On May 18, people gathered at St. Mary’s Church on Grand street in New York City, to celebrate the life of Katie Gallagher, the fashion designer who died far before her time on July 23, 2022. Hundreds of people contributed to a GoFundMe campaign that would allow her family to hold a memorial in the city that the designer loved and called home for more than a decade. Gallagher was born in rural Pennsylvania and educated at the Rhode Island School of Design, and the dynamic between rural and urban was one of the many dichotomies that defined Gallagher. “To know, Katie was to know this toggle, the dance between opposing forces and ideas. A full embrace of the low and the high, the soft and the hard. All that was dark with what made her laugh. Somehow she was both deeply scared and fearless at the exact same time. And if you didn’t get it, she didn’t care,” said her sister Lara Gallagher. The designer’s ethereal appearance belied an artist who was not afraid to explore darkness. As photographer William Eadon, recalling his first meeting with Gallagher so beautifully put it, Katie “was the brightest, shiniest but softest and warmest light in that crowded, smokey room.”
Some of that spirit was captured in the open, familial mood, and decorations of the memorial. Beautiful arrangements flanked the altar on which a shrine was constructed with relics such as Gallagher’s favorite shoes—patent leather Carel mary-janes, sky-high platforms, and sneakers (the designer was a competitive high school track star and city jogger). At the left of the entrance was a metal dress Gallagher made in college. Her professor, Meg DeCubellis, recalled that despite the challenges working with coiled springs posed, the designer was determined to use them. After managing to find a source for them, the factory broke down, but Gallagher, in typical fashion, remained undeterred and made the coils, and then the dress, herself. As Lara, a filmmaker and storyteller herself, noted, Katie was “the super-8 of fashion” able to build a dress from the ground up, including pattern work, cutting, sewing, and embellishment.