Kara Laricks was an elementary school teacher for 10 years before she decided to pursue her dream career in fashion.
The 38-year-old Overland Park native has always had a thing for clothes. But she didn’t learn to make her own until she started classes at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco a few years ago.
When she enrolled, “I couldn’t even thread a sewing machine,” Laricks said.
Laricks has come a long way since then: She lives on New York City’s Lower East Side and runs Collar, Stand + Tie, an accessories line that reflects her androgynous, menswear-inspired style. The line’s signature item is a unisex tie connected to a shirt collar that, according to collarstandtie.com, exudes “the ease of a Sunday morning following a sexy Saturday night out.”
Laricks and her favorite accessory made their national debut last week on the premiere of NBC’s “Fashion Star,” a new reality TV show featuring 14 fresh designers competing for $6 million in contracts with Macy’s, H&M and Saks Fifth Avenue. Elle Macpherson hosts the show, and Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and John Varvatos are celebrity mentors to the designers.
On last week’s episode, Richie criticized Laricks for pairing her trademark collar tie with another designer’s dress.
“You literally put someone else’s clothes on the runway,” Richie scoffed.
Later in the show, Laricks admitted she made a mistake and vowed to prove she could design full ensembles.
Laricks survived the first episode, but she can’t reveal how far she got on the show. She can say that she considers “Fashion Star” the break of a lifetime.
“It was an opportunity to get advice from three people with billion-dollar empires,” she said.
So will girly-girls Richie and Simpson dig Laricks’ masculine designs in future episodes?
“I was so pleasantly surprised,” Laricks said. “The mentors are very objective. They give their opinion based on their own fashion empires, and it was up to me to listen to their advice and apply it.”
Laricks says “Fashion Star” reinforced her belief that true success comes from being yourself. It’s a lesson she loved teaching her fourth-graders at Bluejacket-Flint Elementary School in Shawnee.
“At the end of the day,” Laricks said, “I have to be satisfied with what’s going down the runway.”