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Philly Fashion Series: Trisha Williams Shows Off Her New Spring Line
Interview by Jenna Tripke. Photos by Joshua Pelta-Heller. Makeup and direction by Meredith Lindemon (Meredith Communications).
Much like the pieces that define her current collection, designer Trisha Williams is poised, eloquent, and lovely. I had the chance to sit down with her during her look book shoot at a Globe Dye Works studio in Port Richmond, Philadelphia, where we chatted in detail about her designs and her inspirations.
Two.One.Five: Tell me a little about yourself.
Trisha Williams: I’m a designer, wife and mother of three. I started my line, officially, in January. I went to Syracuse University and majored in Retail and Fashion Design, but this is my first major fashion endeavor.
215: What are your ties to Philly?
TW: My parents moved here back in 2006 and I used to visit them here a lot. In 2008, my husband and I both lost our jobs, so we decided to move here from Brooklyn.
215: What did you used to do in New York?
TW: I worked for Macy’s as a retail planner. My background is all in retail and I did all the numbers side, which was hard for me. I was starving for creativity and knew that corporate America is not for me. Moving to Philadelphia gave me the opportunity and freedom to be able to pursue my dream of fashion design.
215: So, having to relocate was a blessing in disguise?
215: How did you start off in fashion?
215: What’s your take on the Philly fashion scene?
TW: I feel like it’s definitely a growing scene. When I first moved here, I didn’t realize one existed, but as I started researching my line, I relized that there are lots of designers, pattern makers, and warehouses here and it’s an industry in itself. Now, with events like 17 days of fashion, and Fashion Incubator — even the Mayor is getting involved — Philly is definitely being recognized as part of the fashion industry. It’s really growing. More cities are hearing about it, learning about it, and wanting to get involved. It’s a good thing.
215: How do you compare the scene here with the scene in NYC, or Brooklyn – is there even a comparison?
TW: Well, Brooklyn – not so much! But NYC is the mecca of fashion. In Philly, the scene is trying to grow, but it’s not trying to compete against NYC at all; it’s been really respectful. In terms of New York fashion weeks, they try not to schedule events at the same time. So Philly is trying to grow, but they’re not trying to “beat” New York. I think they’re doing a really good job.
TW: Well, in Philly, people are more avant garde. They want to see the big show pieces, but when it comes to NYC, it’s more about sales – getting it done, advancing in the industry. Here, because there are so many new designers, there’s a lot more creativity. In NYC, you see a lot of the same thing, because designers cater to what’s “in” this season. Here, you see people’s personal take on what’s “in”, doing what they want, and not being dictated by anyone else.
215: So that appeals to you?
TW: Yes, it does. I don’t like being told what to do!
215: What’s your definition of “style?”
TW: Style is how you express yourself through your wardrobe. Style is a reflection of you. So, if you dress in t-shirts and shorts, people will think, “okay, you’re laid back,” but if you’re dressed up and you show that you put an effort in, people notice that as well.
215: Describe your designs in three words:
TW: Detailed. Hard, and soft. I like to play with that juxtaposition.
215: What inspires your designs?
TW: I’ve always been a very detail oriented person, so that’s how I approach design – I usually find some kind of object or concept, and I try to look at the details around it. With my first collection, which was called “White Diamonds,” the inspiration was diamonds, and the colors were white – but I was also looking at the faceting within the diamonds. It wasn’t just about the shine, but the intricacies right below the diamond’s surface. I like to focus on things like that. With this collection, I focused on flowers; not just the blooms themselves, but the way the petals layer on top of each other. I like to exploit the minor things.
215: What is your current collection called?
TW: I’m thinking about calling it “Petals”. It’s Inspired by flowers, but also the Caribbean. My family is from there and my parents were born and raised in Barbados. I like to play with the juxtaposition of hard and soft, so I kept thinking about how, on a postcard, you see the Caribbean islands as so beautiful and welcoming — that kind of resort life — but when you actually get to the island, when you get off the resorts, it can be completely different. It can have the roughest areas in the world. You have these beautiful beaches but rough streets. When I thought of that, I thought of how the petals on my designs lay on top of one another, and it’s like the layering of resort life and street life.
215: What is distinctive about your current collection?
TW: You can see that I like to focus on the little details. The front parts are very simple and straightforward, but when you turn around you see the beautiful petals and details on the backs. I also designed the pieces so that you can mix and match; the jackets layer on the tops so you can see the layering in the back. I tried to keep colors light and pretty, reminiscent of the floral aspect , but I also put some darker colors in there — inky blues, teals –for a slightly tougher feel that still has a light, tropical feel to it.
215: What kind of woman do you design for?
TW: I design for women who are youthful, 23-40, who like to look very clean, put together, and well tailored. They like to have fun and surprises in wardrobe. From the front they may look very straightforward, but when they turn around – there’s the surprise.
215: What’s your favorite item you’ve designed so far?
TW: The first thing that comes to mind is this white leather dress that I designed way back in college for my senior collection. I actually redid it last summer because I was never fully satisfied with it. The bottom has peplum of white letter, but I made these little rosettes out of perforated leather that sit on top. It looks soft, but when you touch it, you feel the leather. A lot of people thought it was all lace, and didn’t realize it was leather until they felt it. It makes you look beyond the surface and into the details.
215: So that piece sums up your collection as a whole?
215: Who are some of your fashion icons?
TW: I’ve always loved Versace. Their lines are very sexy and body conscious. I also like more classic lines, like Donna
Karan, because she has trends in her line, but they’re classically done. Also, my mom. She’s very stylish woman. A lot of my style comes from her, and she’s from Barbados, so I try to capture that style. I’m also a huge Rihanna fan — she’s from Barbados — and I love her style. One minute she’s hard, one minute she’s soft, and she plays with that.
215: What’s your “celebrity wish list” of people that you would style if you got the chance?
TW: Rihanna and Beyonce. Rita Ora, a new artist whose style I like. Santigold. I do love the Kardashians for their style, and I would love to dress all three of them.
215: What are you doing when you’re not designing?
TW: Being a mom! I’ve had all three of my kids (7,4, and 2) home for the summer.
215: What are your thoughts on being a mom and a designer?
TW: Well, I just turned 31 and I started this when I was 30, so it’s never too late to start. A lot of people feel that when they turn 30, they can’t change their lives – but you’re never too old to pursue your dreams. I tell my children that, and I have to lead by example. I can’t say “mommy wanted to be a fashion designer, and has a degree in it, but didn’t do anything about it.” It’s worth constantly pushing myself and having sleepless nights to show them that if I can do it, they can do whatever they want.
215: What’s one fashion trend that you’re loving right now?
215: What’s one fashion trend right now that you could do without?
TW: I was getting tired of jeggings. Also, I just don’t get some of the fur things that people are wearing — coonskin hats and fur tails hanging down! I don’t use real fur.
215: What advice would you give someone looking to start a career in fashion design?
TW: Before you get up and say “I want to be a fashion designer today,” do your research. Do your homework so that you’ll put out your best possible product. Don’t ever settle for less. If you’re going to go there, go all the way.
215: Do you have any shows coming up?
TW: Yes! I’m doing my first show in New York next week at Small Boutique Fashion Week. That’s my NY debut. And then, two weeks after that, I have a showing at Philly Fashion Week.
215: How are you preparing?
TW: Lot of sewing! And researching my concepts. When I first focused on flowers, I sketched over a 100 different pieces, then went back and narrowed it down to 15 pieces, then narrowed it again. I tried to find one thing that I loved about the collection, and tried to show it continuously so it seemed harmonious. On this collection, you’ll see that everything has a petal back.
215: Is there anything else that you want our readers to know?
TW: People call me crazy! I’ve been told there is a fine line between genius and insanity and that I straddle that line – because I have three kids, I’m a mom, and a designer at the same time. I’m very passionate about designing. I want continue to push and push, and put out products that people will feel comfortable buying. I want people to trust my brand, so every time they pick up a Trisha Will piece it will be special, and it’ll make them feel special, too.
The Model: Kellyn DeFusco
A resident of the Philly area, Kellyn has been modeling for 3 years, and has wanted to model since she’s been a little girl. ”I grew up watching America’s Next Top Model,” and I’ve always wanted to be them!” She’s done work in New York, doing runway shows, but feels happier modeling in Philly. She started working with Wilhelmina of PA recently, and this is her first lookbook shoot. Kellyn is open to any type of modeling. ”I love modeling, and I think photo shoots and runway shows are my favorite. [Modeling] gives you confidence. It’s every girl’s dream, dressing up in clothes and getting makeup put on is just a fun time!” Outside of modeling, Kellyn also loves criminology, and would love to work for the FBI someday!
The “Philly Fashion” series aims to profile designers, boutiques and models from the area, feature their work in fashion photography galleries, and give readers some insight into the people and personalities involved in the shoots. If you’d like to be a part of this series, contact Josh@215mag.com.