Beach Coast Fashion with a Voice
Catherine Doll’s consumer-conscious fashions inspired by a small town
By Krysten Beck
When the town of Sawyer, Michigan comes to mind, what do people usually associate with it? The dunes? Sure. Beaches on Lake Michigan? Of course. A quiet place to vacation? Definitely. A fashion Mecca? Not even close.
So it’s a little puzzling that artist and fashion designer Catherine Doll decided to leave her artistic neighborhood in Chicago and move her business (and life) to Sawyer.
“The serenity of the area just makes thinking easier,” said Catherine. “I get a lot of inspiration from my surroundings because the area is so great.” And because her wearable art takes more of a stand than your garden variety jersey-knit t-shirt, Doll draws on that inspiration to keep her fashion ideas flowing.
Sustainable Clothing As Wearable Art
Doll’s two newest collections “Recycled Tees” and “Kaleidoscope” reuse pieces of clothing and make a statement about the throwaway, wasteful mentality of today’s consumer market. “We each need to do our part to recycle and I find this recycled goods and clothing philosophy fascinating,” says Doll. “We all can at least change our piece of the world.”
Doll and her assistant, Sherry Giryotas, scour thrift shops to find interesting t-shirts and other pieces of clothing they wash, overdye, and then piece together to create a quilt-like fabric. These newly created fabrics are then used to create one-of-a-kind “sustainable” garments like capris, skirts, dresses, and a variety of tops.
In making these two lines, as well as her other fashion projects, Doll uses every part of the thrift shop-found materials to minimize waste. After cutting out the pieces to make her garments, Doll uses leftover scraps to make blankets and throws which are also sold at her shop. “It’s my way to say something, to provide a social commentary on the mass-produced world we live in,” says Doll.
The Turning Point
Finding something special in someone’s throwaways comes from Doll’s 30-year background in art. Doll was trained as a fine artist but decided that after exhibiting for 10 years, it was time for something else. “There was a point in my life where I had to decide if I wanted to be a waitress for the rest of my life or make a business out of something I really loved to do,” Doll says.
She began using her artistic training to design clothing, which is now carried by more than 50 stores across the United States. Still, something wasn’t quite right for Doll who said, “When my clothing was shipped out to retailers, I felt like I never had control over how my clothes were displayed.”
She turned her frustration into motivation—deciding it was time to move from the city and try her hand at design and retail. She found the old Sawyer fire station that is now her design headquarters at auction. She knew when she saw it that it would be the perfect venue for designing, sewing, and selling her wearable art clothing. “The auction was perfectly timed,” says Doll. “Sawyer is slow paced enough for me to relax and design while also being a wonderful place to live."
Catherine Doll’s clothing has earned the designer a national reputation. “Designing clothing really allows me to express my vision and views as an artist,” says Doll. “My art has always contained an element of social commentary and this has carried over into my clothing designs, which are reflective of the times and social atmosphere in which we live.”
Visit Catherine Doll’s website for additional retailers who carry her clothing lines.
5844 Sawyer Rd.
Sawyer, Michigan 49125
900 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
Urban Style Emporium
200 E. Delaware
Chicago, IL 60611