Kari Dahlen, Fashion Designer – Trendsetters

Kari’s Resumé

  • Fashion designer
  • Entrepreneur
  • Mother


“I have always had a passion for anything creative,” said Kari Dahlen, who owns her own local fashion clothing line, Style by Kari. In the beginning, she sewed with her mom and discovered that her passion was for sustainability. Her vintage-style outfits were a perfect fit. Together, they made elastic skirts and pillowcases, and when Kari knew she could make garments with fabric she already had in her house, she never wanted to stop—and to this day, “sustainable” is at the core of all of her projects.

Kari is a real entrepreneur. She studied Apparel Studies for two years at NDSU, but her most successful experiences and successes have come from working as an independent designer and being a part local and regional shows, such as Minneapolis Fashion Week, and being one of the first to participate in the NDSU FABO Fashion Shows in 2002. “I’m a lover of all colors and would definitely be considered a maximalist,” Kari said, not afraid to dive into a variety of textures and colors. “Although, when I was younger, my grunge phase took on a life of its own. The clothes were almost entirely black with lots of chain. So I’m making up for it now.” But even today, her work takes on a unique life of its own, each piece with its own unique personality, almost as if tailored specifically for one person—which is often the case. Kari is always happy to be commissioned to create unique pieces for local fashion fans and to mix her unique twists with the most elegant of designs.

She loves being a maximumist because she can combine classic styles with vibrant colors, prints or textures. She believes that with just a little bit of color you can have the best of both. Her work is a perfect example, with styles ranging from bold, classic colours to soft, vibrant textures. Check out some of her best pieces and discover why she is making fashion statements in the Fargo/Moorhead region.

Josiah Kopp, Photo

Kari’s Work Process, Featured Projects, & More

Kari showcased some of her recent favorite projects, such as a quilt-turned poncho. This is one of Kari’s most out-of-the box projects. The classic, plaid dress with the accent waist belt feels almost like something you’d see Emily Blunt donning in the American pioneer thriller, “The English.” And the red dresses are a perfect balance of vintage, classy, and modern— perfect for any date night or party.

Did You Know?
Kari loves designing custom pieces for local shoppers. Want a dress for upcoming holidays or a date night? Contact Kari by phone or email [email protected] Get started now!

Photo by Dammel Photographic Works

Kari’s process always begins with color. While many designers choose to start with textures and patterns, Kari is a fan of starting with colors. She will then look at the print to see how it can be incorporated into a sustainable fabric. She also took part in vintage embroidery, inspired by its shape and the way it could be used on a collar.

Josiah Kopp, Photo

“I’m also inspired by the movement of the fabric or the texture I can manipulate the fabric into,” she said. “I enjoy creating pleats, gathers, and ruffles. It’s important to see how a garment hangs on a hanger as well as on the body. If it stands out in the closet, you are more interested in wearing it.”

Photo by Dammel Photographic Works

Being a plant lover, this terra-cotta-colored dress is one of Kari’s favorite pieces. “I had leftover fabric from making some bridesmaids dresses and of course, I had to make something flowy and girly with it,” she said. “The stretch velvet is flattering on every body shape and hangs so beautifully. The long sleeves make the high slit and wrap comfortable without showing too much skin.”

Photo by Kari Dahlen

Kari designed a mini-collection with an emerald fall color story for Minneapolis Fall Fashion Week 2022. “I was on a walk with my dog one fall day and I saw a tree that had a purple leaf and it had just started turning brown,” she shared. “The blend of those two colors inspired me—I’m constantly on the lookout for how color can be used.”

Photo by Kari Dahlen

She also incorporated pieces from her friend’s garments, who was on a weight loss journey, and gave some old pieces new life. She made a dress using a pair yellow denim jeans for the bodice and a colorful stripe flowy skirt.

Kari’s 3 Favorite Local Places to Shop For Clothes1.

1. Gathering’s Collective

“The curated pieces in this shop have the best vintage vibe. Definitely check them out if you are in the mood for something special!”

2. Revolver

“You’ll always find me at the back of this store trying on all the dresses or looking at the vintage lace undergarments that are so feminine and delicate.”

3. Violet Vintage

“If you don’t follow them on their socials, you’re missing out. They have a great collection of girly dresses that flatter all sizes.”

Kari’s 5 Musts for Fashion

1. The Best Floral Dress

“You can layer it in the fall or winter with tights and a jacket or make it perfect for a summer day with gladiator sandals.”

2. Delicate Jewelry

“These pieces are easier to layer on and still feel carefree. Some of my favorite delicate jewelry pieces are my grandmother’s wedding ring, a small pair of gold diamond earrings, and a simple gold thin bangle bracelet.”

3. A Blazer

“This could be a fitted business style for dressing up jeans or a boyfriend-style blazer to layer with boots and a sweater. I bought my favorite boyfriend blazers at local thrift shops. “

4. A Statement Scarf

“I have multiple scarves that are just two yards of fabric that I’ve finished the edges on. It creates a big cowl and doubles as a shawl as well.”

5. Nude Heels

“They go with everything! I used heels more often than flats. I remember when I used to wear flats, my feet would be sore—they feel more comfortable in heels.”

Kari’s Top 3 Places to Shop for Holiday Gifts

1. Zandbroz Variety

“This shop has been a part of my childhood and it’s always my go-to for something unique; especially greeting cards.”

2. Unglued

“Unglued is one of my favorites for gifts because not only does it have unique gifts, but you support local makers when you buy here.”

3. Baker Garden & Gift

“Not only do I always find amazing gift ideas at Baker, but I walk out with a new plant too. It’s a win-win!”

Josiah Kopp, Photo

Q&A with Kari

Your work is characterized by the use of sustainable and upcycled material. Tell me about this approach and why it’s meaningful to you.

Not only do I absolutely love working with unique sustainable materials, but knowing that I’m lessening the amount brought into landfills is the reason I do it. Plus, who doesn’t love a one-of-a-kind piece that no one else has? A piece that’s been hand embroidered can be displayed rather than tucked into a drawer.

Speaking of materials, what have you really been enjoying using, and what’s been inspiring you lately?

I love embroidered tablecloths. I love to incorporate trims or edges as sleeves, cuffs, or hems. It’s a bold statement!

What’s been the most out-of-the-box or unique project you’ve worked on yet? It was a challenge, but it made you a better graphic designer.

One of my best friends was trying to sell her old clothes after losing a lot of weight. I bought two of them, and transformed them into special pieces. Using a pair of her mustard-colored jeans as a bodice for a dress and then having her model in it for me—that really made my heart full.

What are the ways in which your children inspire you as a creative mother?

The fact that I am a mom has definitely boosted my creativity. My boys have taught me to appreciate the small things, like flowers, buildings and hidden treasures. They really like to be around me when I’m designing too, and sometimes they even design with me.

What would you say about your style?

My style is feminine, girly or ladylike. My wardrobe and my home are both filled with color, floral prints and patterns. I also prefer to wear a dress instead of jeans or leggings; I feel most myself when I’m in a dress. In middle school, I went through a pretty intense grunge phase with lots of black. Baggy pants, dog collars, spikey hair—I guess I’ve been through all fashion fads.

How do you approach a new project with a fresh mindset — what would you say is unique about your workflow?

When I’m starting a new collection, I let the fabric talk to me. It could be a vintage fabric or an additional bolt of fabric purchased at a local store. I will either let the fabric flow or design the garment so that it shows off the uniqueness and character of the vintage material. I’ve made a couple of pieces that have multiple vintage pieces included in them and some other classic styles that only have one special aspect. In both cases, I like when one piece of sustainable material is the main focus.

What trends are you noticing?

This allows me to use more fabric and not look too heavy. You can do this with layers, pleats or gathers. These elements can be added to a garment to add texture.

How to Support Kari

| @stylebykari
[email protected]


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