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Volume 26, Number 7 — July 2019

A Passion for Fashion: The Industry

This design by Sarah Jane Walls features a beaded bodice and a flame-colored skirt.
This design by Sarah Jane Walls features a beaded bodice and a flame-colored skirt.
Additional photos below »

From Getting Noticed to 'On the Runway'

By Angela Wampler | February 23, 2009

Have you participated in trunk shows, trade shows or runway shows? If so, how does it feel to see models hit the runway in your work?

Yes, yes, and yes! I first saw one of my garments on the runway in New York in 1999 and it was thrilling. The Bernina Fashion Show is a professional runway show in Houston, and I've done that twice. Each side of the stage is flanked with huge screens that display each gown as it is presented. It is amazing to be sitting relatively anonymously in the audience and listening to comments as your gown is being modeled. The most meaningful runway show was at the ASDP National Conference in Denver in 2007 when my "Lavender Bride" gown was shown to a standing ovation of my peers — that is really the pinnacle!

Yes, I have participated in fashion shows before. There are many different feelings associated with something like this. There is SO MUCH that goes into a show. Every garment starts with a concept that gets transferred onto a sketch pad, then to a pattern, to cut fabric, to a sewn piece of clothing, and finally to an on-the-body garment. Each stage of that process takes lots of planning and tons of hours to pull off. So, for me, fashion shows give me an amazing feeling of accomplishment, and it is surreal to see a model walk down the runway wearing a garment that was inspired and created by me. In contrast, it is also daunting because there is so much of myself poured into the garments and the show itself that, at the end, it leaves me with an overwhelming sense of "what's next," knowing that the next day the process starts back at square one with the expectation to be bigger and better than the last show. So, literally, the next day I have to pick myself up and start on a new vision and a new concept that is going to exceed what just happened, "wow" my customers, and be on the cutting edge of fashion — truly a daunting task.

What are the most common misconceptions about working in fashion?

(1) that fashion design is about drawing and (2) that fashion designers don't need to know how to sew. All the really successful designers are also sewers. They have to understand how garments go together to make their designs work.

WALLS: The most common misconception is that it is glamorous. Fashion itself is supposed to be glamorous, so it is easy for people to assume that all aspects of working in the fashion industry are easy, fun, and glamorous, but this is simply not true all of the time. There are good and bad things in every job, and the fashion business is no exception.

Do you read fashion magazines? If so, which ones?

I do, but only to keep up with trends. For the most part, I dislike them as I feel they don't always promote women the way they should — models look like zombies.

I do read fashion magazines, every now and then, but I steer clear of them when I am designing because it is easy to emulate things I see over and over. It is a fine balance because it is important to know what other designers are doing so I don't replicate any of their designs, and it's important to know the latest trends in fashion. For example, Kinley on the TV reality show Project Runway got tagged last season for being a copycat on her final wedding gown design. The judges said it looked almost identical to an Alexander McQueen dress, which it did. I never want to copy fashion, I want to create it.

So, do you watch TV shows like Project Runway?

STEWART: Love it!!! Although you must know that this is not the way fashion really works. It has been a huge boon to the sewing industry though.

WALLS: I do try and catch episodes when I can. I enjoy seeing the designer's moments of glory and also their moments of blunder, the interaction of the contestants and the competitions the designers face.


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Linda Stewart created this gown based on a Sassoon design (at right). On Stewart's gown, the skirt is silk taffeta lined in both silk organza and silk. The off-the-shoulder lace bodice is pale pink, lavender and mint green shot with gold and edged in pink marabou. The buttons are Swarovski crystals.