These kids made their own fashions and they are great

Leilani Sandoval and Sami Attebery

In today’s world, sewing your own clothes may seem a bit outdated, but here in Gilroy, one woman’s passion has created a resurgence for the craft, as well as a sense of pride for those who’ve mastered it.
Not only are local girls making clothes and presenting them in a fashion show, but they are now selling their designs downtown every Friday night this summer.
Hecker Pass Winery hosted the second annual “Proud To Be Me” Fashion Show, featuring 45 students of the “Proud To Be Me” sewing school, owned and operated by Jo Anne Kerr, 65, better known to many as Gigi.
“With all the projects modeled, now that’s not all the projects they’ve done over the year, there were 120 projects that went through the show,” Kerr said.
Kerr was very pleased with the overwhelming attendance of this year’s show as nearly every seat in the spacious tented area overlooking the vineyards was filled with family and friends.
“I think the parents enjoyed it, and I think again, people are surprised. They know what their daughters have done, but then when you see it all like that. I think they get very surprised at what the girls have done,” Kerr said.
The projects modeled by the girls included, capes, leggings, dresses, Halloween costumes, pajamas, robes, and aprons.
This year’s Master of Ceremonies was Ben Kerr, Gigi’s son, who added a nice touch to the show by interviewing the students as they made their way down the catwalk, providing the opportunity to share a little about themselves with the audience.
“I think the girls really enjoyed being able to talk a little bit, and I think the audience loved it also,” Kerr said, adding, “It was making it personal with the girls. I think that was very touching for me, to be able to hear them talk. It made them feel like they were honored.”
Another of Ben’s ideas was to have a student create the dress Kerr would wear to the show.
“That’s what a fashion show is, you want to honor the lady of the day, and what better way to do that than have her come out in a dress that’s made by one of the girls,” Ben said.
Kerr selected student Sami Attebery, 11, to make her dress.
“It fits super good,” Attebery said, adding, “I just really like sewing. I like seeing the results.”
In September, “Proud To Be Me” will celebrate its second anniversary, and there is no shortage of interest. With 58 students enrolled, Kerr says there is still a waiting list.
The school offers one- and two-hours classes, every Sunday through Thursday, and beginning June 19, Kerr will offer a four-week series of one-day classes, sponsored by Gilroy Parks and Recreation in addition to her regular class schedule. She also hopes to offer a sewing summer camp, as she did last summer.
They also have a booth at the weekly Friday night Fifth Street Live gatherings downtown.
“The girls will be making their projects, and they will be selling them down there,” Kerr said.
Kerr originally thought the sewing lessons would appeal to adults, but the response she received when she first opened, and ever since, have come from girls ages five through 14.
“You set a goal for yourself and you hope that you get there. I’m just surprised at how much the girls enjoy it,” Kerr said.
With two successful shows under her belt, Kerr credits the success to the scores of volunteers who provided help in set-up, decorations, and food for the event.
“There is no possible way I could do anything of that magnitude without a huge number of helping hands. And I had that, yes I did,” Kerr said.
As much as Kerr appreciates the parents, and she does, the parents appreciate Kerr.
“It’s amazing to see what the girls actually, what they’re producing. It’s just beautiful, they get so excited when they can show off what they’re doing,” Christine Attebery, mother of Sami Attebery, said.
Jenna Kammann, mother of Ava Johnson, 11, regrets she never acquired the sewing skill set, and is pleased that her daughter has.
“It was inspiring, just to see these young girls sew. In today’s day and age, it’s a lost skill, so I’m thrilled that Ava is a part of this program. It’s a life lesson,” Kammann said.
“To be able to be creative, and express herself through her clothing, where she doesn’t have to dress like everybody else. With school, she does wear her school uniform, but I do like her to add something to her uniform that she created,” parent Erica Bravo said.
The parents aren’t the only ones who appreciate all that Kerr offers. Her true fans are the students.
“I love Gigi, she’s so nice. She works well with us, and she’s always so fun,” Ava Johnson said.
Bravo, mother of Olivia Vargas, 9, explained the motivation behind her daughter’s love of sewing.
“I think it’s the love that she has for Gigi that really brings her back. She never wants to disappoint Gigi,” Bravo said.
“I love how even if we mess up, she doesn’t scold us for it, and she always just says it’s OK, everybody makes mistakes, and then we just fix it, and keep going,” Madison Emmert, 12, said.
Long time student, Madison O’Orurke, 9, signed up when the school first opened, and she has no plans on stopping.
“I like sewing, and I like being with Gigi, because she helps me with my sewing projects and I get a lot done,” O’Orurke said, adding, “Gigi is loving, and she makes me laugh.”
For more information on the “Proud To Be Me” sewing school, go to: