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Couture Gets "Kramped"

Safety pins have their place in haute couture. (modeled by Ryann Clarke, hair and makeup by Mary Fortino, photo by Frank Petronio)
Designer, Shannon Kramp. (photo by Frank Petronio)
Tutus are appropriate to all ages. (modeled by Ryann Clarke, hair and makeup by Mary Fortino, photo by Frank Petronio)

Self-taught young designer combines custom-made options and crafy collections

Tutus should be reserved for ballerinas and five-year-olds. That’s the common adult vantage point on the ever-so-girly attire. Designer Shannon Kramp is a firm believer that tutus don’t go out of fashion at a certain age, having produced a mermaid version for a Coney Island parade and one specially designed for a quinceanera. The 22-year-old even rocks her own creations on errands to Walmart.

“They are sort of mainstream, even just the style, like the miniskirts with lots of ruffles,” explained Kramp, barely audible at points over the construction noise at the Spot on Elmwood.

Kramp has built her business stacked upon tulle. First, with the partnership Lady Love Tutus and now with her own line, Kramp Kouture. But don’t let the “kouture” fool you. Although couture conjures up images of high-end, often outlandish pieces accompanied by a surrealist price tag, Kramp’s offerings align with the edginess of couture, not the expense. The handmade designs walk the line between punk and pretty.

“It’s a mixture of DIY and couture,” she testified.

Kramp, who learned to sew from her mom around age seven, didn’t discover her love of fashion until much later. “I originally wanted to be a chef,” she admitted.

The Olcott native wound up forgoing any culinary ambitions, and studied digital media arts in college. Her designer gene kicked in at age 20, but by then she had already been shopping at vintage and thrift stores, scouting for clothes to alter by slashing and refashioning. After public inquiry from impressed witnesses to her custom clothing, Kramp began taking special orders.

“A lot of people do ask for something shorter or a different color,” she admitted. “If they want something different, that’s what I do.”

At its heart, Kramp Kouture stays true to its DIY origins. Her current “Rock Candy” collection features her signature Skeletank and Skeledress in all their shredded glory. There’s also painted jeans, hard-edged jewelry and a Rodarte-inspired mohair and feather skirt.

Her design process revolves around revelations and elaboration. “Sometimes I just think of what is cool together,” reflected Kramp. “Even if you take a boring pattern, you can amp it up with embellishments and different material.”

So, how does she describe the Kramp Kouture woman? “I’d definitely say someone who has their own personal style—someone unique that sort of lives that rock-and-roll lifestyle.”

That lifestyle extends beyond womenswear, with the brand occasionally shifting gears to produce menswear and housewares. Some of the more notable homebound creations include a shag rug of scrap T-shirts (serving as muse for a custom-ordered toilet seat cover) and light fixtures adorned with colored rocks.

This renaissance woman also models and organizes local fashion shows. Every role Kramp takes on serves as a vessel to push her line.

“Right now, I’m just showing my book, and hoping to get my stuff picked up at different boutiques,” she said.

Potential customers don’t have to wait until then. Kramp’s fashions are available online at and through her Etsy store.