The Runway Home: Part 2
This is the second half of our interview with Lacie Phillips of Wisteria Way Designs for Mobile Fashion Week 2018. Click here to read Part 1 of The Runway Home series on this Mobile Bay born designer and get a sneak peak at the couture clothing that will rock the runway at The Fort of Colonial Mobile during Mob Fashion Week. Ticket sales go to support children with cancer via Camp Rap-A-Hope.
“I know the two don’t seem to go together, but sewing and the coast have so much in common. When fabric is building up around me and I am in the midst of designing a new gown, it’s like I’m lost in the rolling tide, not worried about whether it’s coming or going, just enjoying existing in it.” – Lacie Lindy Phillips, Wisteria Way Designs
Why did you name your company Wisteria Way Designs?
“My company name is inspired by my mother who as a retired English teacher, has always loved alliteration. I have always loved wisteria as it is always signals the coming of change in the south. Wisteria Way just seemed perfect to me. It also lends to the idea that one is on a path, like a trip down Wisteria Way. I want people, when they work with me, to feel like they are on a journey instead of just performing a transaction.”
What inspires you?
“How every little act is important. How much influence people have whether they claim it or not and how they choose to use it. It’s not just the people leading TED talks and leading companies. I would even go so far as to say that, those people have the least influence in the big picture because by the time someone is watching one of their talks, that person is usually already paying attention towards bettering themselves.
I’m talking about the unintentional influence everyone has. The janitor who always has a smile on his face, living the message that happiness is a choice. The teacher who buys jackets for the kids in her class who don’t have them. She doesn’t shame the parents or blame the child. She sees a need and she fills it because she lives with compassion. The people who make it a point to make eye contact because it shows value in another person.
If you look around, there is inspiration everywhere. It inspires me to think that all of our little grains of sand come together to form a beach; that the little actions I take do add up in the grand total and that maybe I can inspire someone else.”
Describe your design process:
“My design process is different for different projects. I guess it really depends on what comes first, the fabric or the idea. I love looking at silhouettes and shapes of garments from many different time periods. I am always storing ideas away for the right fabric to come along. In some cases the fabric tells me what it wants to be. It may be the drape or the pattern or lace that sort of takes hold of my design and directs it to the end result.
Sometimes, if I am designing for a client, I like to talk to them about things other than design to find out more about them so that I can design for who they are. Most people when they come to me, have a picture of someone else in a gown that they like. I encourage that, but it does bring up the problem sometimes, that what they like about the dress is more attributed to the person wearing it and not the actual design itself. That’s where getting to know who I am designing for really comes in.
Once you get someone talking about themselves and what they are passionate about, you can see this light start to shine in them. It’s my job to take that light and translate that to something that can be worn. One of the most tragic things when watching events, in my opinion, is seeing just a beautiful dress. The secret to a truly successful design is for someone to notice the beautiful person and then the dress compliments that person. I am not saying that to downgrade my craft or to hate on pretty dresses, quite the opposite. What I mean is, the right design does not overshadow the wearer, but accentuates their natural glow.”
We know you focus on up-cycling. Where do you find your fabrics?
“My fabric comes from many sources. I work with new fabrics when clients request it or need a very specific fabric. My heirloom fabric comes from estate sales and antique stores, always second hand. I have a buyer that gathers for me as well. So I never know what I might find, which is fun. I spend a lot of time sorting and organizing my heirloom trims. Sometimes I have to treat the fabrics due to age and staining. I will not specially treat a fabric for age discoloration unless it is blotchy or inconsistent. Sometimes there are damaged places or patches that I must work around.
I find myself, while sorting, thinking of the hands that made these intricate works of art. Especially the intricate laces, which have details so tiny, it is impossible to image human hands making something so delicate. I imagine a young woman sitting by a window with her needlework, making tablecloths for her hope chest or making lace for her children’s clothing. I imagine what she would have thought, all the hopes and dreams and plans she would have poured into her work. And I wonder at what point along the way did those dreams come to pass, leading her work to be well loved but ultimately boxed up and forgotten. I hope she would be proud to know that her work is seeing the light of day once again and making someone else’s hopes and dreams come true.
On top of all of the beautiful thoughts about heirloom fabrics, it is also really important to note the environmental impact that the clothing industry has. And the fact that fast fashion is becoming a serious polluter and drain on resources. Not just adding to landfills but wasting thousands of gallons of water and resources that could be appropriated elsewhere.”