Facebook > Email > More Pinterest Print Twitter Play

Fort Lonesome

Kathie Sever’s nice threads.

By April 2014Comments

Photograph by Jeff Wilson

Before settling in Texas, in 1997, designer (and California native) Kathie Sever worked on a cattle ranch in Montana, where she was taken with the style of the local cowboys. “These rugged, macho guys cared about the crisp, starched edges on their jeans. I loved that dichotomy,” she says. “They would dandy it up a little.” That attitude influences Sever today as she produces Fort Lonesome, her line of custom-embroidered Western wear. Working out of a converted garage at her home in South Austin (which she shares with her husband, singer-songwriter Matt the Electrician, and their two kids), Sever creates tailor-made garments and adorns them with thread masterpieces based on clients’ memories and passions, like a map of someone’s hometown or a portrait of a beloved pet. Her shirts have shown up at film premieres, worn by Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater, and one even makes a brief cameo in the Oscar-nominated film Dallas Buyers Club, sported by Matthew McConaughey. This spring Sever will debut Camp, a limited-edition line of repurposed vintage shirts and jackets to be released in quarterly batches. The first batch features images designed in collaboration with local musician and artist Bob Schneider. 


Q&A with Kathie Sever

What’s your family background?

My mother was decidedly un-artsy. She was a math teacher, but she studied home ec in college and was a skilled seamstress. She was really technical. My dad was more of the artistic one; he was super-creative and had a commercial photography studio.  

How did you start your clothing line? 

I had been a pastry chef, but the hours were weird. So I was trying to figure out how to craft a living with kids, and in 2000 I started Ramonster, a kids’ clothing line. I was trying to do it all—designing, dealing with manufacturing and production—and after a while it just started to fall apart. I was doing more managing than designing, and we had some epic errors in manufacturing. Finally I decided to dramatically downsize so I could just do custom work and get back to focusing on design and drawing and embroidery. 

What equipment do you use? 

There’s Loretta, an industrial standard straight-stitch sewing machine I’ve had about ten years. Then I have Patsy, Tanya, and Clementine, three vintage Singer chain-stitch embroidery machines. Those three machines allowed me to launch my custom business. I can just do way more with them. But directionally you’re working the embroidery by hand, so it maintains the hand of the maker. It’s completely non-digitized. 

Do you listen to music while you work? 

I listen to a lot of podcasts, usually baseball-related stuff and This American Life. If it’s music, I like a little bit of everything, especially old country. 

Tell me about the Montana ranch you worked on.

I worked there a few years after graduating from art school. I would clean cabins, wash dishes, help with fences, and move horses. There was a strong cultural identity there, and everything was very grounding and pragmatic. Everyone was making things that someone needed, but with a very classic Western aesthetic. 

What else inspired Fort Lonesome?

I’ve always been drawn to Americana-type stuff. I’m a fan of Nudie Cohn, a Russian immigrant in Los Angeles who made suits for Dale Evans and Elvis. He really worked this super-flashy movie star/musician thing. So my style is somewhere between that and homespun seventies throwback, like little strawberries and rainbows.

For more information, go to ftlonesome.com.

Related Content