By Miranda McDonald
The first time I met Frances Lewis, we were sitting in her New Albany studio discussing the debut of her fall collection and first runway show. Not only was the excitement and stress of presenting herself to the community as a credible designer apparent, but so was her unwavering determination to do so for a greater good: The Cabbage Patch Settlement House.
Lewis was 9 years old when she became a part of “The Patch.” The local children’s charity, which helps empower at-risk youths and their families, was “a part of many firsts in my life: first job as a teen, first real camping experience, first time off a diving board, my first play, so many new experiences,” she said, “and they have supported me so much in my current endeavors. I know what they’ve done for me; I know what they’ve done for my friends. What they do there works. I want to help them keep their mission going as long as they can.”
When Lewis presented her fall 2014 collection to a crowd of local fashion enthusiasts from both sides of the bridge, the event benefitted the Cabbage Patch and provided a big career boost forward. Now, six months later, her studio space and ideas on the direction she wants to take her clothing brand Ann DeEvelyn have grown as rapidly as her client base.
Lewis may not have always known that she wanted to be a fashion designer, but she always had a deep appreciation for fabric and a knack for creating things with her hands.
“I remember asking Santa for material as a child,” said the designer, who grew up in Shively, Kentucky. This affection for fabric and the ability to create something with it stayed with Lewis and eventually pushed her into the world of costume design while she studied theater at the University of Louisville. Thanks to a runway course, Lewis was able to work on her aesthetic as a designer. “My background in costume design taught me how to sew on a professional level and helped me appreciate the little details that can make a piece of clothing unique.”
Lewis is currently hard at work on her fall collection and will also showcase her work at a handful of local events. The designer will be involved with KMAC Couture in April and will be a lead designer at Louisville Fashion Nite Out this summer. She’s also in the process of vamping up her website, Ann-deevelyn.com, which currently allows customers to see her latest work, purchase her creations online and even schedule fashion parties with the designer herself.
“I have grown mostly by word of mouth, so a lot of my work comes from a person seeing my clothing and then coming to me to create something that is custom-made for them,” she said. “I want to dress a woman who appreciates something classic and handmade, but also wants a slight twist to her clothing.”
From a piece of beautifully sewn fabric resembling exterior shoulder pads on a jacket to an exaggerated peplum hem on a coat, the years Lewis has spent perfecting her craft in the costume industry have served her well. “The day I stop being able to make something unique for my clients,” she said, “is the day that I need to reevaluate why I am in this business.”
With each step Lewis takes toward her goal of being a thriving designer, she also takes a moment to reflect on how far she’s come and those who’ve supported her along the way. “I started in a bedroom in my apartment in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Then, I moved to a studio space. Now I am in an even bigger studio (in New Albany),” she said. “I definitely have a support web. My family showers me with love and encouragement, and my boyfriend has been a constant support over the years.”
The designer also praises her mentors and those at Cabbage Patch who encouraged her to follow her dreams. She plans to return the favor one day by connecting with emerging local talent as a mentor and starting a fashion academy for children. “Every year I taught a fashion camp at the Cabbage Patch house,” Lewis said. “You’d be surprised what little girls can accomplish in a week if you just challenge them and teach them how to live up to that challenge.”