By Elly Spencer
The woman pacing at the front of the room at the Baylor Apparel Professionals meeting wore a draping silk dress. The dress, handmade and sewn by its wearer, contained nothing but natural elements. The royal blue fabric was missing synthetic dyes, hazardous chemicals and processed rayon.
Kate dePara is a Baylor fashion merchandising alumna and holder of a Master of Fine Arts in fiber design from Savannah College of Arts and Design. She is also the face behind her own all-natural clothing line, Evens.
DePara’s most shocking quality is that she graduated from Baylor in December 2007 and has owned her own company for two years already.
“Kate was a positive presence in class every day,” said Lorynn Divita, associate professor of family and consumer sciences. “I was lucky to have her.”
DePara started her fashion career in the most unlikely way: as an art history major.
“I realized I didn’t want to be an academic for the rest of my life, and I didn’t want to solely focus on getting published,” dePara said, laughing. “That’s when I changed to fashion merchandising.”
DePara’s interests scattered throughout the fashion department, jumping from design to merchandising and back again. After graduating early and landing a job in New York City, dePara decided the workload was not what she bargained for.
“I was still so young, and I was working 65-70 hours in a week,” dePara said. “It just wasn’t for me.”
At this point, dePara decided her best option was to venture into the textiles field and earned a degree in fibers. Hence her company, Evens, was born.
Evens is a clothing line dePara has based on her love of textiles and design, marrying the two. She uses all-natural fabrics and carries out a theme of simplicity in her line.
“People don’t think about what happens to their synthetic clothing,” dePara said. “You can’t recycle those.”
This year, dePara was also nominated for and is a finalist in the annual Martha Stewart’s American-Made competition. The competition’s panel, which includes Stewart, selects small American businesses and entrepreneurs and chooses the product it sees as the best. After the panel selects their favorite business and owner, the competition goes to the public, where voting determines the final winner.
“It’s a really easy way to be visible and get people to see you,” dePara said. “It’s been really fun.”
DePara found success with an entrepreneurial idea and many life changes, but she credits most of her talent and prosperity to the skills Baylor taught her.
“Baylor definitely gave me great organizational, language, writing skills,” dePara said. “I learned how to be a problem solver and a leader.”
Divita said what students gain from their Baylor education is related to the work they put in, as well as the opportunities they take hold of.
“Kate shows us the importance of making the most of our academic career, getting a great internship, taking advantage of study abroad opportunities and spending your time at Baylor focusing on what will make you fulfilled and happy as a career,” Divita said.
DePara and her past professor, Divita, stressed the importance of following directions and taking advice when applicable.
Baylor students are taking an example from her lead.
“It’s amazing that someone her age and so fresh out of college has found the success she has,” Wamego, Kan., senior Bailey Bettencourt said. “It shows that it’s possible to be anything you want if you put in the effort.”
DePara said it takes dedication and a serious attitude to claim her kind of success, but finds it fulfilling and worth it all in the end.
“It takes a lot of diligence and patience, but at the end of the day, if it’s something you feel you need to do for yourself then you have to do it,” dePara said. “You really won’t feel like you have a choice.”