When the phone rang in Holly Robb’s Breckenridge tailoring business last August, the voice on the other end asked if she’d be interested in doing alterations for the entire Australian Olympic freestyle skiing and snowboarding teams.
Robb’s first thought was, “Yeah, right.” But not long after she realized the call was genuine, Geoff Lipshut — assistant performance director for the Australian team — was sitting in her store, Holly’s Pizzazz Boutique, discussing the finer points of their new arrangement. Alterations for two outfits per athlete on the 21-member team.
“It was a huge job, one of the biggest I’ve had,” Robb said. And to top it off more than half would end up requiring what Robb called “pretty major alterations,” essentially taking the Karbon brand ski jackets and pants apart, cutting them up and putting them back together. “We had some of them that we were practically rebuilding their outfits.”
As to how she came to be an Olympic team’s tailor, she said, “the reason they found me was because they were going to be here for Dew Tour and qualifiers and stuff. They just found me on Google.”
In an initial meeting Robb remembers asking how they knew she could do the work. She was told simply that they’d asked around and posted the question in a blog.
While Robb humbly acknowledged that there aren’t many seamstresses in and around Summit County, it probably didn’t hurt that she counts snowboarders Shaun White — known in part for his custom-tailored outfits — and Gretchen Bleiler among her previous clients.
“Shaun found me a few years ago,” Robb said, also by chance. “I’ve done work for him on and off the last few years.”
White was in town training for an X Games event when he tore one of his sleeves, and he’s been coming back ever since, including for work on this year’s Olympic outfit.
“He wanted me to tailor it; he didn’t want anyone else to do it,” she said, explaining that she thinks White gets a bad rap as reclusive or arrogant. “He’s always been really good to me,” she said. “He’s a nice young man; he’s always been a been a pleasure.”
As her December project approached and Robb found herself short-staffed, fate seemingly intervened.
“I was a little nervous because I was shorthanded.”
Around that time Brita Bowers — also of Summit county and with a strong background in costume and interior design — got a phone call from her father.
He told her of a chance encounter with a former student in a grocery store.
“She has this project and she might call you,” he’d said. Bowers’ dad then told her about Robb and the Australian Olympic team.
“I just thought, ‘Yeah, whatever, she just said that,” Bowers said.
When the call came from Robb, Bowers’ schedule had coincidentally just opened up.
“Sometimes things just fall into place perfectly,” Robb said of the connection. “She had the talent and the background to do anything I need of her.”
By mid-December the new team was hard at work.
“We had a whole store full of Australians trying on stuff left and right,” Robb said. “The store looked like it was dripping teal and white (the Australian team colors). My shop is still kind of getting back together.”
The team sent 65 extra uniforms and large amounts of extra cloth, just in case the original sizes weren’t close. By the project’s end, Robb and Bowers had canabalized a number of extra pairs of pants as spare cloth.
They fell into a rhythm quickly as if they’d worked together for years.
“We just kinda started rocking it,” Robb explained, passing gear back and forth between them and working on different parts at the same time. “It was a fun team effort for sure. Two gals that grew up in Summit County sewing for Olympians.”
The job definitely presented its challenges. “They had some really strange features,” Bowers said of the team’s apparel. Where one sleeve had a seem, the other did not. “It was challenging little things.”
But all in all, it went very smoothly for the newly paired team.
“A couple people came down to the last minute,” Bowers said, because the athletes hadn’t yet qualified for the Olympics and Robb and Bowers couldn’t start work on their outfits. “There were a couple that came down to the last qualifier.”
The pair said it was a privilege to be a part of the Olympics in their own way, and they enjoyed seeing their work in competition.
“It was really cool to look at it and think, ‘We did that,” Rob said. “It put a different light on the Olympics. We definitely felt a part of it.”
Bowers — who continues to work part-time for Robb and has an interior design business of her own — agreed. “It’s was amazing to just meet someone and see them in that environment.”
Robb said their work has since garnered some appreciation from some of her local clients. One customer came into her store and mentioned her work as it pertained to halfpipe silver medalist Torah Bright.
“You know I was watching the Olympics,” he said. “Thank you for fitting Torah Bright’s pants.”
The compliment was no mistake. In a sport where baggy is the norm, Robb said she had to convince another young rider to opt for something more form-fitting.
“I just looked at her and said, ‘Please let me hem them,” Robb recounted, “You’re going to the Olympics, my dear.”
In addition to White and the Australian team, Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris and a Japanese rider also brought Robb some last-minute business. She said it gave her and Bowers four countries to cheer for instead of just one. Still, their experience with the Australian team will likely continue to have the largest impact.
“We considered the Australians our Austrailians,” Robb said.
“I just looked at her and said, ‘Please let me hem them. You’re going to the Olympics, my dear.’”
on convincing a young rider to opt for a more form-fitting competition outfit