Photos and Story by Danielle Debley
I want to be a designer who tells a story and I want people to love and buy that story,” says Sheila Kauffman, the owner of Sheila Frank.
For over ten years, Kauffman has been creating all sorts of gowns and fashions for many. With a BFA in Fashion Design from Moore College of Art & Design, Kauffman is both qualified and talented, not to mention extremely personable.
“During my college career, I interned in New York for Charlotte Ronson which is ready-to-wear and swimwear. I learned a lot about creating catalogues, look books, and fashion shows which was really neat and helped me a lot in the beginning of starting my own business. Did I think I was going to design for my own brand? No, never! I always thought I would design for someone else. I interviewed at so many places in New York where I just ‘wasn’t the right fit’ which wasn’t necessarily bad; it just pushed me to do my own thing,” says Kauffman.
For many years, Kauffman has designed custom gowns. This means that each client that contacted her would come in by appointment and talk about what kind of design they would like. Through multiple fittings, Kauffman would hand craft each portion of the design including the smallest and most intricate details such as hand beading. While she still has some custom gowns in the making, Kauffman is now transitioning her business model to offer a collection of six dresses that will be pre-designed.
“Custom is fun because you get to work one-on-one with people and create their dream, but now I really want to create my dream and share that with people,” says Kauffman.
“I’m going to start small with a capsule collection featuring six dresses, just because everything is still handmade. They will be made-to-order dresses, so when I launch my collection, I’ll have samples in my shop that people can schedule an appointment to try on. I will also be doing trunk shows at different boutiques across the country. It will be a customizable experience because it is handmade. I can add a sleeve or something but it won’t be creating a design from scratch,” comments Kauffman.
Aspirations, Accolades, and Artistic Avenues
“I might sound crazy, but I really want to be an international designer. I would love to be a household name everywhere! That’s my goal. When I was in college, I knew I wanted to design and one day have a brand but never dreamed I would be doing it. I have really learned a lot along the way through trial and error and all of the different things I’ve done,” Kauffman says.
This dream of hers isn’t something too grandiose or out of reach. Kauffman has been featured in many publications including Vogue, Brides, Harper’s Bazaar, and Glamour, just to name a few. She has designed much more than bridal gowns including swimwear, concept pieces, collections, and more.
“I’ve done a lot of really cool stuff and met some really neat people in the fashion industry. One of the most interesting things I have done was in 2008 I sent my dresses to Tokyo where they were paired with dogs; I designed the dresses to match the accessories on the dog. It was called Pet Fashion Week!” Kauffman explains. “One of the weirder things that I had the opportunity to work on, was to create accessories for Harper’s Bazaar (Vietnam). I created a bird in a nest head piece. The photo shoot was Dali inspired. To see my name listed with designers like Balenciaga and Fendi was a dream come true,” says Kauffman.
In the works, Kauffman has a collaboration with artist Gianna Veno. Veno is an infusion artist, or painter, who has shown her work in Art Basel, located in Miami. Soon, her work will also be featured on billboards in New York. Veno’s medium is oils and acrylics infused with molding paste, sand and gel to bring the canvas to life in 3D.
“We are working together on this project. We are designing the dresses; I am making them, and she is creating the artwork to go on to the dresses. I’ll probably do some bead work on top of art she creates and on the first three designs she is going to paint directly on the gown. After this project we are launching our ready-to-wear line,” Kauffman says.
The collaborative company, Capozza, will launch in the Fall of 2019.
Another avenue of design that Kauffman is involved in is costume design. She designs for Perform Group, LLC, a dance costume company based in York, PA. Growing up as a dancer, this opportunity was something in which Kauffman wanted to participate. The catalogue will launch in July of this year.
I have loved seeing in a variety of settings Sheila Frank gowns be used and displayed. I had the privilege of photographing several in different styled shoots, and I hope I continue to see more of this brand.
Brides who are looking for a gown made with love, passion, and care will absolutely want to check out Sheila Frank. Her cozy bridal boutique, located in Millersburg, Pennsylvania, will soon be open to the public.
For more information, you can contact Sheila through her website – www.sheilafrank.com.
Check out her press page to see more of her amazing creations.