Get ready to enter a whirlwind of Western and desert imagery with striking color palettes that pop like a desert flower. All of these elements work together to create something as nebulous as a mood, or as specific as a chronological story line. In fact, storytelling and narrative are a huge inspiration to Austin’s Fort Lonesome team as they create their designs.
Fort Lonesome’s one-of-a-kind artisan garments have attracted the attention of a slew of artists and performers. It’s unsurprising; they make for striking stagewear, showcasing an artist’s individual story. Many people also choose to get married in a stunning custom wedding suit by Fort Lonesome.
A Long-lost Art Form
What is chainstitching? To put it simply, a machine forms loop stitches in a chainlike pattern. It mimics drawing and allows each operator to express her individual artistry.
Visiting the Fort Lonesome production facility was the first time I’d seen a chainstitch embroidery machine. As someone who is just learning to sew, I’m becoming more familiar with the equipment involved. But I can tell you: the chainstitch machine is an entirely different beast.
Kathie Sever, founder of Fort Lonesome, acquired her first chainstitch machine circa 2000. At that time, there were few resources to teach her how to repair and use it, so there was much trial and error involved. But she persisted, and Fort Lonesome was born in 2012.
Over the years, more machines and humans joined the team. Sever named each chainstitch machine she acquired after a different female country singer. The people who joined the team already had names, as well as diverse backgrounds in art.
By 2014, there were five people working out of Sever’s home garage and things were getting a bit crowded. Shortly thereafter, the company experienced rapid growth that allowed them to relocate to a more spacious environment.
Kathie Sever’s Story
Sever’s mom “sort of” taught her how to sew. “She would subtly give me pointers, but I wasn’t going to sit and listen to her give me a lesson,” Sever said.
But this planted the seed for her to resume interest in the skill later in life. Sever’s road was a winding one, to say the least. She hails from northern California, where she started as a theater major in college and then switched to art. “I was searching for an identity and that felt like a nice one to put on” she said.
From there, Sever moved to Montana and worked on a ranch, where she fell in love with Western wear and the pragmatic artisanship of country life.
Sever spent some time as a pastry chef, and also started an internationally-scaled kids’ clothing line. With the kids-wear business, however, there were some “epic errors.” She had no background in business or management, and the learning curve was steep.
But all of the looping embroidery of her life formed the exquisite garment of the present day–a suit she probably, actually, wouldn’t wear. “All of us on the team have a few pieces at home we’ve thrown some embroidery on,” she told me. But she hasn’t worn one of Fort Lonesome’s full-on suits for a night out on the town. At least, not yet.
Sever originally moved to Austin to put down roots with her husband, Matt Sever, a singer/songwriter who goes by the name Matt The Electrician.
As she grew her business, her appreciation for the city also grew. Between her and her husband, the couple has connections with countless artists and musicians nationwide. “This gives us insights into what it’s like to be a self-employed creative in other places,” Sever said. “I took it for granted at first, but I realized there’s something special about Austin.”
So where in Austin can you find Fort Lonesome’s designs? In addition to being able to collaborate with them for a fully customized design, the business offers a range of semi-custom and pre-existing designs, as well as pre-made articles of clothing.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What design or symbol would you like to see on a custom Fort Lonesome garment?