After a quick look through the kOs archives or my list of favorite designers, it becomes apparent that my fashion sense is quite bipolar. On the one hand, I love clothing that is beautifully draped, as such pieces are not only gorgeous to look at, but are typically both elegant and comfortable to wear. However, on the other hand, I gravitate towards clothing that is architecturally inspired, as I love the concept of wearable art that has severe tailoring and origami-like details to accentuate the body. Hence it is no surprise that I have fallen in love with Amanda deLeon's designs, which include startling creations from both polarities. As I am always taken aback by young designers with such diverse talent, I am quite delighted that Amanda took the time to satisfy my curiosity with the following interview. Though, in truth, I find I might still need my own Amanda deLeon piece to be fully satiated...
How did you get into fashion design, and what is your formal background?
I've alway been somewhat of a builder/designer. Ever since I could cut, tape, staple, and glue, my Barbies have donned some of the wildest couture (haha). My mom taught me how to sew when I was ten years old. She said to me, "Now, Amanda, everyone needs to know how to sew." My formal education is in architecture and interior design, and I use those skills everyday. I've never been part of the normal fashion crowd. Even though I do recognize when something is truly beautiful, I've always leaned away from the norm, which is why I began designing and building my own wardrobe.
What is the very first piece you remember designing?
It was for a 4-H project. I chose to do a Natasha style pencil suit, which is a double breasted jacket with a hip flare and a knee length pencil skirt. On top of all that construction, I decided to use a black and white plaid taffeta….don't judge me! So my mom, being the strict teacher that she was, said "If you are going to do this, you are going to do it right." So she taught me how to lay the pattern out so all of the plaids would match up around the suit and up and down from jacket to skirt. From that moment on, I decided that I would never work in plaid again!
What is your most treasured piece of clothing, either bought or hand-made?
Pretty much any piece that I have made for myself, because it is rare that I get the time to treat myself to my own time and talents. Which is sad when the reason I started designing was for myself.
Do you wear your own designs?
Absolutely! The reason I became a fashion designer is to have a clothing collection for myself that I couldn't just find at any shop.
You cite architecture and music as your inspiration. Do you actively seek out new ideas by purposefully looking at/listening to something, or is it a more organic process where you might see a building and suddenly picture a new clothing design?
It is an organic process with me. I have my Itunes playing while I work and a certain song will begin playing, I will stop everything I am doing and walk the runway down my hallway, and the feeling and attitude of the music will get my mind spinning with so many ideas, that I barely have time to write them all down. All of my designs will always have some sense of architectural being. I love to study angles and curves, and many of my designs are one big math problem. Some pieces have come about by basically building a model to create a structure, then disassembling the structure, and plotting it out on fabric.
If you could design a piece/outfit for anyone, who would it be?
Anyone who trusts me to create what's in my head.
I was surprised to find out that you also design children's clothing! How did that come about? Do you think you'll be injecting more modern and architectural elements into your children's line?
I have always had a full time job and building my business has been a side project. The intention behind the children's clothing is to supplement my income, so I can finally quit my day job. I do want to slowly build it into a modern line, but for now, time is always an issue. Hopefully in the near future I will be able to concentrate on my business full time, but I am still a one man show, so that will take some time.
Your husband is the man behind the camera for the amazing photos for your latest collection. Do you get his input on new designs and styling for a photoshoot? How is it working with your spouse?
I am always getting his advice and opinion on color combos, fabric, and sketches. He brings a fresh eye and an outsider view to my pieces. I think he is an amazing photographer and I feel incredibly lucky to work with him, but sometimes it can be difficult to work together. We expect more from one another than we would from any of our other clients because we know one another's potential. The last few shoots have been very rushed, so this next group of pieces will be planned out in detail, so there is little stress during the shoot.
What is the fashion scene like in North Carolina? Do you get a lot of local attention and support, or do you find more of your fans to be elsewhere in the States or elsewhere in the world?
I think there is some kind of fashion scene anywhere that you go, but it's definitely not my scene. There is a small group of people that have tried their hardest to introduce my style to the local scene, but the reality is that I am still in the south and it is still very conservative in many ways. I'm happy that I finally jumped on the Etsy train, so that I can get a much broader audience. As of now, most of the interest in my clothing comes from overseas and the west coast.
I would always be some sort of an artist. Probably a landscape designer or photographer. They both would require me to be out in "the field," as I am not one to sit at a desk.
What is your favorite experience as a designer so far?
I definitely enjoyed being a part of Charleston Fashion Week. I was chosen as a finalist to show at CFW 2009 and loved every minute of it. If I could put on a runway show of that caliber every year, I would be in heaven. Fashion shows are the best way to show my designs. The music, hair, and makeup all come together to create a vision of complete style and artistry. Fashion shows are my art openings.
What is your favorite piece from your latest collection?
My favorite piece would have to be the Ridge Back Dress (below). It also happens to be Kat Von D's favorite dress that she has in her closet.
And lastly, what's up next for Amanda deLeon Clothing?
Well, right now, I am preparing for a photo shoot to showcase my latest pieces. I'm really excited about them…I'm not much on summer clothing, but since I do live in the south and it get's pretty hot down here, I needed to create summer pieces that are still my taste. As for further in the future, I hope to create some new pieces for the fall and begin working on spring/summer 2011 designs for a runway show presentation.
Make sure to stop by Amanda's main Etsy shop for your own drapey/architectural piece, and her children's clothing Etsy shop, Rabbit's Foot Clothing, for the stylish kid in your life. And keep the Amanda deLeon Clothing Facebook page bookmarked for updates!