By Sara Bauknecht Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
As a womenswear designer, Kelly Simpson-Scupelli and her line of colorful clothes done in pretty prints with flattering fits were a hit, not only at boutiques in Pittsburgh but across the world. At the peak of the Kelly Lane line (the name a reference to the designer's first and middle names), new collections were created twice each year and carried as far away from her Pittsburgh studio as Paris, Italy, Switzerland and Japan.
Kelly Lane released its last women's collection at the same time that Simpson-Scupelli was taking on yet another full-time job, mom to her infant son, Felix. It was time for a break, she says.
Three years later, Simpson-Scupelli is back at the sewing machine designing her latest endeavor, a clothing line for children (12 months to 6 years old) called Kelly Lane Kids. It made its debut recently at a local trunk show and is for sale at www.etsy.com (search for "KellyLaneDesign").
"I decided that after being off for a while that I sort of wanted a fresh start," she says. But she didn't want to return right away to the rigorous grind of churning out multiple collections each year, traveling and fulfilling wholesale orders.
Inspired by her 3-year-old son, and fabrics left over in her studio from her womenswear days, she put together some pieces that she feels fill a void in the children's clothing market, including an eye for improved fit and unique styles that go beyond the cartoon characters, animals or trucks she typically sees printed on kids' clothes. Affordability is another goal, she says, with the average price range for the line at $24-$52.
As with the Kelly Lane women's apparel, Simpson-Scupelli is committed to using eco-friendly fabrics and materials, including organic cotton and hemp. Most of what she works with is sourced from within the United States, and she sews the collection at her studio.
When it comes to testing her designs, for fit, comfort and general kid approval, she turns to friends with children at a range of ages and, of course, her son.
"He's funny because he's very opinionated," Simpson-Scupelli says. "He's a good test market."
Her transitioning back to work part time also has been a learning experience for Felix. He accompanies her to the studio once a week to get a behind-the-scenes look at how Mommy makes things.
"He's definitely sort of immersed in it," she says. "He's enamored with the (sewing) machines, of course."
For now, Simpson-Scupelli says she is "taking baby steps" back into the fashion world, but she has additional projects in mind for the future, such as a potential revival of the Kelly Lane women's line at some point.
"Making things for kids is giving me ideas how to come back to the women's line with a fresh eye and reimagine new styles there, too," she says.