Thursday, November 1, 2012

Where Human Growth Happens

A profile in courage: a pensive Kerry Smith before the show at Regional Arts on Delmar

My friend Kerry Smith walked the runway for Glitterfly Apparel at the Second Annual Style in the Loop fashion show, and I was there to ooh and ahh and clap and cheer, not only for Kerry but for designers Noelle Wagner (Flat River) and Michelle Swane (Ironton)--a happy to be alive night! Though not a professional model, in fact this was to be the first time she ever wore stilettos, Kerry did us all proud. But it wasn't the shoes that made Kerry grow in stature right before my eyes, it was the risk taking, the throwing herself into something new, not knowing how it would turn out, but giving it her all.

Though not captured in my pics, my favorite moment of the whole show was when Kerry, so serious about appropriately repping Glitterfly with a certain command and dignity, so determined not to totter or sway on those high heels, got to the end of the runway and saucily threw the photographers a kiss. It was a perfectly loving gesture to salute the clothes themselves and the way they made her feel that fabulous night. Weeks later when I asked her to offer a few adjectives about the Glitterfly collection with the very first words that popped into her head, she fired back with "sexpot, free-spirit!" Absolutely right. If you weren't there for a once in a lifetime chance to see Kerry and Glitterfly take a huge leap future forward, here's part of what you missed. 

Because it was a first modeling experience for Kerry, I asked her to please tell us in what ways it felt like new experience, and how her participation helped her in breaking new ground personally?
"Oh, I felt my experience with the fashion was special because it was able to connect me to people that have similar interests. Gave me an inside look behind the scenes at the perks, nerves, work, and excitement others don't see. I embraced the chance to plunge into something new, something unfamiliar, because I recognize that's where human growth happens. I've always felt I'm socially awkward, sometimes more than others, and this gave me a chance to throw myself into a bunch of people I didn't know. I was testing myself, the test was: can you make friends easily? By the end of the night I was dancing with 3 girls backstage and laughing about all sorts. It gave me more energy too and confidence. Before, I said: I only wanna walk once, I don't think I can even handle that with my nerves. Then, after walking, when I got backstage I thought I wanna walk every time. Moreover ladies I'm taking your spot. Even more so than that feeling, I wanted to be the designer. For sure! The creator, the brains. It's so much more fulfilling for me, I think." 

Oooh! Patrick wore this shirt so well, more pictures of him here
I want this to be the official Written Word, Spoken Word cardigan!

Noelle told me: "My clothing lines depend a lot on what kinds of fabrics come through the studio door; 90% of the fabric comes from seamstresses no longer sewing, remnants from an upholstery/drapery company in St.Louis, thrift stores, and garage sales. Occasionally, I'll be at a fabric store picking up zippers and whatnot and will see a bolt of something that I can't resist. The designs are based on styles and cuts that have traditionally flattered the female figure: high-waisted pencil skirts, princess seams, a-line, etc."

She also passed along this statement submitted as part of the application by Glitterfly to Style in the Loop:
Glitterfly Apparel is the creation of Noelle Wagner & Michelle Swane. For years we costumed many for Halloween, theatre productions, and well, just for the fun of it. We also gifted friends and family with enough of our handiwork to make their closet doors bulge. Then folks we didn't know began to take notice and seek out our wares; a librarian quickly transforms into a Dewey Decimal diva, the folk singer becomes a frock star, etc. We've primarily sold our duds at festivals, shows, and the occasional open studio sale. We're starting to branch out but we still relish the person-to-person show sale.
Neither of us have any formal fashion/design training. Rather, we both sat below our grannies while they stitched, learned basics in 1980's home economics class, and then began years of learning through trial and error. Then our skills were perfected by challenges we brought unto ourselves. Inspiration often comes from nature, dreams, and a slightly distorted idea of normalcy. 
A portion of the company is dedicated to the upcycling of vintage pieces with unique appliqué designs: alien women, poison ivy, flies, balloon dogs, and beets to name a few. A specialty of ours is the western shirts & polyester western suits a la Nudie Cohn, but with more appliqué, less sequins. Besides Nudie, Little Edie and each other provide inspiration.
Another side of our company sews series of one-of-a-kind, retro inspired women's apparel. The series is sewn from the same design in various sizes; the series limited to 25-50 per series. And although it is a series, each one is unique in fabric & embellishment making each genuinely a one-of-a-kind piece. Some even receive their own title. For the cooler months ahead, I've sketches for the 9 to 5 series inspired by the 80's flick of the same name. It will include sexy pencil skirts and bow blouses to rock way after 5:00. All of the garments are carefully made incorporating hand stitching and details, just as Granny insisted!
Opening up the possibilities in wedding garb. Makes every other wedding dress I've ever seen pale by comparison.

This collection is so hot; it's only a matter of time before it spreads like wildfire!
Feeling good after the show, even before the after-party
Kerry's grandma Tessie (who's teaching her to sew) and mom Kelly who drove up from Fredericktown after a long work week to be there for Kerry
Kerry back in her own stylish vintage duds (notice her lion necklace, for courage she confessed)  in the embrace of one pleased fashion designer. And why not? Several items were sold off the mannequins before the doors even opened, snapped up by the other designers. What better compliment and endorsement of her creative vision?
One beautiful talented lady--Glitterfly designer Noelle Wagner at the end of the happy (and successful!) event
From everyone in southeast Missouri--we're so impressed and excited for you, ladies! If there ever was, there's no stopping you now.