Bob Kuhn has been a freelance costume designer based in Chicago since moving to the city in 2009. The day after moving to Chicago he started as a junior draper at The Chicago Shakespeare Theater where he eventually moved up to draper, then shopper. For four of the seven years he work at Chicago Shakes he had the pleasure of designing costumes for the award winning CPS Shakespeare! program which was designed to develop students’ literacy skills as it builds confidence, empowering the city’s teens to approach life’s challenges with bravery and self-assurance. He also designed Short Shakespeare Macbeth and the touring summer show Shakespeares Greatest Hits! All throughout his time working full-time at Chicago Shakes, he was also designing at various Chicago storefront theaters in the evenings. In 2016 Bob left Chicago Shakes deciding to go strictly freelance and has been doing that ever since. He continued to be a designer, assistant, shopper, draper, stitcher and started his own business selling ties and bow ties at Chicago street fairs. However, since March of 2020, just when he was about to go into tech for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the now permanently closed Mercury Theater Chicago, he has tried to find some kind of career pivot to make money. Any money. All future shows were first postponed, and then finally cancelled leaving Bob with nothing for a source of income. And being freelance, unemployment benefits were next to nothing seen as how most work is untaxed and unemployment was not really an option. Bob resurrected Fish Bone Ties under the new name Bob Kuhn Designs and expanded the products he hand makes and sells. Bob tries to remain positive about the future state of the theater industry but understands it is going to be a long slow road to recovery and theater on the other side will look very different. In the meantime, he continues to expand the products he makes and hopes to grow Bob Kuhn Designs to fill the gap the lack of live theater has left.
All products from Bob Kuhn Designs are handmade in the third bedroom studio of his Chicago apartment by Bob himself. The previous shop "Fish Bone Ties" started out as a way to bring neck ties and bow ties into the 21st century. They are made out of cotton prints which is intended to make them more approachable to the everyday person. His ties do not have a look that insist they be worn with a suit like a silk tie would. They work perfectly with a suit in the office or at a wedding, but also casually with jeans and a button down. The other delight of making these ties is the patterns. The fabrics are purposefully chosen for their uniqueness and excitement. Fish Bone Ties wanted to provide ties that were not in stores. A few years in, the shop expanded into lapel pins (made from scraps of fabrics from various show he had worked on), leather wallets, satchels and messenger bags and now into zippered ponchos. Through out Bobs time as a freelance costume designer he has acquired a lot of fabrics and notions so many of the products he makes are one offs. Once a fabric is used, it is gone. Truly, nothing is mass produced. Bob continues to look around his studio looking for inspiration, thinking of new creations to make, striving to provide his customers with unique handmade goods.