Carrie Rengers

Vanya Designs & Custom Sewing opens in Wichita

Another artist has relocated to the Commerce Arts District, but this one doesn’t create her work by painting or sculpting.

Designer Alicia Ybarra makes dresses – particularly wedding gowns – through her Vanya Designs & Custom Sewing.

This week, she moved the business from Derby to 520 Commerce St. at the 520Commerce lofts.

“I’m happy to have her there,” says developer Craig Slawson.

He says he likes that it’s a creative business.

“She’ll be a good, interesting draw for the neighborhood.”

Ybarra has almost 3,000 square feet at the building.

“Craig I think saw the opportunity and realized that I fit in on this street really well with all the other artists in the area,” she says.

“I never imagined I’d be in this spot,” Ybarra says. “It’s crazy. … It’s hardly real.”

She started sewing in her basement years ago and graduated to a couple of Derby stores.

However, she says, “Most of my business was not coming from Derby.”

Ybarra says she had a lot of customers from Wichita and surrounding areas who “were coming to me in Derby, but it just wasn’t as convenient and not as central.”

Though the new space is about the same size as her old store, it’s dramatically different from the multiple smaller rooms Ybarra had in Derby.

“It just feels so much bigger,” she says. “It’s laid out better.”

Designer Nicole Wolf of Couture Ever After helped her transform that part of the one-time broom factory.

“She had this vision, and then my husband and I built it,” Ybarra says. “It’s been a great team effort.”

She says there’s more of a cohesive, high-end feel to the store than what she used to have.

“We were in a strip mall,” Ybarra says. She says it was like “here’s what we had available.”

Along with wood floors and brick walls, Ybarra says there are a lot of vintage touches in the space, such as an old safe and a lift that she’s making into a backdrop for photos.

Ybarra will still sell veils, belts and accessories, but with the move she’s dropped her jewelry sales.

“It’s really just fine tuning in on our specialization, which is really the custom dresses and then the alterations.”

She’ll also still do tuxedo rentals and general alterations, which Ybarra says she hopes will expand with the downtown market now being so close.

Ybarra signed a five-year lease. A new event space, the Hudson, is her neighbor.

“Hopefully there’s some coordination with the Hudson,” Slawson says of weddings.

Ybarra says she considered buying a space or building one, but she “wasn’t quite ready to do that.”

She may never go that route.

“Perhaps. I don’t know. I really love this space, and I don’t know if I ever want to leave.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers