Magazine Feature / People

Colorado inspires student’s passion for fashion

Erin Bleakley

Senior Erin Bleakley started her own clothing line as a DU student.

Erin Bleakley wants women to show off their inner beauty by expressing it on the outside.

“It’s about making people feel confident,” Bleakley says of the aim of her self-made fashion label, Erin Kathleen Couture.  

The 21-year-old University of Denver senior says confidence was something she, like many women, had to learn. Now, you’ll see her strut across campus in vibrant colors, textured patterns and high, high heels.

“Everywhere I go, people stare,” she admits. But that’s OK with her. In fact, it gives her a chance to tell people about her clothing line. That’s how she got the idea to start her line in the first place.

“A lot of people would ask where I got my clothes, and I’d tell them I made it,” she says. “So then I started making dresses for formals, and I started making a 16-piece collection, and people started to buy them.”

Now she’s completed the fourth collection for her line. She sells the clothes online at as well as in a handful of boutiques in Colorado and Texas.

Bleakley says she always had a passion for fashion.

An avid tennis player growing up, Bleakley says instead of strategizing with her coach in between matches like her competitors, she would devour fashion magazines like Vogue.

She always made a point to carefully put together outfits and says she’s not the type of person to lounge around in sweats.

“I will never do that,” she says. “There is never a down day for me, so to speak. You never know who you are going to meet, and I want to be dressed and be ready for that. And if that doesn’t happen, you’ll probably meet someone new anyway. First impressions are huge.”

Bleakley had trouble finding well-fitting and flattering clothes for her thin, yet athletic, build. So she simply started making her own, and later formed Erin Kathleen Couture in 2008. She had financial backing from her father, but her parents still had their doubts.

“They thought every girl wants to be a fashion designer,” Bleakley says. “They asked me how I was going to set myself apart.”

She knew a little hard work and optimism wouldn’t hurt. “I have an idea for what people like and what looks good,” she says. “It took off from there.”

Her line — which targets mostly 17–35-year-olds — was envisioned as consisting of “conservative pieces that are really cute and stand out but have a certain sexiness about them.” She thinks about what she would wear and that’s what she designs. Think faux fur vests, tunics, leggings and patterned jackets; all items run under $100.

The items are what Bleakley calls young, alluring and flirty. Some are fitting, some are flow-y and all of them have color.

“I really like colors. I used to live in Dallas, and I think the south has inspired me because girls in the south don’t wear black unless they are going to a funeral,” Bleakley says. “A lot of people look good in color but are afraid to wear it.”

A lot of women look good in general — no matter what size — which is why her clothes are one-size-fits-all. “You don’t believe it until you see it, but a lot of my pieces have hidden elastic and smocking and one skirt in particular can fit anything from a [size] zero to a 12 or 14.”

The sizing was her idea, as are all of her designs. She makes a special effort to find unique fabric, she says, and she’s constantly thinking of new ideas. Her notebooks and binders are filled with sketches; she takes her camera wherever she goes so she can snap shots of landscape or anything she considers beautiful or inspirational that may provoke design ideas.

She sends her sketches to two seamstresses who live outside Kansas City, Bleakley’s hometown. They make just a handful of each design and they almost always sell, Bleakley explains.

After she graduates from DU, Bleakley plans to go to fashion school in Los Angeles to learn more of the basics and the industry and hopes to work under another designer while still designing herself.

One thing that sets her apart, she says, is her pending undergraduate degree.

“I’m doing the whole college thing — I did go to undergrad, I joined a sorority [she is a member of Alpha Phi Sorority],” she says. “I’m getting a business degree. I didn’t just go to fashion school. I learned the basics first, and I think that impresses people.”


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