top of page

Behind the Seams: Unraveling the Mind of Lexington Fashion Designer Claire Pabst

Behind the bright, primary colors of the unique clothing brand called “Clart Fart” is Claire Pabst, a 24-year-old based in Lexington, Kentucky, creating stand-out clothing while working toward a more sustainable future. 

When Pabst came to the University of Kentucky from her hometown in southern Illinois, she enrolled as a marketing major despite her artistic abilities and creativity. Having grown up in a small farm town surrounded by people with more traditional beliefs, she went into college with the mindset that in order to be successful in your career, you can’t be creative.  

“There’s a lot of small-minded people where I’m from,” she said. “It was beat into my head that to be happy and successful you need to have a ‘normal job.’”

But after two days of marketing courses, she decided to switch to the School of Art and Visual Studies (SAVS) to major in fine arts and pursue illustration. In SAVS, she felt like she could embrace her true sense of style and be herself. She was inspired by how other art students dressed and found her love for fashion. She wanted to take design classes, but only graphic design was offered, not fashion. Discouraged by the lack of options and looking to start her own brand, Pabst withdrew from college. 

After making this decision, she had a lot of doubts about her future. Some of the people close to her questioned it, asking if she could just “stick it out until graduation.” Her mother, on the other hand, who is also an artist, was very supportive from the start. 

“I feel like when you throw yourself in all at once, yeah, it’s going to be so crazy and so scary, but you will learn and grow so much as a business owner, as an artist and as a creative,” Pabst said. 

With a new sewing machine, courtesy of her remaining college savings, Pabst began her new life as a full-time fashion designer in Lexington. Her style draws on lots of primary colors and mixes all kinds of patterns and textures. Her “joxers,” for example, are a combination of jean shorts and boxers with lace. She said that she wants to create pieces you can’t find anywhere else that are unique to every customer. 

“I love a closet full of standout pieces,” Pabst said. “Maybe to the normal eye people think it’s ugly, but those who get it, get it.” 

Pabst doesn’t want to create a piece that can only be worn one way, either. She said versatile clothing is vital to her brand and her values. As a part of her summer collection in 2023, she created a bikini that could be worn over 30 ways. 

 The “scrap-kini” was created to use up scrap fabric that otherwise would have gone to waste and has become her most successful piece to date. The top consists of two pieces with three ties and different fabrics on both sides. For even more variety, the bottoms can be worn forward, backward and inside out. 

One of her more recent pieces is the “tri-skirt.” It has over 27 vintage buttons used to modify the skirt. The top layer is the mini skirt with a detachable layer to make it knee-length. A third layer creates a floor-length skirt. With ties in the front middle, the wearer can leave it open or closed for their preferred look. 

“Making the skirts is definitely a labor of love,” Pabst said.

One of Pabst's most important values for her brand is sustainability. In addition to her pieces’ versatility, they are made exclusively from secondhand or deadstock fabric. She also promotes sustainable values on her social media, one of her main outlets for selling clothes. 

She said that she ignores trends as much as possible while still allowing for new ideas to come and go. The instant gratification of microtrends doesn’t interest her as much as sticking to what she values as a person and a brand.

“What makes the longevity of the brand is sticking to the truth of the brand and not feeding into the microtrends,” she said. “Stick to your individuality as a designer and it’ll show through.”

With her sustainability-centered focus, everything Pabst creates is handmade, meaning she can only put out small quantities of an item at a time. To help overcome this obstacle, she said she has considered opening up to small, ethical manufacturers in the United States, but she isn’t sure if she wants the production out of her hands. 

“I need to see what’s going on. I need to make sure everything’s made properly and correctly and make sure people are getting paid the right amounts and only using secondhand materials,” Pabst said. 

In the distant future, or at least after she’s completed her move to California in late 2024, she hopes to open up her own storefront with in-house seamstresses. The idea is for customers to choose the fabric and lace to customize their pieces. Once her business has grown to the point where it doesn’t need to be constantly monitored, she plans on traveling to gather international inspiration for her designs. 

Despite her doubts and external opinions, Pabst stuck with her passion and pursued what she wanted to. 

“Don’t listen to your internal monologue telling you this is dumb, or embarrassing or stupid,” Pabst said. “You gotta push through. If you really have your dream and want to accomplish it, you gotta find it inside yourself and ask how much you want it.”


bottom of page