When Kim Scanlan (BHS '11) designs clothes and accessories for American Girl dolls, her muse is her seven-year-old self.
“Seven-year-old Kim would be floored! She would fall out of her chair if she knew she would one day be designing for American Girl,” Scanlan said. “If I’m making that little girl proud, then I’m doing something right.”
Scanlan is a Senior Product Designer at American Girl, where she has worked since 2019. She primarily designs for the Truly Me brand, which is the company’s contemporary line of clothing and dolls. Most recently, she designed the outfits for American Girl’s newest historical characters, Isabel & Nicki. “I work a lot on trend research and then I sketch out different designs.”
Her passion for fashion and drawing started when she was a student at Arnett C. Lines Elementary. “I had a sketchbook and I would draw fashion for hours. There were always colored pencils all over my bedroom.” She was inspired by the outfits of actors and characters from the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and in movies like Legally Blonde. “I remember thinking it would be really cool to one day work as a fashion designer.” When Scanlan was a middle school student at Station Campus she entered a fashion illustration contest for Discovery Girls magazine. She ended up winning the contest.
During her sophomore year at Barrington High School, she enrolled in her first fashion class with now-retired teacher Carla Darlington. Ms. Darlington provided opportunities for Scanlan and her classmates to enter fashion contests through Harper College. By the time she graduated from BHS, Scanlan had already won several awards. “That was like the kickstart to everything because I was no longer just sketching,” Scanlan said. “I was actually making dresses and coats. High school really confirmed for me that this is what I wanted to do.”
When she graduated in 2011 she enrolled at Harper, studying fashion and illustration. Her sophomore year she transferred to Kent State in Ohio, where she majored in fashion design. “It’s an understatement how much my high school classes helped me,” Scanlan said. When I got to college I met a lot of students who didn’t have fashion programs at their high school. Some of them didn’t even know how to sew.”
“It’s an understatement how much my high school classes helped me. When I got to college I met a lot of students who didn’t have fashion programs at their high school."
After securing a job straight out of college at Weissman, a costume and dancewear design company based in St. Louis, Scanlan went on to work as an Assistant Designer at Claire’s headquarters in Hoffman Estates. Then, in 2019 she was hired at American Girl.
Her full circle moment came in 2021 when she went with her mom, current Grove Avenue teacher Debbie Scanlan, to visit the American Girl store in downtown Chicago. “When I was a student at Lines I did Girl Scouts and one day we visited the American Girl store. I was overwhelmed by how beautiful everything was,” Scanlan said. “In 2021 I went back to the store with my mom and saw little girls looking at dolls wearing the designs I created. It was incredible!”
Looking back at her time in Barrington 220, Scanlan says all of the opportunities really created sparks of confidence in her. “When you try something new it’s a spark and all of those sparks created a fire in me. They made me who I am today and I’m so grateful to be a part of this community and district.”