To borrow from a song written decades before she was born, Cavanagh Baker is “A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock 'n Roll.”
The Nashville, Tenn.-based fashion designer has created clothes for some of the hottest names in country music, including Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini. But the styles aren’t covered in fringe and sequins a la looks that might have once been worn by Dolly Parton or Loretta Lynn. Baker’s designs have sparkle and swagger, yet also reflect the current mood in their clean lines, couture-quality European fabrics and formfitting silhouettes.
Baker’s big break came three years ago when she met a stylist who was working on Ballerini’s Peter Pan music video and was asked to make an outfit for the singer. That video of Ballerini wearing Baker’s teal jumpsuit has been viewed more than 50 million times on YouTube. Baker also designed Morris’ wedding dress and such celebrities as Heidi Klum and Angela Bassett have worn Baker creations at red carpet functions.
While the celebrity styles have earned her publicity, the designer is more focused on clothes that real women—albeit those with expensive taste and style—can wear. From her Nashville atelier, which she opened in 2016, she and a patternmaker and seamstress (plus her Goldendoodle pooch Mufasa) create prototypes that are then produced in New York. She fits private clients at her shop and also sells online at cavanaghbaker.com as well as to a limited number of boutiques around the country, including Mariel in Denver.
Denise Snyder, who owns Mariel, first saw Baker’s designs at the Dallas Market Center and was immediately taken with them. “She is easily the most talented new designer I’ve met in a decades,” says Snyder, noting that Baker’s tailoring, use of fabric and silhouettes are fresh and new, and that her clothes fit well and are solidly constructed. It impresses the retailer that Baker’s customers cut a wide demographic swath, from women in their late 20s to those who are 70-plus.
Snyder hosted a trunk show with the designer at her store earlier this year and says it was one of her most successful to date, with clients ordering coats, jackets, blouses and dresses. Baker has also already created custom pieces for Colorado clients and will be back with her latest collection Nov. 15, when it will be shown at the Service with Style luncheon put on by the Volunteers of America Guild.
Baker, now 27, got her technical training at the Savannah College of Art and Design, but her love of fashion started when as a preteen she raided her mom’s closet in their Birmingham, Alabama, home. “She is such a fabulous person and such unique style,” Baker says of her mother. “It’s always high heels 24-7. She is one of those people who has always take care of herself and her appearance.”
Her mom’s influence on her started early and led Baker to design “for women who appreciate the fine art of dressing.” Classic elements and fine materials are the basis for her creations, but it’s how these women put their looks together that sets them apart, the designer says. “They can wear it so it looks classic or rock ‘n’ roll and edgy. I love seeing a woman wearing leggings and one of my jackets. Or a pair of jeans during the day and with a cocktail dress for evening. I like that our pieces to go from day to night.”
“The woman who wears our clothing doesn’t care what celebrities are wearing,” she adds. “They’re going out and finding what they like and are trendsetters. They are artists, doctors, scientists and mothers who focus on a lot of charity work.”
Baker thought about opening her business in New York but decided instead on Nashville. “Something in my gut told me it was going to grow because of all the events and concerts here, and the social life,” she says.
The designer admits that starting her own brand when she was so new to the business was a calculated risk but thinks that if she didn’t do it, she would have spent years apprenticing and learning the ins and outs of how someone else worked instead of finding her own way. “The industry is so different from the fairytale idea of it. I decided that I was going to try it myself and that if I failed I would rather fail young.’’
Baker is clearly not afraid to try things—including a short-lived stint on “Project Runway”—and admits she’s “trying to disrupt fashion by focusing on dressmaking and dress wearing.”
Failure doesn’t look like an option.
Fashion and Philanthropy—Volunteers of America Guild to honor two longtime supporters
Since its inception seven years ago, the Service with Style luncheon presented by the Volunteers of America Guild has honored community members who have made significant contributions to the organization. These are women—and men, and even an entire family—who give not only financially to VOA’s programs, but also show up at the shelters to serve meals, or help plan events, or serve on boards.
This year’s honorees are Kathy Klugman and Betty Kuhl. Michael James, the vice president for marketing and development at VOA Colorado, can’t say enough about them. Both women are longtime supporters of both VOA and the Guild, which has focused on programs for women and children.
“Not only is Kathy Klugman excellent with detail and asking people to get involved, she epitomizes service,” James says. “She’s a wonderful example of how to serve in the community, and has worked with many organizations in addition to VOA, like Denver Health and the Jewish Community Center. She also serves on our corporate board and with her marketing and communications background, we have benefitted from her guidance.”
He also respects how Klugman goes about her service. “She is committed to caring for the whole person, and exhibits tremendous generosity to people of all different backgrounds, but she’s quiet about it.”
He has similar praise for Betty Kuhl. “She has been a friend and generous supporter since the Guild started in 1996,” James says. Among the projects she has worked on from the beginning and helped solidify as an ongoing endeavor is Mother’s Day in December, which is a day of pampering and transformation for women going through difficult times. “They get cared for and the glow on their faces at the end of the day is amazing,” James says. He also cites Kuhl’s volunteer efforts, whether she greets people at VOA’s front desk or its Sunday faith services. “She has worked over a long period of time in counseling and is an amazing listener, so warm and embracing and caring.”
The Service with Style 2019 luncheon and fashion show will be held Nov. 15 at Halcyon, a hotel in Cherry Creek, at 245 Columbine Street. For tickets and more information, visit voacolorado.org.
Suzanne S. Brown is a contributing editor to Colorado Expression and the former fashion editor of The Denver Post.
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