On a cold Tuesday evening I sat down with my laptop, voice recorder and cup of tea, ready to speak with a designer that I am quite fond of.
The first time I heard of Phoenyx Reign was when I had applied to be a featured model for New York Fashion Week Plus. This past September I had the pleasure of meeting Phoenyx and getting a chance to see, touch and fall in love with her designs and her vibrant personality!
LUXE KURVES: How did you get into designing?
Phoenyx Reign: I’ve been sewing since I was a kid. My grandmother taught me. I would sew doll clothes with scraps of fabric and that turned into wanting to make my own clothes. I went to fashion school after I graduated high school but I didn’t study design at first, I studied merchandizing. Years later I went back to design school and really jumped in to designing more than just sewing. While I was in design school I became a tutor because I could sew so well. Most of the students had never touched a sewing machine before and struggled with that aspect of design. After I got out of school I looked for more opportunities where I could teach because I love it so much. I continued and still continue to work on my collections while teaching.
LK: How often do you teach sewing classes?
PR: I teach a lot of sewing classes. On Saturday’s I teach all day long – 3 classes back to back. I teach little kids from ages 7 and up and adult classes. I have several women’s classes where I teach different projects, or learning different sewing machines. For example how to make patterns, dresses, or pillows for the house, things like that.
LK: Who are some of your favourite designers?
PR: My favourite iconic designer is Alexander McQueen, just because he was such a precise type of designer. When it came to his ideas and concept and his craftsmanship – it is just impeccable. With that said, I truly love design, I am a fan of a lot of designers, famous and not famous, because I really see design as art. Michael Costello is a project runway designer and I’ve loved his work since the moment he was on the show. He’s certainly not Alexander McQueen yet, but I still follow him and love his work. I love art and I really see design as art, its just a textile medium.
LK: Can you describe your creative process and how you choose the fabric you work with?
PR: I am a very hands on type of designer, I love the fabrics. Everything for me always starts with the textile not necessarily with the concept of the silhouette. I may have a general idea and build off of that. For my collection at New York Fashion Week Plus, I knew I wanted to do these wrap garments, but I didn’t really have any idea what those garments would look like until I started finding the fabric. I found one fabric that I really fell in love with and then I built everything around that. For me the fabric talks to me. I dye fabrics, I do some hand died stuff, I like to use ecofriendly fabrics and textiles. So for me it always starts with the textile in a very organic place.
LK: How do you incorporate trends into your collection and your own style?
Fashion is not all about glamour. There is a lot of work and I try to stay tuned into the industry.
Fashion is not all about glamour. There is a lot of work and I try to stay tuned into the industry.
PR: Forecasting. That was one of the biggest things that I took away from design school. The forecasts truly are very very far ahead. Its further ahead than just next season or next year. Some of the trend forecasts are already out as much as 20 years ahead! So you really have to pay attention and do some research. Fashion is not all about glamour. There is a lot of work and I try to stay tuned into the industry to get a feel 5, 6, 7 years down the road where the colour and print trends are going. As I am working now I am always working in that mind set. Papaya, which is a hot colour right now, its actually one of this seasons hot colours. I did trend research two years ago, knowing that I was coming to Atlanta, and that I would be doing a show in New York. I timed to have a new collection for the show and I was checking out what fabrics and colours I needed two years ago. I knew I wanted a pop of colour that was an orangey papaya that would anchor my collection. When I went out to find fabrics, as soon as I saw that pop orange, papaya colour, I knew right away – that was my anchor fabric for my collection because I had already done the research. One of my signature pants is that pop orange papaya colour. Designing is only a certain amount of feeling and some of it is doing your homework. That is what a lot of new designers miss. You can come out with a great idea and if the trends for that season are blues and greens and you come out with neon yellows, you may not do so well or you may be before your time. If you’re ahead of the curve its not good and if you’re behind the curve its not good. So you have to do enough homework, while following your gut and staying true to what you like to make it work. I don’t design anything that I don’t love. If I don’t love it, I won’t make it, no matter what’s popular.
LK: What was your most successful/happiest moment as a designer?
PR: My very first collection in 2010! I love every collection and I still get the same sort of excitement because every collection is a new birth. However, my first official runway show was in 2010 and it felt like it took me so long to get to that place. I had been to school, was married and divorced, and went back to school. All these things were happening. Finally, I was pursuing what I loved. So the moment that I had my very first runway show in a professional setting – it was a hit! It was my real AH-HA moment, the biggest moment that said my life has changed and I’m never going back.
LK: What would you say or what type of advice would you give to an aspiring designer?
PR: First and foremost – Invest in your craft because that puts a strong foundation under you. It is going to be difficult no matter what you do. It is difficult not being a big name, it’s difficult generating enough income to make a living, but it’s absolutely doable. The thing that I learned along the way is to be absolutely the best at your craft, because if you don’t take the time to really know your craft – you make mistakes and when your new in the industry mistakes are crucial. This is a tough tough industry and one mistake can crush you. As a new designer, you want to take the time while nobody knows you. Don’t rush to be famous too fast! (laughs).It’s kind of like acting there are people who are famous, but there are many many people, who we may not know their names but they make a living acting. It’s not necessarily about fame, its about making a living doing what you love. My best advice is to really invest in knowing your craft because that’s the thing that gives you longevity.
I could pick up a piece of fabric never having looked at a pattern and just start cutting and sewing a garment that would fit someone.
LK: If you could start all over again, would you change anything?
PR: Yes, I would have done everything sooner. I can honestly say I allowed my fears at a very young age to alter my course. Initially I did not go to design school. I always dreamed of design school, but when I went to my orientation with my parents I saw several kids bringing portfolios filled with beautiful sketches and artwork. I couldn’t draw or sketch – I could sew, I could pick up a piece of fabric never having looked at a pattern and just start cutting and sewing a garment that would fit someone. I could do that but I could not sketch and I saw all these kids with portfolios and that scared me. No one told me that sketching was something that you learned to do. So I talked myself into taking merchandising instead of design because at least I would still be in fashion. Only when I got into merchandising, my heart was still longing to design. I’d go home and I’d so sew but I wasn’t a designer. Then I got married and divorced, and I moved here and there. I worked a great job and had a career, but then I got laid off. That was when I said that’s it! I am going to do what I always wanted to do and I enrolled in design school and started pursuing my passion! If I could go back and talk to my younger self I would have told myself to shake off my fear and follow my passion to start with.
LK: When can we expect new collection?
PR: May, May May! (she said excitedly) May 2016, I will be showing at Luxe Kurves Fashion Week and I’ll have some new pieces. I’ve really been wrapped around this concept of wraps and playing around with wraps. So you’ll see some of the same pieces from New York Fashion Week but there will be some new funky twists I’ve really expanded on that concept some more.
LK: What is your take on Plus size industry and how far its come?
PR: Definitely growing and making great strides. I remember when you would not see even a size 12 model on a runway. Its definitely become much bigger and there’s a lot of growth, with that said there is still a long way to go. I would really like, this sounds a little weird but I would really like for there to not be a plus size industry. Bodies are bodies and there shouldn’t be a standard window that says only size 0 to 6 is normal and everything outside of that is extra or plus. That’s not the case because majority of women are above that, that is what is normal! I believe that until society realizes that, we have to continue to be in your face and I think the plus industry has done an amazing job in encouraging women of all sizes to feel good about their bodies. You can like fashion and like the pictures you see in the magazine but also know that you don’t have to kill yourself to look like the women in the magazines, and in fact some of those women are killing themselves to look like that. I think that as we continue to show beautiful and confident women we will get to a place where size won’t matter. Fast fashion is on a decline and people are starting to want more quality and want their clothing to fit them properly. Retailers are now starting to have more sizes and some may be just jumping on the bandwagon but to me what that says is that women of all sizes are making enough noise to bring attention to say “hey you don’t sell what I need”.
LK: What can we expect to see from Phoenyx Reign for Luxe Kurves?
PR: I am doing all sorts of things for LK I am the Area Editor Director, meaning I am sort of Brandee’s right hand on this side of the country. I am really taking a big role as the team leader here in Atlanta, but I am also looking forward to getting back to my roots with writing some articles. You will see some of my designs featured in editorials, along with some local designers from Atlanta, we are mixing it up! I am really excited about how its growing. I hope everybody starts reading. We got some great things coming up and I’m really thrilled about it.
Look out for Phoenyx Reign’s articles and design’s that will be shown at Luxe Kurves Fashion Week! She is one designer that you won’t want to miss!