Sunday, October 17, 2004

Linda Love

She's out to dress folks with creativity, flair and dependability

By Chuck Martin
Enquirer staff writer

Linda Love's client's include Cincinnati's flashy funk musician Bootsy Collins.
The excitement bursts out of Linda Love like one of her big, bubbly laughs. Much of her life, she has been taking care of others - two husbands and her father, who have since died. The past year, she has been working with Alzheimer's patients at Arden Court in Kenwood.

But now, she's ready to focus on her passion: Creating ruffled lavender skirts, long leather duster coats, iridescent green taffeta dresses and other eye-popping fashions.

For nearly 30 years, Love has been putting the feathers in Cincinnati's most brilliant peacocks, including star-eyed funkster Bootsy Collins. For June's BET awards show in Hollywood, Love dressed the musician in a long purple coat with purple sequins, matching pants and towering purple hat.

Love closed her Walnut Hills dress shop in 1990 to care for her family. Soon, she hopes to return to designing full-time.

"My time is coming," she says, sitting at her Bond Hill home wearing a bright red, beaded blouse - her creation, of course. "I'm meeting people now who want to help."

Nov. 21 show at Xavier

Friend and business partner, Bettina Frierson, is helping Love put on a fashion show, Nov. 21, at the Cintas Center at Xavier University called "Inspired by Love." The show is open to the public, boutique shop owners and manufacturers who want to buy Love's creations and a new line of ready-to-wear clothing.

She raves about the show - touching her guest's elbow and knee at the right times for emphasis - but there's an edge of urgency in her voice.

Q & A
Your favorite color...
I'm a person of many colors. I like them all, but especially bright red.
Favorite material to work with...
Fur, taffeta, crepe and wool.
Long or short dresses...
Both, but you shouldn't be in a short skirt if your knees don't look good.
Personal fashion advice...
Everybody can not wear everything. If she looks good in it, then she's wearing it and wearing it well. You should wear what looks good on you. Ask a friend what she thinks. Friends should be honest about these things.
What: Linda Love fashion show, "Inspired by Love"
When: 5 p.m., Nov. 21
Where: Cintas Center, Xavier University
Tickets: $20 in advance; $25 day of show; student discounts available.
Information: (513) 242-6602
"I'm not an old, old woman," says Love, who will only divulge she's in her 50s. "But I'm not real, real young either."

Her smile is quick and wide as ever, but her eyes look weary. She worked until early in the morning on a bridal gown, then caught a few hours of sleep before leaving for her day job. .

She's always known hard work. As a girl growing up in Asheville, N.C., Love watched her mother hunch over a humming sewing machine in her shop. But the most important lesson she learned from her was dependability: Always, always, deliver on time.

Nothing - certainly not sleep - stands in Love's way when it comes to finishing a job. Years ago, when her car broke down on the way to a fashion show at the Netherland Plaza, she ordered the tow truck to pull her car - loaded with her dresses - to the downtown hotel so she could make it in time.

Creative escape

As a child, Love also learned creativity could provide a refuge from her pain. When she was 12, she saw an intruder kill her mother in their home.

"I didn't go into therapy," she says. "I made paper dresses for my dolls."

Much later, when she was caring for her father and sick husbands, she would escape to the basement, with its low ceiling and bare bulbs, to create and sew. The carpet in front of her work table is faded and worn.

"I'm going to get out of this basement," Love declares, hands on her hips, surrounded by a rainbow rack of dresses and hats that look like big exotic bugs perched on foam skulls.

"I'm going to make it," she says, tears welling up in her eyes . "You have to use what you got."

And everyone who meets her - everyone who sees the bold genius that comes out of her head and lands on a hanger - knows Linda Love has got a lot.


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