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Cut the catwalk: This designer shows a flair for something different

March 23, 2015

A look from the Jordan Louis fall 2015 collection by Pittsburgh native Kimberly Bowser.

NEW YORK — During the recent New York Fashion Week, the ready-to-wear women’s line Jordan Louis held a presentation of its fall 2015 collection in the heart of Chelsea.

But rather than the usual catwalk flanked by rows of discerning fashion aficionados, the scene was an intimate room with hardwood floors lined with large windows that let the sun pour in. A melange of models and mannequins wore the clothes, while live music set the mood and guests were treated to a champagne and wine tasting.

The designer behind it all was Kimberly Bowser, a Pittsburgh-area native.

"We wanted to do something that was a little more fun than the normal sit-down and see another show," she said, "just to mix it up and give people something different."

Doing what’s different could be considered a driving force behind the brand. With an education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the Fashion Institute of Technology under her belt — and about 18 years designing for major fashion houses, including Elie Tahari and two stints at Ralph Lauren — Bowser launched Jordan Louis in 2013 to fill "a few voids" in women’s wear, she said.

Jordan Louis — named after the designer’s father — has found its niche in what she calls "luxury casual" wear. High-end fabrics from Italy and an emphasis on tailored details are staples of the apparel. The fall collection was inspired by the Miles Davis song "Generique" and its smooth and sultry style. That came to life in floral prints in moody hues with accents of leather and lace. An inherent sensuality ran throughout in such elements as figure-flattering frocks and open-back pieces. Fall also featured the debut of accessories, including some all-over fur handbags.

"It’s about the little details," Bowser said, "just very subtle and refined things that you can feel really polished and put together in but still be really comfortable."

In just a couple of years, Jordan Louis is establishing a foothold in the fashion industry. It’s carried online at www.jordanlouisny.com and in more than 60 fine specialty stores. Plus, it was on Lucky Magazine’s list of 10 new designers to watch for fall 2015. The brand also has been appealing to a wide range of women (including celebrities such as Taylor Swift) thanks to its quality fabrics, tailoring and sophisticated-yet-approachable styling.

"That’s exactly what you want as a designer — ageless, timeless pieces that work on all different body types and all different ages," she said.

As Bowser moves forward with the brand, she doesn’t lose sight of her hometown roots. It is, after all, where her love of fashion took root. Creativity runs in her family; her grandparents were painters, and her mother is a seamstress and has an upholstery business.

"I started to sew at a really young age," she said. "I couldn’t find the fashions that I wanted where I grew up. I lived through Vogue magazine and would just re-create what I saw."

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