A girl dad, Michael Gardner, is connecting with his nine-year-old daughter by creating bespoke clothing for her. To date, Gardner has made over 200 unique pieces.
When Ava, his daughter, was three years old, Gardner knew he had to make a conscious effort to be an active dad, unlike his own father who blatantly ignored him.
Inspired by his sister who sewed African prints onto hoodies and sweatshirts, Gardner decided to try his hands on the craft as well. Being the creative person that he is, in 2014, he made trousers from a skirt he got from the thrift store for his then three-year-old daughter.
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“When I discovered sewing, the experience gave me a feeling I had not accomplished with any other craft,” Gardner wrote. “I appreciate the ability to create a garment that began as an idea in my thoughts and seeing the piece walk the streets either on myself or Ava is an amazing feeling.”
The joy with which Ava rocked the outfit was all the validation Gardner needed to continue with the sewing venture. He had already tried photography, cooking, poetry, painting, among others.
“One day (I) took her out and said, ‘I’m going to take pictures of you,’ and she just started doing poses and had her little walk,” Gardner said. “And I was like ‘OK, this can actually be something.'”
Gardner perfected his craft via YouTube and Pinterest tutorials. His time making clothes with his daughter conceived the “Daddy Dressed Me by Michael Gardner” fashion brand and now-viral social media campaign on their creative process.
The Philadelphia native’s muse is his daughter and although the products are not made for commercial purposes, their followers have been urging them to venture into that space.
Sewing, which is his hobby and creative outlet, is what kept his head above water when he was laid off from the hospitality industry amid the coronavirus pandemic.
His mission for sewing for his daughter is to help her “build her self-esteem and establish confidence in herself and her abilities.”
At the beginning of this adventure with Ava, Gardner was doing everything. Six years down the line, Ava has as much input in the outcome of the outfits as her father if not even more. The nine-year-old has also developed a knack for the craft and begun sewing face masks. She has, so far, made two outfits.
“Now she’s fully involved in the process,” he said.“She helps pick fabrics, come up with silhouettes, styling, and photoshoot locations.”
Over the past six years, Gardner has created over 200 outfits for his little princess. His fiancee, Thama, recently made him aware of that after giving him a poster that featured all the looks he had created for Ava.
“Those posters are the best gift I ever received!” Gardner told CafeMom. “She went through my Instagram and got all the pictures of the outfits I made Ava and created the posters. She even included my old and updated logo.”
“I’ve made Ava over 200 pieces and didn’t even realize it,” he continued. “She did because she said I needed to see all that I had done.”
Aside from their Instagram and website, the father and daughter have taken their bond to Tik Tok where they share their choreographed dance moves in their matching outfits.