Personally, I’d never heard of anyone becoming an accidental style influencer. As many people you see trying so hard (in many cases trying too hard) to be Instagram (or internet) famous; it’s hard to imagine that anyone with a substantial audience didn’t set out to do so. Well, after talking to Whitney, I think I may have actually met a real live accidental style influencer. “I started just sharing what I was loving in fashion and lifestyle generally” Whitney says in all seriousness, “Slowly people started asking for specific content and I developed a loyal group of ‘followers’ that I engage with regularly which has grown and evolved into the resource that is WhitneysWonderland.Com.
We cover everything from fashion and makeup to travel and fine dining, anything that I’m doing that I think people will enjoy hearing about really! My Insta page is an extension of the Blog and is somewhere I can show glimpses into some of the amazing things I get to do and experience! Through the publication.”
It wasn’t like Whitney wasn’t deeply involved and knowledgeable about the fashion and style industry. “I studied Fashion and design for my first degree, but before that I was making outfits for my barbies! I used to sow little dresses and create little fashion shows when I was as young as 7!” Whitney tells me.
Even going back further in Whitney’s life, the passion for fashion has had a place in her life, “My grandma was a huge inspiration in my life generally but also in fashion. Aside from being an immaculately turned out lady she sat with me making the dresses for my dolls and finding little off cuts of fabric for me to use. She was the one who sowed the seed all those years ago and it has grown into who I am today…with a lot of watering along the way.”
“I have an eclectic style, I love all fashion from hippy chick to power dresser, ballgown to skater cool! I just love to dress up and express my mood and self generally through fashion! I lived in the tropics for many years so I guess the thread that pulls it all together is color I love to be bright and use the full palette as much as possible! Black looks great but is not the most creative!”
Incorporating New Styles
I am constantly traveling for work which is 95% blessing and 5% curse but it does mean I am exposed to so many different styles and cultures and they say mimicking is the sincerest form of flattery so I try and take something away from everywhere I visit and incorporate it into a look
Favorite Fashion Accessory
“Confidence. If you wear it with confidence you will always have that jeu ne se quoi
Just go with your gut and do it with confidence. It also does not hurt to accentuate your best features and minimize the less wonderful.”
Whitney’s Fashion Expertise
Expressing yourself, there is nobody better at being me!
Rewards of the Journey
“Being able to help the people I love and the causes I feel strongly about has been so unbelievably rewarding. My Dad always said to me that the best gift anyone can give you is to let you help them, I never understood it and used to think it was just a corney nonsense he would say to try and make me and my brother better people. The older I get the more true it feels. I love being able to help someone and see the difference that help makes in their life. It started when I gave a box of my old clothes ( I get gifted a lot of wonderful things so have a lot of clothes!) to a very poor family in costa rica for their daughters, I thought little of it but the children were crying they were so happy which made their mum cry and then I was crying but it was all out of happiness! Now I am so lucky to be able to continue doing things like that but also to support larger scale projects that can do even more to help. It’s hard to describe the feeling, but rewarding is a good start.”
A self-described ‘Girly Tomboy’, Robyn laughs while ticking off a list of descriptors to try and encapsulate her personal style into a brief statement or cliche, “Casual chic? Tailored sports luxe? Girly tomboy? I’m not too sure! I always struggle to define my personal style when people ask as it changes and evolves all the time! I love a good pair of trainers and oversized silhouettes to create a super comfy yet stylish outfit.”
It wasn’t an accident that Robyn ended up as a Fashion and Lifestyle Blogger and deeply embedded into the fashion influencer culture full-time. “In my final year of university I wanted to focus my dissertation around ‘How to have a sustainable career in Fashion Blogging’. I decided to set up my own blog and start building my Instagram as a way of learning more about the industry to help my dissertation. I even did a three month experiment on my own blog as part of my primary research for the dissertation. It ended up going really well so I carried it on afterwards” Robyn tells me.
Robyn even went to school for this!!! “I graduated with a 1st class honors degree in Fashion Buying/Marketing from De University, actually. I’d originally gone to the University to study Psychology and quickly realized it wasn’t for me and completely changed course to follow my passion. I know it sounds so cliche (smile).”
But this wasn’t like a fly-by-night decision or a fleeting passion at all. “I’ve always loved fashion and have worked in fashion retail since I was 16 in a variety of roles- Sales advisor, visual merchandising, supervisor!” Robyn tells me.
When I asked about her strongest influences that have shaped her personal style and tastes, well, that is a stumper…. “I can never pin-point a succinct answer for that question! Probably just working in retail and being around clothes a lot. I’ve always worn what I think looks good and avoided trends that I didn’t think were for me. I don’t subconsciously have many other influencers/celebrities that I religiously look to for inspiration” Robyn says.
Discovering What’s New
“Instagram, pinterest, magazines, fashion week etc. there’s so many ways to discover new styles! For me I probably refer to Instagram and just going into shops and having a good browse to see what I like, the most.”
“Yes, I’m still blogging (smile). The reaction and comments I get from my audience, especially from my blog posts is just so satisfying. Although not as many people read blog posts now, so I don’t get anywhere near the same amount of traffic/likes etc as I do on Instagram, my writing seems to really resonate with people. Receiving messages from people thanking me for writing a post, as it was just what they needed to hear, is the best feeling ever. That’s also why I don’t think i’ll ever stop writing on my blog.”
Favorite Fashion Accessory
“You can’t go wrong with a good pair of silver hoop earrings!”
What Fashion Style / Piece would you consider your “Expertise”?
“I wouldn’t say an expert, because there’s a lot of people out there probably with a lot more knowledge, but I do have A LOT of trainers (sneakers) and love styling outfits down with them. Trainers can be worn with pretty much any outfit, I personally think. Whether it’s with a floaty dress, tailored trousers, a midi skirt, or a pair Mom jeans, just experiment with what you feel most comfortable in!”
A familiar face on Project Runway, the super talented Merline has a good yearning for success. The designer has the disposition to navigate the intersection of architecture, fashion design, and business. It is why she’s the foremost expert in futurist and non-traditional fashion. In addition, Merline reconciles her work ethic with her Haitian heritage- she’s just resiliently ambitious. She longs to have the exact scale of influence as the great art and design movements: “Personally, I want to have the same impact, I don’t want to just design…”
Merline feels she has a responsibility to help in her capacity as a leading voice in the industry: “For me no matter how many awards I receive, no matter how many TV shows I’m in- it’s nothing more just to see the next generation dream and continue to grow”. As such, she launched Provoke Style Fashion Camp, a non-profit that offers fashion education to inner-city students.
The 36-year-old fashion entrepreneur has a habit of writing journals at her favorite coffee shop. She’s mostly free on weekends and she could take a whole day to be by herself at the beach.
I love to design! My brand is about designing for the modern woman in the business world. I design for her daily wear as she goes on to take the world through business, in meetings, and in her interaction with the world. I also design for her special days like her wedding day.
I started at a really young age. I’m Haitian-American; my first language is Haitian-Creole. I was always different. My parents will send me with church dress and tennis shoes and I’ll have huge ribbons in my hair. When I look at many pictures in the 80s from Haiti, those were so cool. There was one where I had the big berets. I’ll go to school and didn’t even speak English. At that time also, the kids that were born in America had Nike and all that. They were so cool. I stood out like a soft bum and they’ll pick on me then I’ll come home crying. It really impacts me. I’ll be in my room and say “if I had all the money in the world how will I dress?”
So I started designing in my head. It was in the 7th or 8th grade when my parents were giving me money to pick my clothes up that I was creative with my choices. Even with that, I got these shoes with different colors and the kids at school were calling it clown shoes and I was like “what?!” So I’m always sticking out like a soft bum**laughs** I think as a person and designer I’ve evolved over the years and been refined.
Right before Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) I self-taught myself how to sew wedding dresses and I was into prom dresses right before college. When I went to SCAD it refined me. I put in perspective what I was doing on my own and now I’m obsessed with fashion and I love it. I started my first company when I was into set and graphics design at 24-years-old and right after college in 2011, I started my brand, officially. I got incorporated and ever since it’s been baby steps to get to where I am. I think I’ve evolved and made it like a solid company right after college but I’m obsessed now with everything fashion- the brand and the visual of the brand. That’s how I got serious.
My personal style is very different sometimes from the person I am actually designing for, in my head. My personal style is very cocky, vintage, colorful, and bright because it matches my personality. It influences my modern girl when I design for her. I love vintage stuff (pleated pockets, jackets that align et al) – I feel like they are classics. I’m obsessed with vintage. My personal style is fun, free, almost sliding to Bohemian. So I feel like going back and forth with a Bohemian girl; very like tiny hole movement, shipping container to like very sophisticated pencil dresses and pumps when I have to go to meetings. I try always to balance those two girls but I think my personal style is very Bohemian ish. **laughs**
I have always been a designer from a very early age. I started crushing in early on in middle and in high school where I actually started selling my crushing. I will make these purses and sell them. I remember one of my counselors actually found one and was like “hey remember the one I bought from you? I think it’s super cool”.
However, I haven’t always been a designer. I have been in drama, and done housing design for a couple of years in high school in my early 20s. It was in my first company where I did graphic design, branding, costume, self-design. So though fashion has really evolved over the years, designing has always been in my DNA. I have loved fashion since elementary school- I remember a girl who used to be next to me, she was drawing one time and I was curious about that. That was the first time I fell in love with fashion and I’ve never looked back.
Over the years, I have gotten better but right after high school, I really wanted to do fashion but I went to the direction of architecture because I grew up in a strict environment. They wanted something where I could make money to support myself, so I went to SCAD. That was the time I really pursued fashion. Before that, I did prom dresses- it was self-taught- for fashion design. Being a fashion designer and an architect, I see myself more as a designer than label myself a fashion designer.
Childhood and today’s success stories
I am the first generation and my Mum came here on a boat which is insane. To get on a boat from Haiti in the middle of the ocean and some make it some don’t to come to America. I think she’s the biggest entrepreneur ever. We’re first generation while growing up we didn’t really have much but my family worked super hard. This is why I’m a workaholic also partly because I love the American dream, as a first generation I look around and I see my friend and they’ll say they’re born in America and I’m like “you can accomplish anything you want because this is America”. So I think that drive is in me.
We didn’t really have much when I was a child so I strived to have a lot and I’m really different from a lot of people in my family. Being an artist, collected, outgoing, out there- I think my personal attributes inspire me and I think this is why I personally love to wear color. My Haitian culture just really impacts how I see color, how I view color, and I’m not really afraid to tackle prints, I even design my own prints which is insane. So I think a lot from my Haitian heritage impact me. Just working hard, you know, when you grow up you hear your Mum came here from a boat you’re just like, I have to work hard.
We accomplish so much with that mentality. Going to school with those church dresses, imagine 80s Tees, the bow tie in your hair, and being picked on for being different, I had to rise above all that. I think my childhood really impact me. My Mum was also serious about education, being successful, how that looks like and having that opportunity really had an impact on my story today.
I got accepted admitted to my favorite college, I graduated at the Associate of Arts in Architecture, Miami Dade College and I got admitted into my dream school which was Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) that was a huge accomplishment. It was a private art school in Savannah Georgia. Also, I went on to graduate. That was huge because a lot of people didn’t have the opportunity to graduate. That’s another milestone.
Another milestone is going self-employed- my first studio in downtown Savannah was huge. It was a leap of faith and a couple of months after that I featured in Savannah magazine. That was cool to be the cover girl and be honored by the magazine. And being on Project Runway and even having the opportunity to go back to Project Runway and fast forward to right now I feel like I’m at my biggest accomplishment. I say that because this is the first time my company is structured (business plan, cash flow sheet et al). I’m literally transitioning to 100% fashion designer and 100% businesswoman. For me having that business plan and understanding profit margins, knowing my products and five-year projection as a designer, I think I’m at my biggest accomplishment.
One of my biggest rewarding starting my non-profit, I teach fashion and it’s called Provoke Style Fashion Camp. Just seeing the next generation eye lit up when they know how to sew, when they see their work up for the first time, even at the fashion show watching their faces and their family’s eye lit up- For me no matter how many awards I receive, no matter how many TV shows I’m in- it’s nothing more just to see the next generation (those that never had the opportunity to sew) dream and continue to grow. Personally, that’s the most rewarding part of my journey so far.
On discovering new styles
As a designer new collections are all about discovering different styles and different ways of looking at fashion so that we incorporate it. One thing that I always do in my collection is to merge architecture and fashion and I also love to look at the 1900s especially men tailoring (I love it). So I’m always incorporating men tailoring or sport wear into new collections.
As an individual, finding the balance between being an entrepreneur, designer, and human (balance between work and life) is a goal for me. I want to make sure I’m enjoying life and I have time for my soul and do the things that I really love. What’s next for my company right now is structuring it. I’m obsessed with that. I’ll tell you I’m obsessed with my spreadsheet, my cash flow sheet, my business plan just making sure my finances and everything are in order so I can dream bigger and have more financial room to explore in the design field.
I think that will give my company a platform to grow and have a team where I bring the designers and we can grow the business together. That’s next for me and for my non-profit, I want to partner up with organizations where I can bring in the tools to teach the next generation all the things that I’ve learned.
Favorite style and fashion accessory
I’m obsessed with my hat. I made my first beaded hat recently so my hat is my signature look and I love it. I’m not a shoe person, I love accessories but my hat is like number 1.
Preferred area of expertise
As a fashion designer and a creative entrepreneur, I’m constantly juggling many hats. I don’t know if I’m an expert but I think as an entrepreneur fashion designer, I have to do it all but if I have to be an expert in an area I think it would be mass production. I want to be an expert in producing garments really fast. Can one be an expert in designing? **laughs** But I think manufacturing, I’m obsessed now with how things are been created and what speed they can be created in.
The first advice I’m going to tell you is to be you! Don’t compromise; don’t try to be something you’re not. The second thing is learning what’s good on your body. I do that and usually keep that template and just tweak it a little. So for a lot of us, we don’t look at ourselves and say “wow this jacket makes my hips look skinnier or this jacket makes me this”. We all have our favorite jacket, we all have our favorite pant but sometimes we need to ask why it is our favorite. It’s important we know our body and style. I think there’s a quote that says “fashion change but style is eternal”. So having your own swag is important. Perhaps you like purses or you’re a shoe person, having that look work set you apart from any other thing. Be you. Don’t change because fashion says you have to change. Be you and then do it in different seasons in different ways.
Understanding market demands
I went to fashion school and I felt the market was missing something. I felt fashion is supposed to be simple so I was like it had no style or simple clothes. I thought I didn’t see a lot of clothes that are really cool, dope, and different but still has that sophistication- I’m talking about amazing garments that are out of the box and creative. When I look in the market, I thought that was missing when it comes to my ready-to-wear style.
I design for the average woman like me, so sometimes even for my size, I think I’m a size 6 or 8, probably a 10 in the market **laughs** but I felt like there weren’t cool clothes for even my size. That pushed me to do ready-to-wear for body sizes like mine.
I started doing wedding (garments) the last couple year and a half now and I’ve been loving it. I didn’t think it was something I’ll love but I’m really in love with the wedding industry. For a while I also did custom and a lot of my customers will come and say “hey can you make me this? I’ve been looking for it in the market and I haven’t seen it”. So for me, over the last year and a half, I’ve got to talk to the clients one on one to see how the market is especially the wedding industry. When it comes to design and price point, the wedding industry is still catching up in terms of what they’re offering. I feel like I need to have a voice in there.
Responses and Reactions
I’m super lucky that I always have feedback. I think feedback always helps me understand the market. From one of my studio at Savannah Georgia I’ll create garment and women will come into my studio and give me positive feedback. I remember when I first opened my pop up shop right before I auditioned for my Project Runway the third time, I had it where people could leave feedback in a big container. There was a lot of positivity. I feel OK as a designer because I think I’m always growing and changing. I’m always in the position where I invite feedback. I did a project, Scatter to the Air program where I had women come in. I’ll interview them and ask to bring their favorite things in their closet and ask them why. For me, I love that kind of connection with these women. And I’ll give cloth to them and tell them to give me feedback: “tell me what you like about it, did you want the arm bigger?”
Another thing I’ve also done is I started to wear all my collection because I need to know as a designer how comfortable the garment is (I’m so creative, I can really go out of the box) and sometimes it doesn’t make sense on the average woman on their day today. So I made a decision a couple of years ago to wear all that I design because I want to experience everything I’m putting out there in the market.
Project Runway experience and behind the scenes
It is really hard. Imagine school final every day. I think people don’t know that. We would wake up that morning we would go to mood and harp about 8 hours to put it all together but that’s literally it, like 8 hours! For me, it’ll blow my mind, whenever I create. Sometimes people get to see a glimpse of the show, it’s TV, they condense it to about 30 minutes to shop and 8 hours to make something. I think that’s insane. So sometimes I don’t think people understand how hard the show is and it is super stressing as its like finals every day.
Project Runway takeaway
I can genuinely do anything! If someone came up to me right now and they’re like ‘I need a wedding dress by Friday’ and I’ll be like OK, I got this! Project Runway made me fierce because it was the scariest thing to do- you leave home, you’re stressed, and scared. I doubted myself, I really wasn’t sure. I think I needed that. I knew the world was watching but I didn’t know they’ll like my work. There were competitions where I was in the bottom and I got criticized on social media but they never questioned my creativity and I feel that was pretty.
Project Runway story
Many people don’t know that was my third try to apply on the show. The first time was when I was doing my architecture at Miami Dade College and at that time I self-taught myself how to sew. I never even went to the school for fashion sewing but I will look at a garment and just sew it together. That’s how I was making a garment. I remember being in line, I think it was about 4 am, in downtown Miami. I remember interviewing with people. I think Tim Gunn was there at that time and they basically said I’m super talented and they love my personality but I won’t make it to the show because I don’t know what a pattern was. That got my feelings hurt **laughs**.
I actually went to college because of that, so I told myself I was going to be better because that was great feedback. So I went to college to learn fashion design and I graduated. At that time someone sent me a link to try it out and I did. I remember driving to Atlanta for a fashion show before my presentation and I felt it was a big mistake because I brought my fashion show clothes because it was so recent but they wanted to see my portfolio so I brought one dress from that- a new beaded garment collection. They gave me a maybe. S o I had to stay in Atlanta for the outcome but they said they love me but I needed to work on my craft. The third time, I longed for people to look at my work and just give me feedback, I was meeting with my teachers- that’s when I got my first studio in Savannah Georgia downtown and it was amazing. They still gave me a maybe but they wanted me. I think that was super cool because I wasn’t really into it the third time. I remember being at the audition and one of the designers on the panel was like “wow I love it and I think if you tweet this you’ll make a lot of money” and that’s how I got it! I just wanted feedback. Three is a charm. It was a great experience.
I want to have a successful company with a whole team in place. I also want to focus on ready-to-wear, the bridal wear, and also creating spaces because I have an architecture background I really love to transform spaces even if it’s a wedding or an installation where I’m all about redesigning spaces and not just creating garments but creating those spaces with the garments interacting with them. In the next five years, I’ll love to have those 3 elements in my company.
The Brussels stylist who came from nothing is building a fashion empire.
3 words aptly describe Ruxandra’s story- tribulation turn triumph. Behind the insightful styling posts on Instagram and her blog is a smart hard working person whose motto is “grit, regardless”. Proud of her humble beginning, she’s learned a lot that’s helping her maintain her spot as a respectable voice in the ever-dynamic European fashion space. When asked about aspirations, she seems to have a matured approach to life, “it’s because at a certain age, you have other expectations from life and we need to start living more in quality than in quantity.” Ruxandra takes great mirth in uplifting people through her blog, for her “it’s like having an alternative reality, a completely different life. No financial or material compensation would ever replace that!”
It could be a tough ask to have free time with a stylist and beauty expert in today’s digital world. If Ruxandra isn’t sharing her experience and creativity on her blog and on her social media channels, you’ll probably catch her at the Royal Park of Brussels busy in her workout sessions.
You might see her adoring the poignant arts at the Marolles/Sablon area. Rux is a woman with the in-built eye for quality and style. She also frequents the Kaffabar for their hot chocolate- a Brussels girl through and through! Let’s have you know Ms. Rux!
Personal Style, Fashion, and Influence
It’s true that my style has changed a lot over the years and I would most probably “blame” the fact that I moved to another country, learned to be more organized with what I buy, how I follow trends; in a way growing in what I call today my style. Even though I don’t have a specific style, I do let myself influenced by my mood, music, art, other stylists/celebrities and of course, the latest statement pieces and trends from the runway.
Passion for Fashion
I think I have always been passionate about fashion and style; it’s just that it was a bit suppressed inside of me due to my current situation at the time. I would not say I had a role model growing up, but I was always fascinated how I could pull out so many “outfits” with a simple big scarf from my grandmother’s closet back when I was like 5 years old. I guess that, in a way, her closet was my inspiration.
Style should be Dynamic
I would say – complex and always changing. It’s like why have just pie for the rest of your life when there are so many other amazing sweets out there?
I would say celebrities’ outfits (I follow Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, etc.), magazines of course (Vogue is the most current one and ELLE too), and then you have really beautiful items that just inspire me to create outfits and share them with my readers.
To be completely honest, I enrolled myself in college and wanted to create clothes, but when that didn’t work out, I started the blog because I was following a popular blogger from the US, Dulce Candy, that inspired me to start this journey and express myself through photos and thoughts.
Childhood and Inspiration
Except for my grandmother’s closet and the fact that I used to go through my auntie’s jewelry box, I don’t think that my family helped otherwise to cultivate this passion. I am 100% self-made. I didn’t have much growing up, no clothes, and no finances so it was mainly just survival mode for me. I remember that I used to lend clothes from my friends when going out and when I went to the shops in Belgium for the very first time, I remember coming home crying cause I couldn’t afford anything.
I am proud of everything that I have done until now, my blog is the biggest accomplishment ever and I’m proud that I made something from nothing- I didn’t have rich parents, rich husband, rich relatives and at first, everyone was quite skeptical of what I was doing and since they didn’t understand, no one encouraged or helped me. After a while, things changed and now I have more support of course.
The fact that people know my blog and they like what I’m doing; a lot of them have been with me from the beginning and were there for me whenever I was sad or happy. It’s like having an alternative reality, a completely different life. No financial or material compensation would ever replace that!
I spend a lot of time reading and documenting myself about the latest trends, designers and their legacy, searching new garments, statement pieces, investing in myself, my knowledge and so I can come up with a great outfit, tips& tricks, etc.
I am a fan of changing styles as I don’t have one that represents me. Now that I am approaching 30, I’m not wearing some styles anymore as they don’t fit my age.
There was a time when Rihanna was always making statement looks, but not so much anymore. I used to look up to her a lot. I’m noticing also a twist in the fashion industry as the beauty/make-up industry is taking so much more notoriety. Nowadays people just want to have a fab make-up and dress minimalistic. But I do also take inspiration from platforms like Pinterest, Instagram and fashion magazines like Vogue.
I intend to try to tap more on the beauty niche and matching make-up with my outfits more.
I want to start vlogging. I want to start buying fewer items that are more in value and doing a closet detox more often. It’s because at a certain age, you have other expectations from life and we need to start living more in quality than in quantity.
Favorite Fashion Accessory
I have a lot of favorites, but I am currently seeking the iconic YSL logo drop earrings (they’re vintage and hard to find) so let’s say that would be my favorite for now ;).
Area of Fashion Expertise
I think the styling is my thing. I also work as a stylist for that matter.
How the Best Stylist and Fashionistas Imitate
Most of them take inspiration from the outfit posts. A lot of people ask me how the things fit, but other than that, they try to “copy” the look that they see created. Also, I see people saving the outfits for future inspiration.
Confident, fierce, and artistic. Sandhya’s idea of self-empowerment embodies an approach in fashion. For her, having one’s self-styled and dressed to look powerful makes all the difference. To create textiles and clothing, she draws inspiration and research street styles to have a well-informed perspective. The London College of Fashion graduate has learned a wide range of crafts and techniques, from hand embroidery to vintage knitting-lace making. This has made delving into the scarce niche of making gorgeous conversational prints easier.
Sandhya was featured in the Project Runway Season 13 where she caught world attention. She refined her skills at International design studios at Alexander McQueen, Alice Temperley, and Izmaylova, learning the essentials of the industry. Consequently, her fashion is about glamour and unique personal style. She loves seeing the museum and walking the park with her toddler son. You can catch all her latest women fashion tips on her website where she also shares her experience and creativity.
I basically design dresses for vacation or traveling and they also transcend into special occasion dresses that you could wear to a wedding or to a baby shower or a party. And of course my clothing is inspired by travels to these exotic locations; it could be Caribbean or Mexican so it’s about encapsulating magic that itself, is contained within itself in terms of art, architecture, folklore. I also make my own textiles. So all the prints you see are my own. We work with custom embroideries, custom embellishment, and a lot of hand-maid stuff. I make my stuff in India, it’s all ethically produced by small factories. There’s a lot to the brand and I’m happy to answer any specific questions with regards to that.
In terms of being print-based fashion more result brand, I’ll say that there are a brands out there but no one is doing prints the way I do it at my price point. There is this need to do gorgeous conversational prints that have these stories behind them, these beautiful bold colors- there’s no one doing them and if someone is doing this pretty prints it’s a Dolce & Gabbana or Alexander McQueen where it’s a $2,000-$4,000 dress. Another thing is that, still people are scared of doing bold prints. They’ll put it on a scarf but no one is willing to put it on a dress and I know people who, like me, will love to wear a bold conversational print.
I spoke to a lot of people and in conversations with people into these bold conversation prints, but they say it’s so hard to find anything like this out there and that’s how I knew this is what people wanted because I was doing a lot of different things when I started. So that’s how came to print. It’s when I got the feedback from my customers.
My products have been received very well. I do sell a lot of products in my events and through my websites and people love the clothing, the feel, the fabric. It’s all designed after getting feedback and every time, it’s more refined to what the customer is looking for and what they want.
How it started
The very first time that I got interested in and passionate about fashion and style was when I was 10 years old. I always designed and stitched clothes for my dolls and when I saw a cousin work on her textile design project I was fascinated and knew this is what I wanted to do for life.
On personal style
My personal style is very casual for everyday living but for dressy occasions, I am a bit of a maximalist in terms of wearing a pattern and I love to include bold color accents with accessories if I am wearing a neutral toned dress. I love to dress up and look powerful in the way I style myself.
Heritage, crafts, and inspiration
I grew up in New Delhi, India. India has probably one of the largest and most complex textile histories in the world. We have so many weaves, regional crafts, embroideries, fiber techniques, dyeing techniques- the list goes on. It’s hard not to be inspired by the rich cultural craft history of being in India. My mother also inspired my life as she would knit, crochet and fascinatingly talk about textiles, silks, embroideries and heritage craft knitting of these drawstrings that truly stuck with me.
I am most proud of my design internship at Alexander McQueen studio, my stint on Project Runway season 13 and my journey of creating my namesake resort wear label in the US.
The most rewarding part of the journey
The most rewarding part of my journey so far has been connecting with people and being able to talk to women about their concerns and what speaks to them in terms of fashion, travel, and style.
I’ll say in terms of expressing my personal style I’m very passionate and artistic about my work the way I talk to people and tell them about it. When they listen to me they feel the energy of the story, the kind of magic- it really connects with them. I recently drew inspiration from Amalfi coast Austin and there were people had visited Amalfi coast Austin and they really couldn’t capture the magic of the travel with just buying souvenirs but through my print and dresses, they could wear what they merched to them. So I think the 20% is the inspiration and design, reaching out on social media which gives me the 80% impact and of course me talking about it and expressing the whole inspirational.
Discovering New Styles
I do a lot of research and look at street styles too. It’s how I discover new styles for each of my new collections.
Project Runway behind the scenes
I think what people don’t know about the Runway experience is that at the end of the day even we (contestants) don’t know what they’re going to show on TV. And sometimes a lot of it looks heavily edited even to us because in our heads there’s a different scenario so they basically cut, copy, edit, mix videos, and show clips that are probably not related to what the current show is going about. Say we say something we in the first episode, they’ll use that edited clip in the sixth episode. You know, there’s a lot of editing and they kind of create this whole story that sometimes the contestants aren’t even aware of.
Getting on the Project Runway show
It is not an easy process, to be honest. I was very confident when I applied that I was going to in, so I gave it a try because I felt I had nothing to lose and in my application I got a mail to move on to the next stage. All through the process, my idea was just to have a lot of fun and I was very honest of who I was. I had watched a few episodes of Project Runway but to be honest I didn’t follow it religiously season after season. So I was very unaware and I think that helped in being very authentic, and being who I was on the show and not being scared or intimidated by the gravity of how big the show is.
It’s like a 7-10 steps process of getting on the show and it’s not easy but if you have fun with it and if you’re the right applicant, all the best.
Project Runway lessons
I’d say you cannot take an opportunity for granted. I knew Project Runway, it’s such a huge opportunity and I gave it my best. Never take an opportunity for granted because Project Runway changed my life in a good way so I’ll say that the most valuable thing to not undermine the value of making strong connections or your fellow participants and judges. In addition, you should always create strong connections as a fashion designer.
I have my own special result boutique. There’s a massive experience when you enter to shop and having a great online presence and building this whole business. You can wear different dresses inside the hanger. That’s where I see myself.
Icons in the Fashion Industry
They are many! The industry is changing everywhere but what has remained constant is the impact that emerging fashion designers have on the industry. They bring in the fresh stuff. I would say that in terms of fashion, Alexander McQueen still has a lot of impacts and all other big brands. They are the icons, they’ve been in the business for so long and they have a strong identity. It takes a lot of decades to create a big brand and the fact that you can identify these brands with your eyes closed is the true mark of being a fashion design industry icon.
What are your Area/s of expertise?
I’d say I’m an expert on creating conversational fashion prints that make dresses stand out and incredibly unique.
Incorporating Color and Patterns
Life is too boring to wear dull clothes. I consider myself an expert in wearing color as well so I’d say I could give you a tutorial on how you could best incorporate color and pattern in your life. I know a lot of people who do not do a pattern or color because they think it’s too loud. For such people, you can start with a scarf around your shoulder or around the neck in a beautiful color. From there you can do a top and then do a jacket on top. Touch those areas and slowly build your confidence towards wearing colors and patterns so you don’t have to bold colors in big size, you can do a grey trouser and a grey or a black top and do a small colorful scarf or an accessory and that’s you can incorporate color and pattern in your every day style.
Ben van Berkel | Pushing the Bounds of Modern Architecture
His positive demeanor masks his proclivity for an unusual functional architecture which has attracted criticisms for being brash. Nevertheless, the serial design awardee and seasoned lecturer is not scared of experimenting to succeed where others can’t dare to tread. The Dutch architect has close to a 100 built projects around the world to his name.
I talked to Ben van Berkel about his formative years, best projects, and why he loves the music of dream pop sensation, Lorde.
In 1988 Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos cofounded their architectural practice, Van Berkel & Bos Architectuurbureau, which has completed iconic projects across the Netherlands since then. A decade later, the super architecture firm morphed to UNStudio emphasizing on urban development and infrastructure. Ben van Berkel’s idea of leadership and design evinces innovation and creativity. He is a proponent of collaborative effort to ensure design functionality.
On how he sees the future of travel developing, and architecture’s role in it
At UNStudio we refer to this as mobility+: an approach which also focuses on how we can stimulate the use of public transport. We can talk endlessly about making cars more sustainable, but we need to look at encouraging the use of other modes of transport in a far broader way. Arnhem Central, for example, was a whole master plan. It resulted in a new and vibrant part of the city where living, working, and leisure facilities are included to stimulate the use of the station and turn it into a transfer location: a hub for public transport of different kinds.
We believe that the phenomenon of the station should be changed as a typology into transfer locations with multiple programs. This means that we need to come up with new ideas for how we can support the users in these new environments and provide new types of comfort. We also need to learn to think about the whole passenger experience, not just the stations that start and conclude a journey, but also everything that happens in between, the whole network of travel.
The drive to be an architect
Strangely enough, it was graphic design. I started out as a graphic designer making magazine covers. I was always interested in producing something that could be directly connected to the public, which the magazine covers provided, but at the same time magazines are only there for a week and I never liked the idea that they were so temporal. But architecture had always interested me. I worked briefly for a Japanese designer and he advised me to go to Japan. When I was there I saw the Katsura palace in Kyoto and I decided almost on the spot that I wanted to become an architect. My visit to the villa was a very special, intense, almost indescribable experience. I also read a lot about it in connection to Bruno Taut and the understanding that modern architecture was seen to have started with the Katsura palace. It was tough to switch professions, but I have never regretted it.
How Ben’s background has impacted design philosophies
Traveling in my early 20s to various places, like Japan and the US, had a great impact and influence on me. I was really interested in art and design when I was studying at the Rietveld in Amsterdam and even though I was studying graphics, I had teachers from a variety of disciplines: from an artist to furniture designer and an architect, and this gave me a really rich and diverse education at the time. It was the same as the AA in London, when I was studying architecture there. I was a student of Mohsen Mostafavi, who taught me everything about the Viennese school – not only the architecture but the whole culture of that period. At that time I was reading everything I could get my hands on from Freud and Kraus to Adolf Loos. Zaha Hadid was also teaching at the AA and she encouraged me to be bolder and to experiment much more with geometry.
After I had finished studying I became part of a group called the paperless studio, along with people like Hani Rashid, Stan Allen, Jesse Reiser, Alejandro Zaera-Polo, and Greg Lynn. Within this group, we were primarily fascinated by the discourse that came about due to the influence of computation on design and it was a very important period for me in terms of shaping my thinking about parametric design. Critics like Jeffrey Kipnis and Sanford Kwinter were also an important influence when I taught for several years at numerous universities in the U.S. at the beginning of the 90s.
The Place of physical model making or sketch designs by hand in an era of computer visualizations
I still sketch every day and I paint whenever I get the opportunity. The computer certainly changed architectural production in extremely significant ways — as much as the smartphone changed communication, I would say — and I have no doubt computation will continue to impact how we work in ways that we can’t yet fully predict. I am also now really encouraging physical model making at the studio again. 3D modeling is of course so fast and it’s a language today’s designers automatically turn to, so it’s an obvious choice to use this process.
Until recent years there was also the danger in physical model making that people would automatically work with Styrofoam blocks, which ran the risk of limiting the results to box architecture. So for a time, I avoided model making because I wanted people to experiment much more with the geometry. But we have now extended the facilities in our model workshop, so model making is becoming popular again. In fact, for our latest internal conference, we focused the whole day on this activity (computers were banned), with really interesting results.
The future of transportation and architecture’s role
I think that with electric driving, self-driving cars in the future, although the main roads will be changed, people will have to go along the roads because the cars will go north and south. I think the infrastructure of trains will become better and there’ll be more competition. I think there’ll be more opportunities, stronger opportunities coming in to transport architecture. I think a lot of things will change. Good political ambition…as we’ve seen in some regions and countries like Scandinavia in general. Also in Holland, electric driving is stipulated intensely. This has to do with transport in general and not only train.
My next project is always my favorite project. The project I’m working on right now. That’s what I like. I’m a very forward-looking positive person. My next project will also be the best project.
Interests outside architecture
I’m interested in a type of adaptive design. I’m so fascinated that cars have so many assemblies. I’m interested in nature. My favorite musician is Lorde, she’s one of the most promising artistes around. I’m interested in music in general.
Best advice received and advice to young architects
Well, Frank Gehry once told me, ‘never borrow money’, which was excellent advice. So my advice to young architects and designers would be, ‘after you have paid back your student loans, never borrow money again!’
Jeremy Mitchell is a fashion photographer that has turned the camera back on himself and shone a light on his own unique and wonderfully curated style. His look is one that has a lot of vintage inspiration but is so cleverly timeless that it looks suave and stylish no matter what the year on the calendar is.
Like so many fashion industry pros, Jeremy lives in and is based out of New York City. The city provides innumerable opportunities for contextual backdrops and lively sceneries.
“I love how every corner in NY gives you something different. It can be anything from food to culture, even the energy.”
– Jeremy Mitchell
When you follow Jeremy you can see that he isn’t pigeon-holing himself into any specific menswear category like suits, streetwear, casual, etc…
His style is one that flexes from casual to what would be suitable for a boardroom but always with a little something extra that makes you take a second look.
Levitate Style is the classic dream story of the side hustle that blossoms into a flourishing hustle. Leo Chan was working in corporate banking when he and his girlfriend, Alicia decided to start Levitate Style as a style blog and menswear visual platform.
“We did notice that 90% of the market was female bloggers. I looked at the 10% of guys doing it and thought, maybe there is a fit for me.”
– Leo Chan
Leo’s style expression ranges from corporate suits, to T-shirts and jeans, to workout gear. He’s really inspiring his following for the entirety of their living situations. From the gym to, the streets, to the workplace – you can find how Leo envisions styling himself and you can take something from what he’s put together and make it your own.
“From the start, we knew we wanted to bring something different to the table.”
Like many fashion and style content creators, Serena is a NYC transplant (from Cali). NYC is the perfect backdrop for a visual creator because when you’re at “home” (and I quote “home” for the reasons stated below) you can just step outside and use the energy and scenes of the city to create visual art and show the style vision in a way that is interesting.
To say that New York is “home” is almost a stretch for wanderlust Serena Goh, who’s almost always on the go (pun? 🤷🏽♂️)
If you follow Serena you’ll seed she’s often making content on different continents, creating visual stories that show her unique creative style.
If you love minimalist and modern styles that emphasize classic colors and modern silhouettes, you’ll love how Serena puts her styles together.
“Even though I indulge in the pop of occasional pop of color and print, you know how much I love my monochromatic scheme.”
Modish, fab, and fashionable, Julie Thai is your go-to for minimal fashion tips and lifestyle guides. The internet sensation’s Instagram account is where she shows the world her vision in primarily black and white colors. Realizing how much she loves kids, the Brigitte Bardot fan hopes to positively impact their lives in some way. She loves helping people “so hopefully that can flourish into something amazing”.
Julie has quite a pluralistic portfolio like the majority of hardworking digital entrepreneurs today. She is a content creator, photo stylist, and a minimal enthusiast. When she’s not in class and online, she enjoys interior decorating and being inspired by fashion. Julie, take it from here, will you?
When I’m not busy with school and academics, I like to dedicate my time to fashion/lifestyle blogging and posting content on social media. Influencing was something that slowly but unintentionally occurred over time for me, as a result of being active on Instagram. As for vlogging, I generally try to film whenever I’m traveling or doing something noteworthy.
In the beginning
I’ve actually already had my blog about 8 years ago, so that’s something that was recently reintroduced back into my life. During that time, my blog wasn’t how I had envisioned it to be and I didn’t have anybody taking photos of my looks, so I decided to put that on hold. As of now, my blog is fully active and running.
For Instagram, it started as a way for me to just be updated with my close friends. Later on, I began using it as a creative outlet and even promoted vintage clothes and DIY shorts that I was selling at the time. I would promote the pieces by doing flat lays or modeling them in outfit-of-the-day photos, and somehow that led to the number of followers accumulating. Fasting forward to now, my Instagram page is presently a collection of minimal fashion, refined flat-lays, and a strict color scheme of primarily black and white.
“I wanted to have a place for me to express my vision”
– Julie Thai
Growing up, I considered my parents as being very on-trend during their era. I still like flipping through their old photo albums from time to time just to see their outfits. They wore it all, from leggings and chunky motor jackets to cropped tops and high-waisted shorts. It’s interesting to see all of the pieces they used to wear still being worn in today’s wardrobe.
In a decade, I’m hoping to have a steady and financially stable job that makes me ecstatic, so much that it won’t even feel like work. For my job, I can see myself perhaps interior designing on the side while also being an elementary teacher. People think it’s very arbitrary for me to take interest in becoming a teacher, considering that I’m so involved in what I’m doing now and the two seem to be at opposite poles of the spectrum. As much as I enjoy interior decorating and being inspired by fashion, I love kids as well and I’d like to be able to positively impact their lives in some form or way.
“Growing up, I considered my parents as being very on-trend during their era. I still like flipping through their old photo albums from time to time just to see their outfits. They wore it all”
– Julie Thai
I find Brigitte Bardot very appealing and impeccable, especially during the 50s and 60s era. She’s always tastefully dressed and I believe that she lived through the most classy and fashionable period.
I just hope to be able to inspire others as to how others have inspired me, and hopefully, that can flourish into something amazing.
Reason for vlogging
I’ve always loved video editing. I can spend hours on it, just getting the right clips and music to match with the atmosphere of the video. I can be very meticulous when it comes to editing as well. Whenever I make a video officially live, I most likely have already watched it at least 60 times. I haven’t been vlogging actively as I’d like to, but I’m in the process of bringing more meaningful content to my channel.
I’ve always loved wearing neutrals, but I’ve definitely been gravitating more towards black these days, just because I find it a lot easier to mix with different outfits and pieces of clothing. At the moment, I would consider my style as contemporary, minimal, and moderately goth I suppose, since I wear black 95% of the time.
I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a minimalist; I’m still in the progression of trying to get there. I’m looking forward to achieving minimalism and maintaining it as a permanent lifestyle, especially since I’ve always been a semi-hoarder when it comes to clothing. I love the concept of minimalism, just the whole idea of eliminating excessive clutter and sticking to just the necessities that will enrich and bring more meaning to your life. No one likes stress but I definitely prefer to be stressed out over more significant things, rather than owning too many clothes.
Favorite fashion accessory
At the moment, my favorite accessory is the choker. When paired with the right clothing, I like that a velvet or silk choker makes every outfit look instantly chic and well put together.
I’d like to think that I’m pretty good at mixing and matching a favorite item in my closet to make it look different every time it’s worn.
You don’t have to create different looks by having distinctive pieces all the time. For instance, you can have just a simple piece of clothing (e.g. a white blouse) and use that as your foundation and alter the look by adding different layers, such as bottoms, jackets, accessories, and shoes.