When every other kindergartner in her class was focused on coloring, learning the ABCs and nap time, Laura Kathleen Planck was working on becoming a fashion designer.
Learning to sew at age 8, Planck pursued her childhood dream and went on to study design, merchandising and textiles at Western Kentucky University. She studied fashion design at Accademia Italiana in Florence, Italy, during a semester abroad.
After graduating, Planck worked as an executive in clothing management for Target, but in 2009 decided to open her own business in her hometown of St. Louis, Mo., under the label Laura Kathleen.
Most notably, the 27-year-old, who goes by the nickname “LK,” finished in the top five of season nine of Lifetime’s “Project Runway,” presenting a collection at the Lincoln Center during New York’s Spring 2012 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
She will be headlining the Gainesville Fashion Week fashion shows tonight at Villa East, located at 301 N Main St., showing her Fall 2012 ready-to-wear collection.
The collection consists of nine pieces that will be merchandised to make 12 looks, ranging in price from $150 to $800.
“It's all made in the USA. The fabric is designed by me and printed in the USA,” Planck said. “We are hoping some Gainesville boutiques will pick up the line.”
Planck, who loves old garments that have history, says the biggest source of inspiration for her collections is the idea of a certain type of woman whom she likes to dress, while keeping her price and designs in mind.
“The women that loves Barney's, Bergdorf's, Saks or Neiman Marcus for their staple pieces like large handbags, nice shoes, great blazers, but then shops at thrift stores, estate sales and vintage stores for all the unique pieces that make her look one of a kind -- my idea of this woman always inspires me,” she said.
Whether it is a maxi-dress or a jumper, two styles she says she constantly wears, Planck strives to have her personal style reflect the women she wants to dress.
“They are one and the same,” she said. “If I design something, I should want to wear it.”
Planck says that the “Project Runway” experience was “like a summer camp,” where she had a great time and made friends with other contestants whom she still keeps in touch with.
Aside from being one of the most stylish and fabulous summer camp experiences a girl interested in fashion could ever hope for, “Project Runway” also helped Planck as a designer and business owner.
“It was better marketing for my company than I could pay for,” she said. “Being on the show has only helped my designs. It's made me have a stronger aesthetic and opened many opportunities.”
In the future, Planck wants to continue expanding her ready-to-wear line, and she hopes to be represented by a luxury department store in the next few seasons.
“I want Laura Kathleen to be an international company,” she said. “I'm working on it.”
Her advice for people pursuing a career in fashion design: “Learn the industry. Do apprenticeships. You must be determined. Also, do not think that it's going to be a glamorous ride. Put in your time,” she said. “Also, do not shut out criticism, no matter how much it hurts. It will help in the end.”
Planck, who recently became engaged, is juggling a career in fashion design with the planning of her wedding in the next year. Still, she plans to remain true to her kindergarten dreams.
“I was born to do this. It's the only career I ever decided I was going to pursue,” she said.