"I think I saw Brokeback Mountain and Walk the Line too close together!" laughs Kate Bennet, explaining her Cowgirl Collection a line of spring and summer women's fashions now featured at the Pure Detroit Design Lab. Bennet's adorable clothes are anything but somber; they're a cheeky, girly take on swinging short skirts and flirty belted dresses, with ribbon embellishments and black duds.
A 2002 graduate of Wayne State's costume design department, Bennet has acquired a special affinity for the 16th through 19th centuries. "Everything now is mass-produced and done on an assembly line," she observes. "We've lost a lot of the detail and embellishment that we used to have." Her theater experience brings an intriguing sensibility to her work. "I like to do things that are theatrical yet wearable, pieces that are really different but don't stand out like a sore thumb, things that are inspired by vintage but still up-to-date." Other sources of inspiration include such classic design houses as Chanel and Balenciaga, along with the gritty eclecticism of the Detroit music scene.
Although her ready-to-wear line stands fabulously on its own, Bennet's primary specialty is bridal wear and her gowns are simply divine. She currently works at Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, so she has cultivated a love of fine fabric. "I always liked being in the bridal department because I like the textures, fabrics and colors. There was a natural transition from costume design, which is very theatrical, to bridal wear, which can be totally dramatic, totally modern and allows you to do anything. Plus, it's great to work with brides because they are so excited rather than an actor who is pissy and doesn't want to put on a wig!"
Informed by previous forays into bygone eras, Bennet's gowns feature gathered bustles, long trains, intricate draping and traces of medievalism. One of her personal favorites, featured in the current issue of Detroit Bride, was inspired by A Midsummer Night's Dream. "It's a champagne silk tulle and Chantilly lace dress, all hand-draped and really unusual. I think it really represents the direction I'd like to take."
Bennet currently works one-on-one with clients in her studio, but would like to get her gowns in local bridal salons by 2007. Things could get a whole lot more exciting before then, though she's just auditioned for Bravo's fashion reality show Project Runway.
For more information on her bridal wear, visit katebennet.net.Christina Kallery is a freelance writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org