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By Emily St. John Mandel
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NOLA Fashion Week Arrives
Emerging Designers Talk Love Stories, Bad Girls
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York may have come and gone, but the American fashion capital of the world faces some Cajun competition this week at NOLA Fashion Week.
The bi-annual pattern party kicked off this weekend with workshops and shows, and there's only more to come. A slew of veteran designers like the cutting edge Iacono or the ultra femme and fanciful Jolie and Elizabeth are set to show their latest collections. Meanwhile, industry insiders will get helpful tips at workshops about putting their brand in the national conversation, and how to show some style on social media.
Most events are centered around The Saratoga (212 Loyola Avenue) with workshops at Beta New Orleans (800 Common St.) Check out the full schedule here.
Two talented young designers emerged Sunday night at The Saratoga for their NOLA Fashion Week runway debuts. Ella Rose and Noel Martin both have roots in Louisiana, but it is their circuitous paths to the runway that make their appearance at fashion week all the sweeter. LSU student Rose, for example, began her collage career as a painter only to find she preferred clothes to the canvas.
“I started to do fashion photography and started taking the design classes. I fell in love with the idea of putting my artwork into something wearable,” said Rose.
In her fashion week featured collection, Rose utilized her painting background to bring a personal touch to her line. An old painting of poppies she drew serves as the basis for most of her patterns.
“The first painting was 12 different colors and all over the place, then I broke it down,” said Rose. “I made them a little bit more mod, directional, [and] mirrored images. They got more focused.”
The result is something of a “love story.”
She turned the WWI carnation into a unique blend of coquettish charm and sixties inspired funk.
“It’s kind of a contemporary women’s wear for a little younger age group. Its very girly and flirty,” said Rose.
Excited for the chance to develop a winter collection, her line featured mostly dresses, skirts and her favorite garment, the jacket. Thrilled at the prospect of creating her jackets, she’s even in the process of working one more into the collection before the deadline.
“[The line is] definitely wearable but it’s definitely got a little bit of a funky side,” said Rose.
While Rose looked to her painting past for inspiration, Martin found her initial muse worlds away in M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” music video and the strict clothing restrictions of the Middle East.
“In the video it has all these men drag racing cars, but in the middle of the night the women sneak out. They are really oppressed by what they can and can’t do in the Middle East,” said Martin. This includes clothing.
Martin knew she wanted a career in fashion as a senior in high school, but it wasn’t until after attending college at Savannah College of Art and Design that she applied to Parsons School of Design on a whim and watched her dream really take off.
“I applied to SCAD and it was something. It was really challenging. I was really inspired by all the work I saw in school. I picked up sewing quickly, [but] I decided I wanted to be closer to the industry,” said Martin. Savannah is many things, but it’s no fashion hub.
True to the Middle East the collection started out with a very neutral palette, but evolved into a range of colors like olive greens, golds, yellows, blues and whites and textures.
“It’s a new age, contemporary collection. [It’s] edgy, but definitely has a huge feminine play,” she said. “It comes across dark, so I feel there will be a sense of emotion there, but the clothes are really fun even if the mood is a little dark.”
For Martin, fashion, like any other art form, must contain a message. Building off the oppressive environment in the Middle East— something visible through their female clothing restrictions— Martin’s collection exudes ideas of female empowerment and the importance of expression.
“She wants to be noticed, but she can still be professional. She is very confident,” said Martin of her ideal customer. “Expressing yourself through apparel and using that as a form of expression. I think that’s what my customer does.”
While one collection speaks to a more carefree, innocent audience, the other takes a sobering turn without sacrificing fun and femininity. Whichever garment you take from the hanger, both designers would agree that fashion is more than simply hemlines and thread counts.
According to Martin, it’s “about having fun and telling a story through something as functional as something you wear everyday.”
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