Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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ewbank fire

The fire that consumed Ewbank Clothiers in Berryville, Virginia on Thursday, August 13, 2015 couldn’t have come at a worse time for proprietor Karen Ewbank. Her custom tailoring shop was full of hunt coats and other foxhunting attire either being repaired or built in preparation for the upcoming hunting season.

"I woke up at three in the morning that night, counting red coats," she recalls.

In addition to the loss of clothing and fabrics, perhaps even more serious is the loss of her meticulously cut pattern drafts—now ashes—used to trace shapes onto fabrics. The patterns will have to be re-plotted on brown Kraft paper from client measurements and re-cut—a process that takes about five hours for each client’s hunt coat. As of the date of this article, Karen doesn’t yet know whether her client measurement charts survived. They’re in steel filing cabinets in the front of the shop, and she has hopes that they were spared.

“I’m kicking on,” Karen told me today, the first workday of a new week. “I’m moving everything to my house and will work from here until the shop is rebuilt. That could take months, even though the structure is still sound.”

Karen has enlisted the services of an independent appraisal company to represent her in her in dealing with the insurance company. “My biggest concern is to reimburse everyone for their coats and other articles that they dropped off, and to replace them,” she said.

She had three finished coats in the shop to reline for clients, another five coats to clean (she hand-washes them in cold water and irons them because dry cleaning shrinks them and ruins the linings, she says), five more to repair or alter, and five new coats under construction. And fabrics. Bolt upon bolt of those tough, tightly-woven English wool twills in scarlet, black, dark blue, and gray, impervious to weather, bullet-proof even! All lost.

Karen prepared herself well for her career in fashion, participating in virtually all facets of the industry. She began at Wellington Polytechnical University in her native New Zealand, earning her degree in Clothing and Textiles. From there, she moved to Aukland for a stint at the Mercury Theater as a costume designer. In Los Angeles, Mary Webb Davis stopped her and persuaded her to become a fashion model for her agency. Karen was sent to Milan for more modeling work and then Paris. She has appeared on magazine covers and in the pages of Elle and the French and Italian Vogue magazines.

While in Paris, Karen studied for her riding instructor’s certificate with French Three-Day Champion Francois Lucas, a graduate of the Samur Cadre Noir. In due course, she moved to Virginia where she taught riding and foxhunted. Ten years ago, Karen started her custom tailoring shop in Berryville, and continues to hunt.

Karen has been one of Foxhunting Life’s longstanding sponsors with her advertising campaign for Ewbank Clothiers, and she is the maker of the shaped and slotted version of the blue birdseye stock ties sold in our Shop, the history of which we have been resurrecting on these pages. See article below. And yes, we’ve ordered more blue birdseye fabric to replace what was lost!

“There will be some delays, but we’re working!” Karen says.

Posted August 17, 2015

Comments   

+1 # RJ WEST 2015-08-26 01:48
This is tragic - and a great loss to the hunting community. The ability to sew, once very common, is, like boot repair, quickly becoming a lost art. Please, Karen, get back on and keep going!
Reply
# Denya Massey 2015-08-28 11:46
My family and I are so impressed with Karen's fortitude, her composure in a crisis, her constant good humour, and her resilience - never mind her unique skills!
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