Paying fashion forward: Sew Can You students prepare for first show

Published 8:50 am Monday, March 17, 2014

Karla Arndt shows new student Angela Biggant how to use a sewing machine to help repair the stitching on a blanket. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Karla Arndt shows new student Angela Biggant how to use a sewing machine to help repair the stitching on a blanket. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Local business owner Karla Arndt opened her sewing school last year under the premise that if she can do it, “sew” can you.

Now, she is taking that philosophy to the runway as well.

Next month, Sew Can You Fashion Design School will host its first ever fashion show, entitled “Fashion It Forward,” where students will showcase the original clothing they’ve sewed and stitched together. The show will take place on April 13, at 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the ACTION Center.

While it will be the first such show in Dowagiac, Arndt is no stranger to organizing fashion shows for her students. She helped put together seven demonstrations for the public during her 20 years of teaching sewing in Chicago, Arndt said.

“The kids have such a blast,” she said. “It’s an ego blast to have the kids showcase what they’ve made.”

Arndt started teaching sewing in Dowagiac last year, opening Sew Can You in June on Pennsylvania Avenue downtown. She decided to share her love of fashion design to the city due mostly to the lack of activates for local girls, outside of dance and athletics.

“So many people told me it would never work, that the town is too small, that the economy is still slow,” Arndt said. “I had to find out for myself.”

Since opening, Arndt has had around 40 people sign up for classes, a third of which are adults.

One of Arndt’s older students, Heather Harding, signed up for classes the time as her daughter, Madelyn.

“Sewing is not something that I was taught when I was younger, so it’s a nice skill to have,” Harding said. “There are clothes I’ve made here that I could never have bought for the price it cost to make them myself.”

While the teacher said the show will have a “spring feel” to it, the kids and adults walking the runway will be showing off fashion appropriate for all season, including shorts, pajamas, nightshirts, pants and tutus.

“They have a variety of things they’re working on,” Ardnt said. “Nobody is working on the same subject at once.”

In her prior experience, fashion shows provide a few benefits, including giving students more incentive to improve their skills and providing more notoriety for the school.

“It’s a good way for me engage potential students,” Arndt said. “So many people walk in here and ask, ‘what is this place, I’ve never heard of it?’”

In addition to a fun way to spend a couple of hours, this particular show will offer something for the community as well: A chance to give back.

While searching for potential venues for the fashion show, Arndt ran across the ACTION Center, which is run by a collation of local churches. While touring the building, she noticed that their food bank, which they use for their weekly donations, was nearly empty, she said.

“I couldn’t believe how our town couldn’t keep the food pantry full,” Arndt said. “So I asked them ‘why don’t we take donations during the show?’”

So, in addition to collecting canned goods and other food items at the door, ticket proceeds will go toward the pantry. In addition, she is sending out letters for donations to local businesses to help the organization.

“The kids are overly excited for it,” Arndt said. “They keep coming up with ideas for what they want to show.”

Tickets for the show go on sale Monday, March 17, with adult tickets costing $5 and child and senior tickets costing $3. They can be purchased at Sew Can You, located at 111 Pennsylvania Ave. People interested in learning more can contact the school at 269-788-4241.