Chicago Fashion Designer, Robin Bolton of RB Designs
Custom clothier Robin Bolton says she thinks she was Betsey Ross in another life. Maybe so, but she is definitely the updated twenty-first century version! Traditional upholstery fabrics transform into beautiful coats and jackets under the designing eye of Robin Bolton of RB Designs in DeKalb, Illinois. No longer is upholstery fabric just for hanging around windows or furniture. Where the rest of us see drapes, Betsy, I mean Robin, sees a stunning coat or jacket creation. RB Designs also makes custom wedding dresses.
When Robin was asked about the fabrics and how she comes up with her designs, she said:
The feel of the fabric is intoxicating. Combining fabrics and designs is a kick. Having the end result match my original imagined image is thrilling. I am blessed to have found my true purpose in life at a very early age, and I am even more blessed that more than 40 years later it is still as exciting as it was when I began.
Designing, sewing and styling instincts showed up early for Robin because, at the young age of 4, she remembers styling her Barbie dolls in hand embroidered handkerchiefs, and by the age of 7, she was creating her own clothing. Robin says sewing has been in her blood since she picked up a needle.
When she was 17 years old, Robin was asked to make a wedding dress for a neighbor’s daughter. She did. And, you know the rest – it’s history. When she was asked to make that dress, she had already been doing wedding dress alternations for a bridal store.
Robin graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in Fashion Merchandise.
"My real practical experience came from being a member of the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (ASDP)," Robin said.
She says Susan Khalje was her first mentor in the industry. "She wrote the bible on sewing wedding gowns with couture techniques," Robin said. She credits Claire Shaeffer, Roberta Carr, and Nancy Erickson for helping take her skills to another level.
In 2003, Robin won an award from the Association of Sewing & Design for one of her wedding gown designs.
I asked Robin to describe her philosophy about style, fashion, and of course, the mission statement for RB Designs, and she said:
Garments should be unique in every way, outstanding in quality and design while allowing the wearer to be the main attraction. Individual, luxurious, and unique with a mix of the unexpected.
To see the smile on the face of a very pleased client, and know that they are as happy with my work as I am.
Robin’s advice to aspiring fashion designers is to have knowledge of what a dart does and dart rotation, and how a garment is engineered. You will also need to know about texture, balance and color.
Robin believes in passing it forward, so she teaches students the techniques she has learned in her own studio. She says she is doing what she loves and cannot see herself doing anything else.
Visit the RB Designs website. Prices range from $500 to $1,000.