Kaitlyn Doherty wears the dress she designed at the March 1 press conference.

by Sue Ann Rybak

When Kaitlyn Doherty first started sewing at 10 years old, she had no idea that someday she would be designing her own line of women’s clothing.

“Every chance I got, I sewed,” said Doherty, who is from Montgomeryville.

In high school, Doherty thought she would “end up doing something in business” until a teacher suggested she study fashion design at Philadelphia University.

“I am glad I did,” she said. “I loved it. At Philadelphia University, I had wonderful professors who worked in the industry. They helped students, taught us well and now it’s just a matter of taking those skills and applying them.”

Doherty, who last year won an international handbag design bag contest and landed on the September cover of “InStyle” magazine, is one of five promising fashion designers chosen to participate in the first Philadelphia Fashion Incubator based at Macy’s Center City store.

The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy’s Center City is a collaborative initiative by Macy’s, the City of Philadelphia, the Center City District and local fashion design programs to support and promote bright young designers and economic development in the fashion and retail industry.

“Fashion in Philadelphia is bigger and better than ever,” Mayor Michael Nutter said at the March 1 press conference to announce the Fashion Incubator designers.

“We are proud to be a city that recognizes the value of its vital creative sector and invites innovation,” he said. “Philadelphia’s exceptional schools produce impressive fashion design talent.”

Doherty and four other up-and-coming fashion designers – Autumn Kietponglert, Melissa D’Agostino and sisters Latifat Obajinmi and Moriamo Johnson – will work as designers-in-residence. They will be mentored by industry professionals, attend workshops on the fashion business and participate in fashion events throughout the year, including the city’s weeklong fashion extravaganza The Fashion Collection.

“We’re proud to have Kaitlyn representing the fashion design program at Philadelphia University, where she was an exemplary student,” said Clara Henry, fashion design program director in a statement. “Her focused energy and perseverance coupled with the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator mentoring program will provide her with the tools needed to achieve her goals. We wish her continued success.”

Edward Goldberg, senior vice president for external affairs at Macy’s, said that the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator would foster and nurture aspiring fashion designers. He encouraged winners to use this opportunity wisely so they can “walk out an accomplished designer.”

And that is exactly what Doherty plans to do. At the end of the yearlong program, she hopes to design and run her own “sustainable, successful business.”

At the kick-off event, she impressed attendees by wearing a stunning dress she designed. Doherty said the inspiration for the dress came from her brother-in-law’s mother, who gave her the silk fabric. The dress had a bodice made from silk fabric from India, decorated with gold peacocks, a skirt made of black mesh layers and a leather belt with gold studs tying it all together.

Doherty’s said her designs are inspired by the “clean, strong lines of architecture” and the places she has traveled, including a semester abroad in Rome. Doherty was particularly “taken” with a cathedral in Prague.

“My handbag collection was inspired by a trip to Prague and the strong, clean lines of architecture,” Doherty said. “Each bag is handmade of leather, with hand-painted suede panels using metallic silver and gold paint. In addition, the handbags are accented with exposed zippers and gold studs.”

Residents can buy Doherty’s purses starting March 15 at the Artisans on the Avenue, 8440 Germantown Ave. Large handbags are $185, a medium purse is $125 and a small clutch will cost $75.