“I’ve always loved the narrative and illustrative elements of embroidered Western wear,” says Kathie Sever, who founded Austin-based atelier Fort Lonesome, specialists in custom chain-stitching, in 2012. “You can literally tell a whole story with one garment,” she says of the arts-and-crafts aesthetic that has been given a high-fashion focus in the past few years, with the likes of Gucci’s Alessandro Michele bringing intricately hand-embellished designs to the fore. In Texas, however, Sever nods to the rich heritage of Western-style customisation and adds to it her own artistic expression. “We make things that are on the unusual side and tend to stay away from generic themes such as horseshoes and skulls. We take people’s stories and pluck things out that are visually interesting.”
The results are one-off denim jackets ($1,500) and suits (from $3,400) with serious design flair. The bespoke process begins with an initial questionnaire, followed by phone calls and emails to determine the imagery and colour palette. “A jacket, for example, takes around 25 hours to produce, from initial drawings to the finished garment,” says Sever, whose recent commissions range from a jean jacket featuring a family’s five Dalmatians to a silver-grey men’s wedding suit emblazoned with floral motifs. The bold statement style has attracted performers such as Taylor Swift and actors including Bill Murray, as well as brides and those looking to commemorate a special occasion.
The creative possibilities are virtually limitless, and the Fort Lonesome studio – now nine-people strong – delights in an aesthetic challenge. “What we do is the opposite of fast fashion,” explains Sever. “We put a lot of time and energy into creating these garments as we know they’ll be kept for a lifetime.”