KC fashion designer turns Turkish textiles into handmade pieces

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the 22nd annual KC Fashion Week kicks off, local designer Courtney Vardar is preparing for her debut with NidaLu Handmade.

“We decided we wanted to bring that dying tradition to the U.S.,” Vardar said.

Vardar’s Turkish husband introduced her to the culture — bright colors, patterns and history.

When she employed a Turkish tailor to make her a robe, the rest was history.

“They’re used to making men’s suits and more traditional Anatolian clothing, so I think it was real fun for him to do something different,” Vardar said.

The suzanis (textiles) are turned into skirts, dresses, puffer vests and even shoes, with history behind every piece.

“[They] are embroidered by women for their dowries, so the textiles do hold symbology and stories within them,” Vardar said. “The idea behind it was to take back the stories and to wear them and adorn ourselves as women.”

Tragedy struck Feb. 6 when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the border between Turkey and Syria. Vardar says she panicked when she heard the news.

“I knew our shoemakers are in Gaziantep, which was hit,” Vardar said. “Then over the next couple of days, we found out that all of our makers were safe, but some of them did lose their homes. … I mean, it’s so tragic. I’m so relieved that nobody we know was injured.”

Since then, she’s used her work to raise money for relief efforts.

“They’re the ones that make these things for us, I mean, they’re the ones that are keeping the tradition alive,” Vardar said. “You’re wearing somebody’s story when you’re wearing this garment. It’s not just a piece of clothing.”

The Nida Lu Handmade fashion show is fashionweek-friday-evening-runway-show”>Friday, March 10, at Union Station.

KC Fashion Week kicks off Saturday, March 4, with a Bubbly & Bow-Ties Cocktail Party. Tickets for the week can be found here.

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