Sew Sharp

A new face in fashion finds her niche.

When Kari Bare was 7 years old, her grandmother introduced her to the art of traditional Appalachian needlecrafts. At age 10, Bare began altering hand-me-downs to better fit her sense of style and then quickly transitioned to designing her own clothes.

Now 24, the Glade Spring native is a rising star in innovative clothing design having debuted her second women’s fashion line Buckle and Shift at the September 2016 D.C. Fashion Week.

Bare’s retro line is inspired by her childhood experiences watching (and sometimes helping) her family to restore antique cars. The red and black palette of Buckle and Shift is reminiscent of the bold leathers and shining paints of vintage vehicles from the 1960s and ’70s, but Bare wasn’t just inspired by the look of the cars—she wanted to make use of actual materials. To create her unique pieces, Bare used salvaged fabrics and accessories from vintage automobile upholstery, including a seat belt she used to make straps and a belt for a dress. Some of the fabrics came directly out of the cars themselves, whereas others had been manufactured for vintage cars but never used. 

Kari Bare

Twenty-five pieces of Buckle and Shift were modeled during D.C. Fashion Week, including one dress resembling the fender of a 1953 Chevy. All of the garments were created in the sewing room of Bare’s Fairfax apartment where, to tackle the dense upholstery, she had to switch to needles made for leather and more durable upholstery thread.

Growing up in a small town with virtually no arts scene, Bare had nearly given up on her impossible dream of becoming a fashion designer and instead went on to major in business at King University in Bristol. After graduating, however, Bare realized that if she had a great concept, and was willing to go “full throttle,” she would be able to make it in the design industry. In May of 2016 she got her chance, debuting her first line, called Reimagined Kaleidoscope, in collaboration with world-renowned artist Michelle Gagliano, with whom Bare crossed paths while living in Charlottesville in 2015. Gagliano was looking for someone to translate her paintings to fabric and asked Bare, who expressed a desire to work in the textile industry, to make samples. Bare accepted the job without having any prior training in textile design, and a little more than a year later, she has two clothing lines to her credit.

Now, in between fashion shows and artist collaborations, the in-demand designer still finds time to return home, where she and her grandmother work on sewing projects together, exploring a variety of mediums because, Bare says, they “both get bored easily.”

One of their more meaningful projects has been working on quilt ideas. “My great-grandmother was an amazing Appalachian-style abstract quilter who left behind many pieces when she passed. We have been trying to use both of our expertise to revive them into something new and useful,” says Bare.   

Bare attributes much of her success to the uniqueness of her work: “Anyone can design the same clothes that are normally seen on the runway. It’s when you start to think outside the box that people get excited.” KariBareCouture.com


See Buckle and Shift at the Cruisin’ Classics Car Club Annual Show in Abingdon June 10.

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