Karen Lozner fell in love with fashion at a young age. As a child, she made dresses for her Barbie dolls using her grandmother’s vintage sheets, and jeans from the hem of her own.
Growing up in Manhattan, her taste was shaped by what women wore in the streets and her early exposure to New York City’s many different ethnicities and cultures.
She enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology, later snagging a job at DKNY. She finally struck out on her own in 2001 with Karen Elizabeth Couture. The eveningwear collection is made from natural fabrics, such as silk, and focuses on hand-sewn details—the kind you might find in the 1950s-era couture of Chanel or Christian Dior.
As she began pouring her passion and artistry into her clothing line, and settled into life in New Jersey with her husband and two children, Lozner realized she had a skill and expertise to share with aspiring fashionistas.
In 2009, Lozner founded Karen’s School of Fashion, classes for kids, teens, and adults who want to learn drawing, pattern making, sewing and clothing designing. “We try and help them think outside the box,” Lozner says. KSOF now has two locations in New Jersey: Marlboro and Little Silver.
By 2012, she was also teaching classes in New York. She helps young designers create their own creations, going from sketching a design to putting on the finishing touches. Fabric, scissors, tracing paper, rulers, measuring tapes and sewing machines line the tables in her WeWork Montague office.
“Some of our students start as young as 7 and continue into their teens,” she says. “Some we help with their portfolio for schools such as Parsons School of Design and the Rhode Island School of Design. We like to prepare them so they have a better future.”
She says many kids have a preconception that sewing is easy.
“They are extremely creative and just want to make a dress, without a pattern,” she explains. “We try and teach them, before you run, you have to learn to walk. For example, if you want to change the way a design looks, start with a square, patch pocket, but they want to do things like a heart-shaped pocket.”
Looking back, Lozner says she doesn’t miss working at her old job at a New York fashion house.
“I wanted to teach kids fashion design and what I love to do,” she says. “It teaches me as well, and provides me with other skills I never knew I had.”