Nobody cares but you.
FM: Can you describe your favorite ‘style’ moment/memory?
KT: Okay, embarrassing, but there was a point in high school when I loved the GAP. I was on my own for buying clothing and everything was expensive, but I would save my babysitting money and scour the sale racks. One season everything was blue and white polka dots. I bought the entire look down to shoes and baseball cap. YES OF COURSE I wore it all together.
FM: What’s the best piece of fashion advice you’ve ever been given?
KT: If you don’t know what to wear, pick a color and go for a monochromatic look. I gave this advice to myself.
FM: How does your work shape your personal style?
KT: My work is my personal style and my personal style is my work.
FM: Where in the world do you feel most inspired?
KT: In my bathrobe. At the beach. In the woods. When I’m moving quickly. Amsterdam.
FM: Tell us about your creative process
KT: Messy but very organized.
“ I try to achieve a look that says, I didn’t try to achieve anything here... it’s actually very hard to do! ”
FM: What do you have in mind when you get dressed in the morning? What do you try to achieve with your choice of clothing/outfits?
KT: I try to achieve a look that says, I didn’t try to achieve anything here… it’s actually very hard to do!
FM: Can you tell us about your next creative project?
KT: Producing a fashion event fundraiser for the Children’s Cancer Association. November 24th, save the date!
FM: How does Portland inspire the way you dress?
KT: Layers. Moods. My mood and the weathers mood. This is really what it comes down to. I like to have uniforms on rotation.
FM: How closely are your designs connected to the community of Portland?
KT: Very connected and designed in the moment rather than seasons ahead. Everything is made here and I love seeing people around the city wearing my clothes. Some of my best supporters are other local designers/artists and I appreciate that!
FM: Do you consider yourself an “artist” or “creative”? Have you ever struggled with this part of your identity?
KT: Both. I’m really open to creativity from all angles so the struggle is how to focus on one thing. I say I’m an artist who makes clothes, more than a clothing designer specifically.
FM: What do you think your clothes or personal style say about you as a person?
KT: That I’m a tired mom with no time to dress myself. Maybe an eccentric mom, which is cool by me. Maybe a bag lady. That’s cool, too.
“ I think when I have a chance to wear my own pieces I’ve designed I’m very happy. I truly design what I love to wear. ”
FM: What is your favorite piece of clothing? And why?
KT: Always changing. Mostly older pieces that have already had a life or two lived in them before me. You can’t buy the authenticity.
FM: How has your style evolved over the years?
KT: I’m more drawn to timeless items that will last and interchange with the special pieces. I’m really disgusted about how much waste goes into the clothing industry so I don’t buy much.
FM: Is there a particular outfit that makes you feel the most confident/inspired?
KT: I think when I have a chance to wear my own pieces I’ve designed I’m very happy. I truly design what I love to wear.
FM: What does being ‘comfortable’ and ‘confident’ with your sense of style mean to you?
KT: I still struggle with this at times and am feeling very in between right now. When the seasons change, I feel a little lost in what to put on. Ultimately though, it’s dressing for myself and really enjoying the clothing I choose to wear. The occasion doesn’t matter - it’s sad to think about beautiful things just hanging in a dark closet.
Join Kate on Sunday, Nov 24 at the Next Hotel for a multi-dimensional fashion event featuring more than 40 local designers and artists, all benefiting the Children's Cancer Association. Purchase tickets HERE.