Uncommon Threads: Fort Lonesome’s custom designs are as cool as it gets (Austin Monthly; March 2016)

Original Austin Monthly article here.

UncommonThread_Main-a5e7a25a.jpgThe Fort Lonesome studio in the Zilker neighborhood whirs with activity. As Paula Cole’s “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” plays on the stereo, four industrial vintage Singer sewing machines purr. One woman sews a silver jacket at a frenetic pace while her colleagues stitch patches and a tapestry. In the center of the studio is a petite woman, Kathie Sever, 43, who sketches designs at a large table. Sever founded this hand-cranked chain-stitching operation in 2013 after putting aside Ramonster, her Western wear line for children, after 13 years. Since then, she’s designed custom-made shirts for Bill Murray, Jimmy Kimmel and Richard Linklater in a style reminiscent of the famous rhinestone suits tailored by Nudie Cohn.

As timing would have it, the loose and loopy sewing technique of chain-stitching is having a moment, Sever says, thanks to the rise in popularity of Western wear and motorcycle culture.  Now musicians such as Jenny Lewis and Nikki Lane go to Sever for their stage outfits. “It’s been funny to watch all of that happen after doing it for 15 years, and now all of a sudden it’s a thing people know about,” Sever says.

To make each one-of-a-kind item, the process begins with a conversation about the client’s aesthetic. In Lane’s case, the musician gives the designer “free rein.” “She’ll send me photos of things she loves, and I’ll use that as a vibeto play around with,” Sever says. A sketch and a palette is then shown to the client for feedback, and the design is stitched after a final drawing is laid out on the garment.

Having custom “flash” put on a ready-made item can take a few hours to a few days, but a custom garment, which requires taking measurements and selecting fabrics, can take up to a week and a half. (A bespoke garment starts at $600.) No matter what the work, it’s a labor of love, even if it took a while to catch on. “Nobody ever knew what chain stitching was,” Sever says. “People knew what Western wear was, but very few cared about it.” Now, everyone does.

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Eye On the Prize: By making styling trophies, Eva Schone comes in first (Austin Monthly; August, 2015)

Original Austin Monthly article here.

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Eva Schone is a sentimentalist. The living room of the 40-year-old designer’s Brentwood duplex is filled with the type of plants her family owned while she was growing up in East Germany. That same feeling of love and acknowledgment is evident in the products of her company, Trophyology, a boutique design firm specializing in sophisticated, high-quality trophies, plaques and gifts.

Trained as an architect at the University of South Florida’s School of Architecture and Community Design, Schone started her business after seeing a need in the market and—frankly—receiving one too many chintzy awards. “I was proud of the recognition, but I never felt I wanted to show any of them,” she explains. So she set out to create heirloom-quality awards that reflect the same kind of excellence as that of the trophy recipients. In 2011, while traveling around Europe, she designed her first collection. Upon her return to Austin, where she has been living since ’06, she went to the American Institute of Architects chapter and presented the Emerging Professional Award she had once received and a prototype for a redesigned version. The organization responded: “How do we order?”

Since then, Schone has collaborated with several local and national organizations, including Austin Energy Green Building, Corgan, Hanger, Inc. and Savant. In May, business-to-business magazine Counselor listed her as a successful entrepreneur and trailblazer in its annual 2015 “Hot 25.”

Trophyology’s custom designs can take several weeks to complete. Schone approaches them as architecture projects, creating 10 to 20 models before handing off her drawings to her contractors, who make the pieces using North American hardwoods and locally sourced materials. The results don’t come cheap, with trophies ranging in price from $275 to $575. But even a stationery box displays a handiwork that comes from the heart and expresses gratitude and appreciation. In fact, when asked who her dream client would be, Schone gets a little misty. “I have a sweet spot for all of the people who made the Berlin Wall fall down,” she says. “That was such a big deal, and I don’t want to forget that. I’m very grateful for the people who helped.”