By Kerry McNally, WCCO-TV

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MINNEAPOLS (WCCO) — “Haute Couture” means high sewing or high dressmaking in French. A looser translation refers to the creation of exclusive, custom-fit clothing.

Joy Teiken, founder of Joynoelle in Minneapolis, is keeping Haute Couture alive and well in the Twin Cities.

Joy’s designs begin on her clients, instead of on a sketch pad.

“It’s very organic. Because I work with a lot of really cool silks and fabrics and it’s about draping on the body and making it really for that particular person,” she said.

Without any formal training, this former high school art teacher was a quick study in the ways of high fashion.

She takes us back five years when “I started making them at my house. I started with hats. And then I moved into handbags and then people started asking me to make wedding dresses. And I quit teaching and now I’ve been doing this full time for about five years.”

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This one-client-at-a-time approach has been generating a steady stream of business, the old-fashioned way.

“Most of what I do is word of mouth. Because I’ve a lot of past clients and they tell their friends,” said Joy.

She admits that as glamorous as being a fashion designer appears to be, it’s hard work. And being the mother of a 2-and-half-year-old son requires a great deal of balance.

“My son is not in day care. He’s never been in day care. It’s really about balance,” said Joy. “For almost the first year of his life, he was here, almost every day. He slept in the fitting room. I’d have clients come in and he would roll around on the floor.”

Little Noelle, pronounced like the great English playwright Noel Coward, is actually the main reason Joy passed an opportunity to be on the hit reality series “Project Runway.”

She couldn’t bear to be away from him for 12 weeks. She clearly prefers being around her little boy and the confines of her cozy Minneapolis studio to the bright lights of Broadway.

Beaming, she sums it all up:

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“I do love it. I get to make amazing things and work with amazing clients. It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun.”