If you have a child who is always fashion forward and loves to dream up new styles each day for school, then DezignKidz may be perfect for them! Geared toward kids aged 7-14, campers will learn how to design and create a garment in fashion designing classes, or dream up and use repurposed items for an accessory design. This is only a couple of the great offerings available to future fashion designers living in the South Bay.
Kathy Bonte recently spoke to us about this innovative and unique camp concept.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and how you started the camp
A: The idea for DezignKidz came about from my partner, Durga Kalavagunta, who has a young daughter interested in all things creative, artistic and related to fashion. At the time there was nothing for her age group (7-8 yrs) in that area, so Durga came up with the idea of a summer camp for fledgling fashionistas. She and I both have extensive backgrounds in design across a variety of media—Durga studied and worked for many years in the global fashion and textile design industries and I spent many years in NYC as an art director, creative director and graphic designer. I have always loved fashion, accessories and the decorative arts but I have no daughters of my own to share this with so when Durga approached me, I jumped at this chance to “get my girl on.” My son, for whatever reason, was never particularly interested in learning how to make a cute ruffled skirt.
Q: Do you have any you have anything new and/or exciting features that have been added to your camp this year?
A: We are very excited about our new middle school program-the kids are a little older and can work more independently at that age-it will be exciting to watch them spread their creative wings. We are also very excited about our new Interior Dezign program-we think it may attract a slightly different audience who may or may not be as into the whole “fashion” thing but still interested in design and decorative and applied arts.
So far the idea has been well-received and if this pilot program is a success, we may have an Interior Dezign 2 next year!
Our first summer, we had 4 weeks of classes, which we co-taught. We used our kids as (unpaid) junior counselors and borrowed sewing machines from friends. At the end of the camp we rented out the multipurpose room and had a fashion show-it was a huge success. We have grown each year, expanding into after school programs, birthday parties and even a 3 week curriculum we designed and implemented for a local charter school’s middle school program. Last year we had a staff of over a dozen, bringing in teachers and counselors from the fashion industry from San Francisco and even New York. One of our counselors this year is Gabrielle Rothschild, a 15 year old fashion designer who had her own trunk show last year and has been featured in the San Jose Mercury News. She will be a huge inspiration to the kids. We are continuing to expand, with three levels of fashion design including a new one for middle schoolers and a brand new Interior Dezign offering. Many of our families have stayed with us since our first year and we are growing with them, adding more programs and keeping things fresh and different while still maintaining the core values of our program.
Q: What surprises/delights the kids or parents most about your camp?
A: I think what kids (and parents) love about our camp is how we cover the whole design process, from concept to completion. That is our point of differentiation. You can find sewing classes that teach you technical skills, or fashion design classes that teach you how to sketch out an idea, but our program offers you the whole spectrum. Kids design something and then we show them how to bring that design to life. They leave at the end of the week with a wearable garment, unique accessories or cool customized stuff for their room, all of their own design. It’s very empowering for the kids. And very exciting for us—seeing what they can come up with and helping them shape their vision into a tangible product. While Silicon Valley may not be the fashion capital of the world, it is all about creativity-and the lessons they learn here can be applied to any number of mediums and fields later in life.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: Durga and I love what we are doing-it utilizes every one of our skill sets and constantly challenges us in ways we never thought possible. At the end of our 4 weeks of camp we are completely EXHAUSTED but when we watch those kids walk down the runway beaming with pride in what we helped them create, it makes it all worthwhile.