The History of Vanya Designs

Alicia Ybarra

Lead Designer and CEO


Thank you for your interest in our history! Below we highlight Alicia’s background and how we got to where we are today! It’s been a wonderful journey with so many exciting things to look forward to!

Why Vanya Designs?

1983: Alicia learned to sew at age 7 in 4-H. She was hooked.

Here’s Alicia in her very first dress she ever made! From sketching clothes for paper dolls to sewing her own clothes, she found she had a passion for fashion (especially fancy dresses) from elementary school through high school.

Fast forward to 2002: As a project in one of Alicia’s undergrad classes, she chose the name Vanya Designs for a hypothetical brand.

Vanya came from Alicia’s middle name and was a name she always liked. Vanya means “God’s grace is upon you” and we truly believe His grace is sent out the door with each gown we design.

In 2003, Alicia graduated from Kansas State University with M.S. in Apparel & Textiles and a business minor.

Throughout college, Alicia had the opportunity to work at two different bridal stores and fell in love with the experience of helping a bride choose their wedding gown.

At first it was a “hobby business” out of her basement!

In 2005 Alicia began designing dresses as a “hobby business”.

Alicia didn’t set out to build an upscale wedding gown design and alterations business from the beginning. She started (and quit) a corporate job in apparel product development. She hated the cut-throat corporate atmosphere that the company exuded. Alicia also missed getting to interact with the customer directly.

At the same time, people were asking Alicia to sew for them. Initially, sewing allowed her to stay home with her toddlers and help pay the bills. In the early basement days at home, she would sew anything and everything to make ends meet.

Alicia landed a contract with a sportswear company and made hundreds of custom cheerleading uniforms.  She learned much about pattern making and sizing during this season.

She then started building her bridal portfolio by designing and making wedding dresses for friends and family.

Here’s a photo of one of Alicia’s first brides in her basement. She says “I did NOT have enough room!!!”

Alicia was busy and needed new digs...

In 2010 Alicia opened the first Vanya Designs storefront in Derby, KS.

Alicia opened a 900-square-foot shop around the time her kids started school.  She says “I was terrified.  I picked the color red for my logo so people could see it from the street! I refused to sign more than a 1-year lease because that was the amount of money I had saved up.  If I didn’t sell a thing, at least I could pay rent.” But…

She could hardly keep up with the number of jobs coming in!

By 2011, Alicia hired her first employee.

Alicia soon learned that she was the only designer in Kansas and much of the Midwest that would design custom wedding gowns. 

“I discovered that I found a true joy in helping women feel beautiful and confident, especially for monumental occasions such as a wedding or prom.  I began promoting custom design which allowed clients to experience having the perfect gown made especially for them.

I wanted to create gowns for my Vanya Brides that would make them feel beautiful, worthy, and loved.”

Our brand reputation grew quickly! Alicia was asked to create her first heirloom re-design.

Suddenly, Alicia realized the company was an opportunity to minister to women in a way she never could otherwise. 

The mission of the company was born: Reflecting Beauty, Inspiring Love, Realizing Dreams.

…Which Grew to The MidWest’s Only Couture Design House!

Couture gowns, Fashion Week, and our Exclusive Vanya Designs Collection!

Between 2013 to 2017 we had outgrown our locations TWICE!

We added tuxedo rentals and wedding gown preservations.  Alicia started the process of hiring and building a full customer service, marketing, and design/production team.

2019. After a well-received debut of our first wedding gown collection at a fundraiser to fight human trafficking, Vanya Designs moved our design house to a more central location in downtown Wichita, Kansas.

This was the perfect opportunity to update our branding to reflect our designs and clientele. The Vanya Designs studio offers a glamorous experience for every client and allows us to do all production in-house.

We expanded our client base, exhibited our 2nd and 3rd collections on the runway, participated in several more fundraisers, AND Alicia had the opportunity to show a wearable art collection at New York Fashion Week!!

2020 brought its challenges, including a pivot that allowed us to make PPE for surgical centers and clinics across the Midwest.

Of course, Alicia’s passion is and always will be creating custom gowns. We launched our Convertible Couture Collection, introduced a Virtual Design Process, and as we continue to move forward in faith, we are preparing to be a nationally recognized bridal brand!

2022 Alicia won Kansas State University’s prestigious Entrepreneur Award for the College of Health and Human Science’s Celebration of Excellence.

Alicia was recognized for her success in building a business, her involvement in the community, and her work to empower women to feel beautiful and loved.

She wants each of you to always remember:

To date, we have created over 700 custom unique pieces for our clients!