Kimberly Becker of K.Becker Designs at her home studio in Woolwich. Photos by Laura Sitterly / The Times Record

A pop-up shop focused on the wares of woman artists and designers will debut from 4-7 p.m. Saturday, July 13. Kathleen James, Christine Peters and Kimberly Becker will be selling stationery, jewelry and clothing above Maine Street Design in Bath. 

“Grab your friends and swing by for a glass of wine,” said Becker, who plans to launch her new clothing line at the event — a slow-fashion collection for sizes 2-24. “I consider this a capsule collection — you only need six or seven pieces to mix and match. Rather than fill your closet with more garments, the idea is to invest in staple pieces made for your body type. … To shop with more intention and, therefore, reduce waste.”

Kimberly Becker has been collecting fabric samples for decades, some dating back to when she attended a haute couture embroidery school in Paris.

‘As women, we need armor’

Becker described her new collection as artsy with an edge. The items at K.Becker Designs are inspired by clothes she remembers having when she was young but can’t seem to find anymore. 

“People who aren’t from Maine often don’t know what this is,” Becker said, pointing to an oyster. “They expect the inside to be pink with a nice, shiny pearl. But no, this is the kind of armor women need to gear up and go out in the world. We are in a constant battle to demand our rights. Despite our sensitive interior, we need a tough exterior; we’re called to embrace our scars, like the oyster, brine, barnacles and all.” 

Becker trained as a textile designer at the Rhode Island School of Design. After graduation, she worked in New York’s garment district at Liz Claiborne and entered the fashion industry. She then went on to become a professional stitcher at Ecole Lesage, a haute couture embroidery school in Paris.

“I feel confident when I don’t feel ordinary,” Becker sid. “When I chop wood in the winter, I wear my taffeta skirt because I like the way how it sounds, swishing with each step. Why be limited to jeans for yard work?”

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The K.Becker Designs studio in Woolwich is open for in-person style sessions. Visit the business’ website for more information.

Walking around her studio, she pointed out different fabric samples, some dating back to the 1980s.

“After working in cotton mills across the U.S., I know a lot about cloth,” Becker said. “My designs are timeless but won’t, and shouldn’t, live on this Earth for thousands of years. That’s why I use biodegradable material, like Japanese cotton.”

K.Becker Designs are sewn at Spring Studio, a family-run garment facility in New York. Knitwear is made using a 3D machine, and spare scraps are collected and sent off to a fabric recycler. The process from notepad to production is carried out with minimal waste in mind.

“Fabrics change with the season,” Becker said. “Linens are used in the summer, wool in the winter. Regardless, these styles stay consistent so customers know what kind of fit to expect.” 

Mission-driven fashion

Becker, a women’s rights advocate, began sewing a doll a day while the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh unfurled. A thousand dolls and $12,000 later, she donated the proceeds from her “rage project” to DROTY (Dreams of Tropical Youth Uganda) to build bathroom units in rural schoolyards for young women.

That was before K.Becker Designs emerged. Today, 5% of profits are still donated to the cause. 

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“When girls begin menstruation [in Uganda], they often drop out of school due to the lack of private bathrooms,” Becker said. “DROTY is changing lives. Today, the bathrooms at Misoto Primary School in Kyotera are used by 357 young women. Families are moving to the village so their kids can attend school.”

“These dresses amplify female voices,” said designer Kimberly Becker. “When history tells the story about ‘him,’ this collection begs to differ.”

When asked about her commitment to mission-based fashion, Becker said she finds uplifting women to be the most worthy cause. She acknowledged her “home dresses,” an ongoing project that began in grad school. 

Becker spent decades traveling the globe, speaking with women about their experiences of being marginalized. She then embroidered their stories on the back of couture gowns, featuring an image of their home on the front. Initially, the collection was displayed in a gallery; now, those who wanted to buy theirs have it, and the rest are in her Woolwich studio.

“Many people don’t think of themselves as part of the MeToo movement, but we’ve all been diminished in one way or another,” Becker said. “These dresses show just that; each one has a story. [She held up a gown] … This one is about a woman in Cuba who allowed her abusive husband to impregnate her with their eighth child as a means to escape. She gave birth in the U.S. so her child could have citizenship and never looked back.”

Becker encouraged those hoping to share their story or honor a loved one to set up an appointment. She also noted that although most items can be shipped from the website, kbeckerdesigns.com, locals are welcome to book an in-person style session as well. 

Female entrepreneurship

Each designer at the pop-up brings something different to the table. 

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A page from designer Kimberly Becker’s sketchbook. The cinched vest will be available for purchase soon.

James, for example, used to work in the corporate world. Frustrated by the lack of stylish stationery options — the occasional hot pink Post-it pad or Hello Kitty notebook — she set out to create her own letterhead. 

Through a mutual friend, Becker and James met at Café Crème in Bath and bonded over the struggles of female entrepreneurship.

“It was like magic,” Becker said. “She is very meticulous. I’m a bit more loose, but our artistic style complements each other.” 

The trio came together after both women met Peters through fated run-ins at New England fashion festivals. 

“Together we strike a balance,” Becker said. “The precision of Kathleen’s stationery, the beauty of Christine’s jewelry and the intentionality of my clothing line harmonize perfectly.” 

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