FEATURE | April  2015

Rising Designers

KATHRYN HEARD

  Kathryn Heard’s work boasts a Mediterranean-influenced design featuring bold, intricate patterns and textures in her recent three-piece collection, which was featured at this year’s Memphis Fashion Week. 

  Heard, a 17-year-old high school senior, attends St. George’s Independent School and was selected among dozens of entries to be a part of the Emerging Memphis Designer Project. This marks Heard’s second year in the EMDP. In previous years, she also worked the shows as a runway model.

  Her collection features a mixture of dresses and a pant/top ensemble that was inspired by the Grecian island of Mykonos, a favorite among the destinations she has traveled. Heard traveled with her family to the Mediterranean and fell in love with the quaint town and the simplicity of the lives of the fishermen there. She studied Greek culture and tied these elements into her designs by capturing both ancient Grecian draping styles and current elements of a seaside harbor town. Her looks vary from a widelegged pant with lace from Mykonos and a front panel that doubles as a Maxi skirt to two dresses, one to include a beaded cape and the other with netting, inspiration drawn from the fisherman’s port.

  In her junior year of high school, Heard joined an illustration class and fell in love with design and the art of fashion. “I think it’s really important to learn how to do fashion illustration. I wanted to take it a step further and see it as a 3D art piece,” she says. “Fashion, for me, is a complete element of artwork.” She recalls her mother telling stories of sketches she did as a little girl and how her love for art, history and traveling have merged into her designs to create wearable pieces that embody each of these elements and recall wistful, far-off cultures.

  In addition to her natural interest in fashion and design, Heard has honed her craft through several AP design courses at Memphis College of Art and Savannah College of Art and Design, all while maintaining honor roll status at St. George’s. 

“I’m excited that Memphis Fashion Week is here and that I am able to bring Mykonos to Memphis with my designs,” she says. 

Memphis Fashion Week's top young couturiers make their debut

Story by  L. Taylor Smith & Mary Eckersley

“I think it’s really important to learn how to do fashion illustration. I wanted to take it a step further and see it as a 3D art piece. Fashion, for me, is a complete element of artwork.”

ADRIAN DUKE

  When Adrian Duke glued broken glass shards to a bowtie, he was making it for himself, not necessarily with the intent of making a sale. But when someone offered to buy the shimmering accessory, Duke saw himself in a new light as a fashion designer. 

  Duke of Olive Branch, Mississippi, isn’t just a fresh face in the fashion world—although he’s wanted to work in fashion since he was 13, his friends and family are just now being introduced to Adrian Duke, whose real name is Nicholas. 

“Adrian is my middle name, and Duke is a nickname by dad used to call me,” Duke says. “It’s who I am—it’s that fashion side of me.” 

  Duke graduated from the University of Memphis in 2014 with a degree in fashion merchandising and currently works as a visual merchandiser for TJ Maxx in addition to working on his pieces. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found things out about the business side of fashion that you really have to know your target audience and put your product and name out there and let people know what your brand is.”

  Part of that journey includes stops at Memphis Fashion Week, and each of the last three years at the weekend event has been more transformative than the last for Duke. Last year was the first year he had pieces under his own name on display, and the year before that he worked with a partner. “Abby, the director, has always been a cheerleader of mine,” Duke says. “She’s always been interested in my ideas and think that pushed me to keep doing it and grow each year and do more and more.”

  The collection featured in Memphis Fashion Week 2015 is based around the theme of survival, inspired by the upcoming "Mad Max" movie, and each of the five pieces was designed and created by Duke himself. “Everything has a rugged edge or unfinished aspect about it, something raw, and I took those words and that story and created a collection from that,” Duke says. “It’s very personal, because it’s about how I’m trying to figure out my next step, even in fashion. Before it was about me having fun, and now it’s about me surviving in the fashion industry.”

  The balancing act between emerging designer and college graduate can be difficult, but Duke says it’s about prioritizing and scheduling work and designing carefully. He plans each project thoroughly, starting with a major theme and building out from there. “I like to always start out with a strong concept because it propels me through the process, then I like to do a sketch or some type of visual to make a mood board with different pictures from movies, swatches of color, and put them on the board together.” 

  As he preps for this year’s fashion week, Duke admits that there’s still a lot to be done but that he looks forward to debuting his first collection. “I feel like this is my opportunity to put myself out there like I want to, and now I’m ready,” Duke says. “Compared to a couple of years ago and seeing the pieces I have produced, I know these are me.” 

“Everything has a rugged edge or unfinished aspect about it, something raw, and I took those words and
that story and created a collection from that”

CLARA SEIGLER

“I try to make pieces that are sustainable and that’ll last – a good piece is something that has staying power that you’ll love in five years just as much as the day you bought it,”

  Clara Seigler’s clothing is the definition of a labor of love, with emphasis on the labor, with its laser cut leather and intricate stud detailing. “I’m definitely not a minimalist; I love lots of details and have a very artistic approach. I like a combination of a bunch of different aesthetics coming together in unexpected ways,” says Seigler.

  An Austin native, Seigler began making clothes by teaching herself to sew in high school. In 2011, she was the winner of the Threadfair Fashion Show in Austin, and she was the audience choice winner and best construction winner for Memphis’ Choice’s Condomonium in 2013.

  She says she wanted to be a doctor when she was younger because the human body always fascinated her, but felt the need to create. Fashion gives her the medium to express both her creativity and find inspiration in the body in a new way. “Fashion is universal: it’s like its own language. And just like you would buy art for your wall, it’s art for your body,” says Seigler.

  She says she also finds inspiration in the world around her such as in the beauty of an old, decaying building, and many of her designs feature structured, architectural lines. Her clothes mix opposing aesthetics such as leather and silk chiffon. The leather creates clean, geometric lines and patterns that are balanced by draping fabrics like chiffon that create an airy, soft look.  “I try to make pieces that are sustainable and that’ll last – a good piece is something that has staying power that you’ll love in five years just as much as the day you bought it,” says Seigler. 

  She is currently a business major at Rhodes College, but soon will be on her way to the Big Apple to study design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She plans to stay in the city and apprentice under a designer, and hopes to one day start her own label. 

  For Seigler, it is not about the money or becoming a household name. It is about surrounding herself with beautiful things and making people happy. In fact, she would like to stay away from commercialization saying her goal is to never have a line in a store like Macy’s, but rather to open her own store to keep her vision true to herself. “I want to create something that translates my view of the world and that is very thoughtful and well-made. One of the interesting things about fashion is that people take your clothes and turn them into something you hadn’t even envisioned. That can be a good and bad thing, but most of the time I think that’s really cool,” says Seigler.

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