Rhonda Stark’s distinctive designs blend Southwestern patterns with classic silhouettes
By Abigail Boatwright
When Western wear stops you in your tracks, that’s something to be celebrated. While dramatically tall snakeskin boots or an ornate squash blossom can catch your eye, the average outerwear usually skews more functional, in muted earth tones. But pieces from Rhonda Stark Designs are a different story. The fashion line founded by Rhonda Stark is known for featuring Southwestern patterns in vibrant hues that are as colorful as the designer herself.
When Rhonda was in her early 20s, her parents purchased an established fabric store in Schaumburg, Illinois, as an investment. Rhonda and her sister, Donna, took over the 3,000-square foot business.
“I did all the buying and taught sewing classes,” Rhonda said.
Working with existing employees, the Stark sisters quickly immersed themselves in the fashion world. Rhonda attended a fashion show at a local community college, and inspiration struck.
“I thought ‘Wow, this is what I want to do. I want to design clothes like that,’” Rhonda said. “So I put myself through the local fashion design school on a part-time basis while having the fabric store.”
The Pull of the West
During college, Rhonda made a friend with roots in Park City, Utah, and secured an invite to go skiing out West.
“That was my introduction to Park City, and I loved it out here,” Rhonda said. “I finally ended up moving here in 1989.”
To pay the bills while she got settled, Rhonda began doing alterations for a local dry cleaner. That progressed to making clothes for a local retailer on Main Street. Her styles became so popular, that in the late ’90s, Rhonda started crafting clothing out of her basement and selling wholesale to retailers shopping for their stores at major apparel tradeshows. She hired two seamstresses, opened a storefront and the business grew from there.
This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Fall 2023 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.