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Volume 24, Number 11 — December 2017

Stephen Curd brings custom fashion to Glade Spring

Stephen Curd's studio in downtown Glade Spring, Virginia, is warm, welcoming and decorated with antique sewing machines. (Photo by David Grace)
Stephen Curd's studio in downtown Glade Spring, Virginia, is warm, welcoming and decorated with antique sewing machines. (Photo by David Grace)
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By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | November 29, 2017

When you walk into Stephen Curd's studio in Glade Spring, Virginia's town square, you'll feel as though you've been transported to Soho in New York City. It's decorated with tables, ladders and shelving, all made by Curd, his father-in-law and his father, and is filled with ready-to-purchase goods, such as handmade jewelry and hand crafted purses. You'll also see samples for his custom-made jeans line and some of his one-of-a-kind creations. Antique sewing machines perch atop a dividing wall and at various places throughout the studio. The space is posh and trendy, warm and welcoming. The first thing you're likely to hear when you enter is a cheery hello coming from Curd's workroom behind the retail space.

He has been in downtown Glade Spring for three years. The first two years, he worked in the Town Square Center for the Arts, Glade Spring's art incubator. In his third year, he expanded and moved to a space just down the street.

From St. Louis, Missouri, Curd has a fashion degree in womanswearwith an emphasisinmenswear and fine tailoring. While he was in college, he created his first brand, Garic Stephens. "It's a mix up of my first name and my middle name, Craig," he says. "It happened by mistake. I was a procrastinator in college and part of our senior show was to come up with a branding name. I waited until the last minute, and I just put any old name together thinking I'd change it, but it stuck. Some people think my name is Garic, so I answer to it. It's who I am," he laughs.

After he graduated, he spent 10 years in Chicago trying to make it in the fashion business. "It was a struggle. It's a hard struggle to live in a big city and try to make this work. I was ready for a change when we moved to Southwest Virginia," he says. While in Chicago, he met his husband Travis Proffitt, who is associate director for the Appalachian Center for Civic Life at Emory & Henry College. They moved to the area in 2014.

"There were resources in Chicago, but you had to know someone or have a lot of money. I started doing local fashion shows and producing my own. I was on a TV show that helped get my name out. I tried to do as many things that didn't cost a lot of money as I could. In 2013, I really started to get some recognition. I wasn't getting a lot of buyers or clients, but I was getting press. I had an opportunity to show in New York Fashion Week, and it was amazing. The next season I was looking at doing it again, but it cost $25,000. That's when Travis got the job offer at Emory & Henry, and we decided to see what life would bring us here. We didn't know this would turn out to be a better option for me.

"I attribute this to my husband. He put a mirror to my face and made me realize that maybe my dream wasn't to be in the public eye in New York, but to bring that fashion to a town that didn't have access. So that door opened and I ran through it. I've had more clients here in the past three years, than I did in Chicago," Curd says.

He says his heart is in Glade Spring. When he first came he met Dirk Moore of Emory & Henry College, who is involved with the incubator and the resurgence of downtown Glade Spring. Moore took him on a tour and introduced him to the people at the Town Square Center for the Arts. "I liked the idea of being here. I liked the idea of being on the ground floor where I could make a change and contribute. That space gave me exposure, and I got to meet artists from all over. They're my art family. Having a physical space where people could find me really opened doors for me. That's why I've stuck here, it's because part of my heart is here. I was ready for a change when we moved here," Curd says. "Dirk kept finding ways of making things happen. The building I'm in now belongs to him."

Curd recently showed his fall designs at the Bristol Train Station. He's created a local team that worked together on it. The team includes Ren Makeup & Bodypaint, Blue Door Garden, Christine Druen, Shonda Westbrook and Rachael Wilbur.

"We built this team, and we constantly promote each other. I get weddings from them, and they get weddings from me. That's something that I didn't find in Chicago. People there didn't want to share. We collaborate and help each other," he says.

He strongly believes in the slow fashion movement. Similar to the slow food movement, it's for people who prefer handmade creations. "It's getting a one of a kind piece that may take me two months to make but will last a lifetime. It's not something trendy that will be out of style next month. I'd rather put my name on something I believe in than something that will have a fast turn around," he says.

Classic design inspires Curd. He describes his style as timeless. "I'm inspired by a lot of things and people. Marc Jacobs is one. I love his design technique. I like the classics, such as Dior and Valentino, because they have such a history of making one-of-a-kind exquisite pieces. I've stayed true to my vintage technique, the style and fabrics I use. My style changes a little every season, but the base is the same," he says.

When designing a collection, the first thing he does is put together a musical playlist and listens to it whenever he's working on the collection. "I'm inspired by music, art, textiles and other people, but music is my number one inspiration. I can speak through it. I listen to it to keep my mindset focused whenever I work on pieces for the collection."

Some of his favorite fabrics are neoprene, leather, wools and upholstery fabric. "Most people are turned off by working with high-end leathers, like lambskin, because it wants to stretch in different ways. I've learned how to manipulate it. I work a lot with silks, but it's not my favorite because it's difficult to work with, it snags and then you have to start all over. I like it because it's beautiful and it's organic, but I usually end up cursing when I work with it," he chuckles.

When he first moved here, his clients were from Louisiana, Florida and other states, but now he has more local clients than out-of-the area ones. They are coming from Asheville, Johnson City, Marion and Chilhowie. "They're finding me. As we are growing and getting our name out, it makes my life easier."

In March, he plans to start training three new employees to sew his custom jeans. In five years, he hopes to have a staff of 10 to 15 people working. "I want to offer an honest wage and benefits, because those things are important to me. I want the means to be able to offer that to someone else. I also want to open a Garic Stephens store for my custom work, but I can wait to do that."

If you visit Curd's studio, you'll be welcomed with a cheery hello and will probably be laughing before you know it. If you decide to have him design something for you, you'll sit around a table and chat about what you want. "I hand draw every piece we do. I'm considered an old tailor, because I do a paper pattern of every piece I create. Then I cut out a muslin pattern and then cut it in the chosen fabric. I save every pattern. So if you love a piece, you can just call me and I'll make it again in another fabric. You can become a lifelong customer or just get just one thing. You're really not buying a jacket, you're buying me," he muses.

For more information about Curd and his designs, visit www.garicstephens.com or call 276-608-5594.

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Topics: Art, Design



A jacket designed by Curd.