Last year at KMAC Couture, a model walked down the runway in a stunning short blue skirt and light top. Halfway down the runway, she took off her top and threw it into the audience, then unhinged her skirt, revealing a long red dress that was hiding there all along. It was such a dramatic surprise that the audience erupted in cheers and applause.
The young designer who co-designed that dress also designed and made two other pieces for that night, logging 200 hours for each creation. Not only does she design and sew the dresses, she makes the fabric and dyes it herself. She is the epicenter of all the processes of her creations. That is the glory of KMAC Couture – how it showcases designers with a preeminent passion and dedication to their art. When this designer is not making beautiful couture, she is the coordinator for the DyeScape program through Anchal Project, where she focuses on growing the plants to naturally dye textiles for use in their products. If you have never thought about where your clothes and their colors come from, read more below about the fascinating world of textiles. Meet the talented woman who will enlighten you today about your clothing: Brent Drew-Wolak.
When did your love of textiles begin?
It began at a young age when I attended the Waldorf School of Louisville. Here, I learned handwork and craft as central parts of my education. I was always eager to explore different types of textile work, and it soon became my favorite subject. As I grew up and attended a different school, I mostly forgot about my love for fiber. It wasn’t until I started studying fashion business at Columbia College in Chicago that I discovered I could actually make a career out of my adolescent passion.
Tell us about your creative background.
From an early age, I was taught to explore my natural surrounding and use it as inspiration to create something more than imagination. Through art, I learned math, science and history. This strong use of art instilled in me a drive to always approach work through creativity. With this philosophy instilled in me, I was automatically turned off by fast fashion, because it was not in line with how I learned about creativity and process. This led me to leave Chicago and come back to Kentucky to do an independent textile exploration. I spent my year studying with animal fiber farmers, natural dyers and weavers. I also took a course at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina that focused on weaving yardage for fashion production. My class explored the human cost of mass production and consumption and pushed me even more towards slow and conscious fashion production. I was beyond lucky to get offered a position at Anchal right after graduation, a company whose mission I believe in.
Tell us about your job at Anchal Project’s Dyescape.
As coordinator of the DyeScape program, I work with ladies from the Center for Women and Families to plant, harvest and dye textiles using local materials. We are currently growing plants on two vacant lots in the Portland neighborhood, which we process for dyes in our studio in the Dolfinger. I work completely hands-on with these women, and together we design and create sustainable home goods and accessories.
When did you start designing?
In high school, I started making cultural attire for my delegations to the Kentucky United Nations Assembly. Once I got the bug for designing, I decided to study it more professionally in college. I figured out early on that I was interested in small batch, sustainable products because the textile industry is one of the largest polluters worldwide. Since I knew what my specific interests were within the industry, I was able to gain valuable experience working with other sustainable designers and farmers over the last five years. Now, my work is based in a rich history of craft with added elements of modern design.
How did you get involved with KMAC Couture?
I was actually home from college on spring break and just happened to be going to dinner down the street the day of the show. I was walking past exactly when all the models were lining up to walk the runway, and I automatically knew I had to get involved. I was beyond excited to discover that something like this was happening in Louisville, and I have been participating in KMAC every year since.
Tell us a little about your three submissions for last year.
For last year’s show, I created a three-piece Primary collection that focused on the roots of color. I wanted to continue exploring field-to-garment fashion production by creating wearable pieces that were completely made by hand. I sourced all of my wool and other fiber from local farmers here in Kentucky, and I colored my fiber using natural dyes from DyeScape’s gardens. All the fiber was woven into fabric in a small weaving studio in Boston, Kentucky. I logged roughly 200 hours for each dress — this really gave me perspective on making clothes by hand and just how involved it can be. It also showed me how deeply rooted my creative passion is in region.
What is on the horizon for you professionally and personally?
Personally, I am re-establishing my roots in Louisville. I’m trying to start farming and hope to set up a textile cooperative. I recently acquired seven looms, so hopefully I will be setting up a studio for myself in the near future.
Professionally, I am in my first year at Anchal Project. Sustainable textile production was the focal point for my undergraduate studies and has now become the focus of my job. I could not be more thrilled that we are able to produce sustainable textiles that are grown and sewn right here in Louisville. Seeing DyeScape’s first collection come to fruition is huge. We are working to empower women, revolutionize the industrialized textile system and educate the community about sustainable textile practices.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I saved up enough money to purchase my own horse at the age of 7, and we’re still going strong.
What are three words that describe you?
Stubborn, driven, empathetic
What advice do you treasure?
“Yes, and” — my best friend and roommate is an actress, and she introduced me to an improv tool that has become transformative in all aspects of my life. It has helped me communicate and listen more effectively. It has also become a core part of my creative process and pushes me to expand my designs and design thinking.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
You can usually find me at community events that are centered around art, culture or food policy. I love music and theater, so I spend a lot of my time seeing different shows around town. I can also often be found anywhere you can get a good margarita.
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
I love to eat, so I could give you my color-coded, comprehensive guide to the food scene in Louisville. The short list includes Gralehaus for breakfast. I’m a big fan of egg biscuits, and they have one of the best in town. For brunch, I love Blue Dog Bakery. I usually get their red grapefruit and avocado salad or their breakfast pizza. Some of my favorite dinner spots are El Mundo (best margarita), Dragon King’s Daughter, The Post, Wiltshire, Seviche and The Fat Lamb, and drinks at the Pearl or Proof on Main, depending on my mood.
What are three of your favorite things right now?
To be inspired by other great women in Louisville, check out our other FACES of Louisville here.