By Autumn Schieferstein, Scott Daniels and Lauren Lippert
Phoenix Fashion Week is here and better than ever. Since June, designers have participated in a designer bootcamp where they learn the basics of growing their business and revamping who they are as designers. This then is translated onstage Oct. 3-5 where they compete against each other for Designer of the Year. Here are some of the designers who are hoping to win the competition!
Q: What has the last few months preparing for Phoenix Fashion Week looked like for you?
A: It’s been a lot of hard work because I still work a full-time job while doing this. Before, I could kind of do things on my own terms, and now I’m constantly getting offers and you can’t really turn those down when you have the opportunities.
Q: How would you say Phoenix Fashion Week is impacting you now as a designer?
A: It’s really helped me for the business side, especially being self-taught. I was never introduced to the business side, I was more into the creative side. I watched all of the fashion shows, all the sewing videos because I didn’t know what it [took] to be in large things like boutiques. Going through this process I’ve learned that there’s a lot more work behind it.
Q: When did your interest in designing start?
A: I’ve always had a passion for fashion, but I started designing when I was at a boutique originally, and when I was in the store I didn’t really like much of the products. It wasn’t the style I was going for and then price points as well, I wanted to get those down. So it led me to a lot of options and one of those options was [to] design clothes.
Q: If you were to pick a favorite moment from your designing career so far, what would it be?
A: It would probably be when I did Community Night last year and met Natasha Castles from 101.5. She had me dress her for her lead speaking role for TED Talk Scottsdale Women. That was probably the most honorable moment I’ve had, but recently I was just published in a Java Scottsdale magazine.
Astrid Underground: Founder – Nicole Willis
Q: How did you come up with the name Astrid Underground for your brand?
A: My brand started out as Astrid Apparel, Astrid is an old, Norse name meaning divine and beauty. I [originally] had Astrid Apparel and during the PHX Fashion Week classes and process Brian felt it was a little generic so we did some rebranding. I really wanted to keep the Astrid part because to me the old, Norse name Astrid meant a lot, it has to do with religious beliefs so I went ahead and kept that but he said apparel is really generic and it doesn’t tell a lot about what you are doing. I came up with Astrid Underground because it tells you what kind of clothing they are going to find, the whole name is finding the beauty in the underground and that is the name of my new collection, Finding the Light in the Dark.
Q: What drew you to competing in Phoenix Fashion Week?
A: A couple of years ago, I did Community Night and it was really fun. I got to show my two garments and I felt like they were well received, but mostly I did New York Fashion Week last year in February and with how much I spent on the show, the room, the flight, everything like that I thought to myself ‘I could do Phoenix Fashion Week with the same amount and actually be able to go home and lay in my own bed every night,’ so I spent the same amount yet I got the comforts of home. Everything about it was everything that I wanted to do. The business side is what really drove me because I know how to make clothes, that I can do, that’s not a problem at all. Learning how to market my business was the biggest thing I was lacking so the education that you get with Phoenix Fashion Week is super valuable to me. The show itself, you know there’s a lot of exposure, there’s a huge turnout and with the fashion industry growing so much in Phoenix I kind of wanted to be there to grow with it. Being a homegrown designer I’d like to think that I might have a little more sway in there.
Q: How did you get started with the SteamPunk fashion?
A: I first dipped my toes into the subculture of the underground movement when I was in high school. When I was growing up my grandmother was trying to teach me how to sew and I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. Needless to say, I had no clue what I was going to do with my life considering I wasted most of it. I decided that I wanted to go to school for jewelry making, but it turns out Phoenix didn’t have any classes for any of that and I would have to move to California. I had no clue what I was going to do with my life considering I had wasted most of it on drug addiction. I decided that college was definitely something that I was going to do so I decided to go to Scottsdale Le Cordon Blue for cooking and it took me eight weeks at chef school to figure out that I absolutely hate cooking, it’s horrible. I decided that I was going to do the next best thing which was fashion. Mesa Community College has a fashion degree program and I got my associate’s degree and it was absolutely the best thing ever. I always had a unique style, like I said growing up, I liked to layer a lot, I put holes in all of my long sleeve sweaters before the holes were even popular. Phoenix Fashion Week has helped me expand that, they push me to go further. My collection that I’m showing on Thursday is probably some of the intricate pieces that I’ve designed yet.
Q: What can we expect to see from Astrid Underground once Phoenix Fashion Week is wrapped up?
A: Currently, my corsets are in downtown Tempe at the Flow Shop and they do a lot of rave stuff so I’m going to be creating a specific rave collection just for their store so everybody can find their new rave wear and clubwear in the Flow Shop at Downtown Tempe, that’s for sure. I also have possibly a new collection coming up with an online store called “I Am Attitude.” I’ve been accepted to sell on there so I will probably do something specific for their site as well.
Q: How is the Tie Dye Company more than a clothing company?
A: My first vision for this was geared towards mental health and building new recreation centers for the youth. I feel like people get into the wrong things in life because we don’t have the right resources. Now I’m trying to use Tye Dye as a form of self-expression for people and hopefully build a community through the clothes.
Q: How did Tie Dye Company get its start?
A: I quit my job very randomly at the end of last July, and so I was selling stuff online and as I was researching products to sell, I saw there 350,000 people searching for tie-dye per month. The first three months of tie-dyeing all of my shirts sucked, I didn’t sell any of them at all but I just believed in it so much.
Q: What can we expect to see from TDC next?
A: I was never really a fan of tie-dye, this is probably the last time I’ll do the traditional rainbow stuff cause I like more subtle looks. I think after this you’ll see a lot more of what I like because that’s what I’ve been going for, is making tie-dye different I want to wear. I actually made something the other day that I really liked, it was a black long sleeve with just the armpits tie-dyed and I really liked it.
Q: How has interacting with the other designers these last few months been?
A: I fell in love with all the other designers, they’re awesome and I honestly want them to win just because I’ve watched them go through everything. I’ve gained so much respect for everybody, I want to vote for them. I really feel like we all deserve to win.
Sarah Christie: Founder – Sarah Christie
Q: How have you incorporated sustainability into your collection?
A: I use baby alpaca wool in all my pieces, it’s high-quality wool so it lasts a long time, water rolls right off of it and it absorbs humidity. Most importantly it doesn’t harm the alpacas to use it because it just gets shaved off.
Q: How did you draw inspiration for this collection?
A: I make premium outerwear for modern women with casual elegance. Sometimes I don’t have time to go home and change from a day to a night look, so casually elegant pieces work for me all day. I had also never used sweet pastel colors in my designs before and I was actually really inspired by the popular colors of the ’50s. I’m also inspired by my clients. I have one client in Chicago who would always look elegant. She can just throw on a blazer with jeans or a nice top and look so elegant and modern at the same time. I think about her, what her day looks like and that’s where I get my inspiration.
Q: What can we expect to see from Sarah Christie after PHX Fashion Week wraps up?
A: I’m actually going to be doing men’s wear for Fall/Winter of 2020. I’m drawing inspiration from traditional Scottish looks and of course, will be using my baby alpaca wool as well.
Q: How has PHXFW impacted you as a designer?
A: I’ve learned a lot through this process about marketing myself as a designer, especially on social media. I was so nervous at first, but I’ve been learning and growing my brand so it’s been great.