Plenty of 15-year old girls dream about couture dresses and designing for the runway, but for Kate Miles, this is a reality. She’s here from Oregon this week armed with avant garde gowns, excitement for the adventure ahead, and a sense of humbleness that’s rare for someone her age. Her dresses hit the runway at 5:15 pm tonight.
MTI: Tell me a bit about yourself and your background.
K: I grew up in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere on a farm. When I was 10, my dad was killed in a farm accident, so my mom and I moved to Willamette Valley, so I had some access to fabric stores. I’ve always sewn, but I got really into it. I used to sew for my dolls when I was younger, and I would sell them clothes. I sold my first wedding dress when I was 12.
MTI: Who taught you how to sew?
K: My grandma. She was a 4-H community leader for sewing. It’s a kids organization where you do competitions for sewing, and cooking, and you can raise animals. She taught me when I was 4, and I’ve sewn ever since?
MTI: How do you balance being 15 and being a fashion designer?
K: It’s really hard. Basically, just having my priorities. Whichever is going to benefit in the long-run; like what is going to be the for other people and my career. Sometimes the best thing is going to be me hanging out with friends, ‘cause that’s going to keep me from being crazy. Other times, I need to do my homework or skip school.
MTI: Who are the most influential people in your life?
K: Definitely my family. Both my grandmas have been helping me learn how to sew. My mom has been really supportive in helping me get where I need to go. She drove me here. I had 16 dresses in the backseat, so I couldn’t fly with them. I’ve been really blessed with my family.
MTI: Where do you look to for inspiration?
K: My favourite thing to do is going into a fabric store and feel the fabrics. I get ideas based on the fabric – kindof the backwards way of doing it, but I like it.
MTI: Are there any style icons that you love?
K: So growing up in the middle of nowhere, I did not have television nor internet. Even now that I’m in civilization, I try to avoid that. I never really know what’s going on. I like to follow Elie Saab on Pinterest, but I’m pretty much out of the loop other than that.
MTI: How would you describe the collection you have here this week?
K: It’s very eclectic. This collection is very 1930s style. I liked the lines from the 30s. There’s some more modern texture. It’s more fluffy. There’s more an edge on a 30s silhouette.
MTI: What’s your favourite thing about what you do?
K: I love meeting people. That’s my favourite thing. I get to see people who like the same things as me and care about things that I care about. When I’m in high school, kids want talk about sports and what’s happening on Friday and who posted what on Instagram. I don’t care! I want to go talk to someone about fashion or art. I like getting to be with people who are like that too.
MTI: Do you think that’s made you grow up really quickly?
K: I think I’ve grown up really fast because of losing a parent so young. It definitely forces a kid to grow up faster than normal. Getting into the industry – I’ve had to learn how to work with people.
MTI: How would you describe your personal style?
K: Having been raised on a farm, I dressed in my brother’s hand-me-downs until I was in 6th grade. I’ve been learning. I dressed in sweats and a t-shirt through 7th grade, and then I started going like, “I’m not in the desert anymore. I can wear pretty clothes.” I really like vintage. For my shows, I either make my own or I go vintage, and I don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on an outfit.
MTI: Do you think your personal style is influences the way you design things?
K: No I don’t think so. I see the fabric, and it speaks to me, and I think, “Okay, who would wear this?” And some of the stuff I make, I would never wear. There’s definitely a time and place for any sort of outfit. I sometimes get brides, and I sometimes get goth girls. This lady, she was probably in her 50s, she showed up and she had a stack of papers. And she walked in and she just said, “I just want to feel pretty.” And I told her I could help her with that. I’m still working on hers but she wants a 1920s style dress; it’s got a drop waist. The 20s are my favourite. The whole era is great.
MTI: So what are the biggest challenges that you’ve faced?
K: Besides the fact that I don’t have a drivers license, I have to go to school. That’s probably my biggest struggle. I can’t get serious enough about it that I can make enough money on it and do the things I really need to do. I still need to be doing school work. It’s kinda hard, because I really want to go and make my business expand, but I’m kinda held back from it because of my school. I wanna go to art school for sure. I’m enrolled in community college right now, so I should have my high school diploma and associates degree done by the end of next year, which will be my junior year. By senior year, I’ll be done. Hopefully, it all works out.
MTI: What are other things you do outside of being a fashion designer and student?
K: Before I was doing college, I was really involved in the community. I was part of Future Farmers of America, which is the biggest student life organization in the world. There’s public speaking competitions. You can raise animals. I was really involved with that, but this year, it’s been harder for me to do as many things. I like to do things with my friends. The dresses take up a lot of time.
MTI: Do you have any advice for someone who wants to break into the fashion industry?
K: Don’t think that you can’t work with people. It’s very important to just go and listen. Look around and see what everyone else is doing, and you can really pick up on things. I started out with apprenticing for a stylist. And just being on the set, and being around industry professionals, I really picked up a lot of different things, and I think that’s really helped me. As long as you’re willing to be really helpful and nice to everyone, they’ll turn around and they’ll go, “Oh well let’s do a photoshoot for you!”
MTI: What do you think is a major quality you need to have in order to be successful in the fashion industry?
K: For me, I have to know that all my talent is not just me. It’s a gift from God. When I win, I can’t go, “Oh I’m so great.” I have to think, okay what can I do with my talent? I need to ask how I can help other people. Personally, that’s the way I want to look at it. Doors will just open as long as I don’t get cocky.
Photography by: Rebekah Ho