In design

Reno's fashion designers

Cat Stahl designed these Marie Antoinette-themed outfits for the Reno Fashion Show on July 12.

Cat Stahl designed these Marie Antoinette-themed outfits for the Reno Fashion Show on July 12.

Photo/Valerie Thompson

For more information about Onward Kitty, visit

The fashion industry may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the city of Reno, but you might be surprised to learn that there are quite a few designers, models and fashionistas here in the biggest little city. It's still not exactly where those involved want it to be, but it's definitely a growing scene.

Local designer Cat Stahl of Onward Kitty and Vanity Entertainment executive producer Brian Aranda have witnessed this growth in the last few years. Aranda's company has put on the Reno Fashion Show for three years now. This year's was on July 12.

“I think it's a good stepping stone,” Aranda said. “I think, like any other career, you really need the support of your community, you need the opportunity to get yourself out there. And I think this and the scene here is a good opportunity to pursue your career.”

“In the last two years, I've seen a lot more people come into the mix,” Stahl said.

Stahl started Onward Kitty about two years ago. Prior to that, she was a freelance writer for a few local publications, but when they no longer had the budget to keep her writing, she decided to start this line.

Her designs are one-of-a-kind and aren't something that you can wear on an everyday basis because they're hand-painted and can't be washed regularly.

“It's all hand-funked, hand-dyed, spray-painted, hand-painted fashion,” Stahl said. “So I'll take a piece, like for the show we just did was Marie Antoinette, and I took some wedding dresses I found in thrift stores, and I deconstructed them, and I dyed them, and I spray painted them, I dyed them in garbage cans because they're huge, and added faux flowers and stuff like that. They came out really cool.”

Stahl said she's seen growth and sees promise in Reno, but she has struggled to make a living here.

“People love what I'm doing, but as far as making a living off of it, I'm not—not right now,” Stahl said. “I'm trying. It's not making a living like I want to make a living. I think it's starting to happen here. I just don't think it's happening quick enough for some of us. My stuff's very well-received, but it's not enough to just do a fashion show and have photos in a magazine. I want to make a living off of it. I'm passionate about it, and Reno has been wonderful to me.”

Because of this, Stahl has plans to leave Reno and try to make her line more successful elsewhere. She said she knows the scene is growing, and there is potential, but it's not large enough for her to stay at this time.

“They're trying, we're trying to elevate it and do more fashion,” Stahl said. “We're so close to L.A. and San Francisco, you'd think it would be a natural fit, but it's just not right now. I hate to say this, but a lot of my friends have had to leave Reno and go elsewhere to make it happen for themselves because the vibe's just not here yet.”

There are other designers in town who are doing pretty well—Stahl mentioned Bossta Nation, Feral Fashions and Ali Strange. But Stahl said it seems to be hit or miss for most here in Reno.

And for a brand like Onward Kitty with one-of-a-kind designs, it's hard to prosper in a smaller fashion scene.

“It either fits you or not,” Stahl said. “So now we just had this amazing fashion show, amazing press—I think we blew it out of the water. But now I have six outfits that are a certain size and not everyone is going to want to wear them. One of my models bought one of my dresses, and it wasn't the dress she wore, it was the one someone else wore. But I have these incredible wedding dresses, but what do you do with that?”

In order to be able to produce some designs on a larger scale, Stahl began collaborating with Paul Laxalt at Branded to make some screen printed T-shirts and tank tops.

“He has done three designs for me that have been on tanks and tees right now, and now we're going to do three more,” Stahl said. “I do that as well because it's hard if I paint something, it's stiff—you can't wear it every day. A lot of people buy my graphic tees and tanks.”

Stahl also designs—or rather, redesigns—girls' denim shorts that are popular in the summer.

“Girls like my shorts, so I'll do denim shorts for summer, like I'll do Fourth of July or just funky—I call it kitty floral grafitti,” Stahl said. “So someone will give me a pair of their denim shorts, I'll bleach them out, I'll trash them out, I'll dye them—sometimes I do, sometimes I don't—then I start painting them, and I spray paint and actually finger paint if you can believe that.”

Stahl has also collaborated with other designers in the area, including Cicely Margo and Jose Galvan of Vanish. She's also very picky about who models her clothing and who does hair and makeup for her shoots.

“It's a huge collaboration,” Stahl said. “If you get the right people—they're free to do what they want to do because I don't tell them what to do, I just tell them my concept—it's amazing the magic that's created.”

Stahl believes that the “buy local” campaigns around town are on the right track when it comes to the fashion industry, but that more people need to jump on that bandwagon.

“I think a lot of people say support local and buy local, but I don't think they necessarily do,” Stahl said. “The line's very long at TJ Maxx, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, which is fine. I shop there, too. … But I think the community as a whole really needs to start supporting us more and maybe instead of going to TJ Maxx and buying a piece of art for your wall, maybe you come to me—I also paint on canvas—or another local artist and buy a piece of art.”

Other local designers

Ali Strange Bikinis

All Ali Strange Bikinis are semi-custom and hand-sewn. She makes bathing suits in a variety of cute and fun cuts that can be made in various colors and prints depending on what you want. For more information, visit

Bossta Nation

Bossta Nation makes urban apparel for men and women. They describe their brand as more than just a movement, it's a lifestyle for those “who strive to succeed while under the influence of marijuana,” according to their Facebook site. Their motto is, “Stay high, stay productive.” For more information, visit

Cicely Margo

Cicely Margo designs pop glam jewelry and accessories. Her website says that her designs “grew out of a passion for ultra colorful, obnoxiously glittery gems.” For more information, visit

Edward S. Coleman Designs

Coleman's clothing is described as men's and women's ready to wear. He designs a variety of different styles of clothing and has dressed Janice Dickinson in the past. Visit for more information.

Feral Fashions

Feral Fashions is upcycled couture women's clothing. All clothes are one of a kind or limited edition. For more information, visit www.feralfashions.wix/feral-fashions.

William Furs

William Furs designs and sells high quality furs, cashmere and leather coats for both men and women. Their store is at 3370 Lakeside Ct. For more information, visit