Leap of faith spawns Leap of Style

[nggallery id=28] Self-made Karissa Lindsay is the Boss

By Holly Charles

Spring has begun, and budding trees line the streets in front of Houston’s Sundance Cinema, welcoming the buzzing group of eclectic guests into the artsy theater. The red carpet affair is set to begin, and the sun shines brightly, as if in celebration of the few shining stars of The Boss Awards (the night’s event held in conjunction with the film The Boss, starring Melissa McCarthy); more particularly, it shines as if in desperate competition with one of the night’s honorees, clothing designer Karissa Lindsay.  She struts in, as the event suggests, like a Boss, but not in the way you’d expect.

Yes, the Houston-based designer is fabulously chic in her own design, the top-selling Von Me dress in vibrant Ankara print, but the fashionista herself has an understated, less brazen aura surrounding her.  The juxtaposed combination of humility and pure, unadulterated fierceness is undoubtedly the reason why African American women are drawn to her designs and loyal to the movement and company that is A Leap of Style.

In a deeply moving and candid interview, the designer admits that “The woman (she) design(s) for (now) is not (her).” She humbly confesses, “The A Leap of Style woman is who I used to aspire to be.” In retrospect, it makes sense that a young girl from small-town America would rage against the machine to transcend not only her city limits, but the intangible limitations of her Midwest town of Mansfield, Ohio, as well.

The imaginative mind of Karissa Lindsay is bursting at the seams (pun intended), and her dreams have literally come true in the form of beautiful, unorthodox women who pose in textured turbans, cultural accessories and, of course, her multi-print combinations on her website (www.aleapofstyle.com).  A self-motivator with a very specific aesthetic, Lindsay even honed her photography skills just to shoot her own sessions and ensure that her vision would not be compromised.  And, if you think that’s admirable, keep in mind that that was only after taking her own personal Leap to dump her 9 to 5 and kick start her own clothing line before the age of 30, truly making Lindsay a Boss.

She was a fledgling designer with a $50 sewing machine

Before Lindsay was walking red carpets, being praised for her unique contributions to fashion and being honored alongside an impressive list of Hometown Honorees (six black talents and entrepreneurs were among the ranks, including Hell’s Kitchen Season 11 Winner Chef Ja’Nel Witt, Sisters In Law attorney and reality TV personality Jolanda Jones and Houston native DJ SupaStar to name a few), she was a fledgling designer with a $50 sewing machine and an earful of doubters trying to convince her that her goal of creating a line successful enough to be featured nationally was not only a long shot, but a waste of time, all together.

At the same time that others’ doubts grew in the back of her mind, her older sister discovered an unfortunate growth, as well – a cancerous tumor.  Lindsay’s sister, an attorney 17 years her senior, ironically now needed help from the baby and starving artist of the family, so-to-speak.  So, while digesting the terrible news that her sister’s affliction with lymphedema was a certain fatality, Karissa decided to “break her out” of the hospital, move her in and become a full-time nurse to her terminally ill older sibling.  According to Karissa, the hospital staff frowned upon her decision to become her primary caregiver, convinced they had only sent her home to die.

Lindsay explains that her sister’s death was “not what God promised”

All the while, A Leap of Style, an obvious allusion to the popular religious idiom a leap of faith, was thriving.  The rebel refused to let either her dreams or her sister die and continued to plan, fund and create her line in the midst of her sister’s crisis.  And, while A Leap of Style grew in popularity, Lindsay found the means to rent her own warehouse and hire her own staff to keep up with a burgeoning fan base and endless requests for her vivacious, boldly printed, African-inspired pieces.  With every special request and satisfied customer, the doubts naysayers once burdened her with began to shrink, as did her sister’s tumor and probability of death.  A woman of faith and self-proclaimed “Jesus freak,” Lindsay explains that her sister’s death was “not what God promised.” And, based upon the continued success of A Leap of Style and Lindsay’s keen discernment, she is confident that, “God also said he’d increase (the) business,” especially since, in her words, “He has a business that (she’s only) running.”

Lindsay trudges victoriously forward, faith and fabric in tow.  She creates extraordinary pieces to make the ordinary woman feel anything but.  Sans the once cancerous doubt, that now lies dormant in both her and her sister, Lindsay continues to thrive in the trenches with her small staff, peddling away at machines and delighting her social media followers with gorgeous, melanin-ated (Is that a word? It should be) models on her Instagram account.  She takes every opportunity to thrill Houston fashion enthusiasts and customers with A Leap of Style pop-up shops at urban art galleries like the highly respected Gite Gallery and specialty boutiques like the popular Melodrama boutique, where her fashions are now a permanent fixture.

When asked how, as a Boss, she gets others to buy into her vision, with a cool assurance, she says it’s because “People can see that the brand is going somewhere.”  When describing her super-duper-runway-fantasy full of her favorite celebs, Lindsay’s face lights up imagining her sophisticated Spring Collection, Embellished Truths, on the likes of Solange Knowles, Lupita Nyong’o, Olivia Palermo and Michelle Obama.

Considering her determination and divine faith, the likelihood of, one day, actually dressing these ladies is a truth that won’t need embellishment.  She’s got this thing sewed up!