Chicago designer creates curve-friendly fashions with Crescendo line

April 4, 2012 10:25:04 AM PDT
Curvy women often struggle with finding fashions that fit properly. Chicago designer Kathryn McKechnie is targeting her spring and summer collection to those women.

Crescendo Apparel
311 West Superior, Suite 209
Chicago, IL 60654
(p) 312.985.0833

Crescendo will be featured at Women's Connections OUT with the OLD, IN with the NEW trunk show at Metropolitan Club of Chicago at The Willis Tower, 66th Floor.

Tickets $25
April 10th: 5:30pm-7:45pm


After a decade-long career as a successful financial analyst, Kathryn McKechnie traded in her spreadsheets for fashion spreads with the launch of Crescendo Apparel, a fashion label for women who struggle to find high-fashion clothes that fit off the rack. In Fall 2009, she unveiled her first collection of pants, skirts and wraps for women with small waists and full hips.

As far back as she can remember, McKechnie has been a high-fashion enthusiast, poring over the pages of Vogue. The only problem was that most clothing lines failed to accommodate her curvy figure, while the labels that did fell far short of her sense of style. Through her adult life, she had to alter pants and skirts that were too big for her waist because there was no other option. Even then, the fits weren't great.

She knew she wasn't alone. The most fashionable, contemporary design houses produce clothing for very narrow hips, or what at least some people in the industry have come to call "the ideal figure." In order to fit that body type, designers work with straighter, less forgiving cuts than most women require.

"I couldn't help but wonder," says McKechnie. "Who's in charge of defining 'ideal'? And how did they get that job?" When she dug into the industry stats, she learned that 64 percent of women fit the technical description of a classic pear-shaped figure, according to a 2003 survey by SizeUSA. That means they're smaller on top, with waists measuring 10 or more inches smaller than their hips. By contrast, only 4 percent of women have the measurements of the "ideal" figure.

"I've always been a math person," says McKechnie, who graduated with high honors in finance from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, "but you don't need to be a statistician to see that the multi-billion dollar fashion industry was ignoring a solid majority of women at the expense of its own bottom line." That was all the inspiration she needed. "I knew that my financial and business acumen would help me create a successful offering for a previously ignored segment of women," says McKechnie. "But it's my personal experience as one of those women that's really driving this company."

Featured in Today's Chicago Woman Magazine as a model for any woman who dreams of changing careers in pursuit of her passions, McKechnie earned a second degree--this one in Fashion Marketing and Management-- from the Illinois Institute of Art in 2007.

McKechnie is a member of The Apparel Industry Board, Inc. (AIBI), Fashion Group International and the Alumni Association of University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. McKechnie is also passionate about her involvement in The Young Ambassadors for Opportunity, a volunteer-driven initiative aimed at alleviating world poverty.

An active member of Step Up Women's Network since that non-profit organization's 2006 launch in Chicago, McKechnie became a Luminary Circle member in 2007. Since then, she's chaired Step Up's Teen Programs Empowerment Committee. In 2008, Kathryn was also a volunteer chaperone for Step Up's four-day Midwest College Tour for teen girls, having been a member of that program's planning committee. Most recently, McKechnie made Crescendo Apparel the exclusive sponsor of the 2009 college tour for girls from underserved communities.