Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Design Darling: Chit Chat with Fashion Designer Yvette Elfawal

It started with blank stares of curiosity being exchanged between the two of us in a building lobby. She, with her hands filled of designing goodies, and me, with my five pound purse. Finally, one of us had the courage to ask. "Katie?" the girl with the bags inquired hesitantly. I nodded and after asking her as well who she was, I knew I was in the right building with the right designer. Thank goodness because I did not need my interview to turn into a scene from Taken. My father is awesome and all, but let's just say, he doesn't have moves like Liam Neeson. She then welcomed me into her New York show room, and although, she stated that it was small, I found it was similar to the preview of her spring line she would later show me, little, but pure perfection!

Sitting on a couple of white sofas, in a sunshine filled room, we commenced the interview I had been waiting since New York Fashion Week to have. I had come across one of her designs being worn by a model at an event I attended. Dumbstruck by the texture and color of the frock, I took the business card and contacted her. Numerous emails later, the moment had come to ask the upcoming designer, all my burning questions. Some even involved things pertaining to how she gets the lining of layered fabrics on each piece, by hand, all so quickly. Like a family secret recipe, that was one answer she wouldn't give away. I simply laughed and said that it will be like Bush's Baked Beans. We will never know the hidden ingredient to what makes her designs so brilliant, in such little time.

Yvette Elfawal, who is currently based in Florida, but quotes New York as her love (she's not the only one), has already made a name for herself in the industry. Her designs, have shown a curious familiarity to the textures and aesthetic of the late McQueen and the romantic feel of Marchesa. Both of which, turn out to be some of her favorites in the business. This may all come to a surprise, being that she isn't the typical fashion school graduate. Truth be told, this artist of crafting clothes, studied architecture in college, and learned everything there is to making a master piece on her own. Even more impressive, is that she has accomplished a lot of this within a few years, where as for most people, would take several or more. Of course, the background in architecture, although unexpected, makes sense, since her pieces are liked structures built for the woman's frame.

Elfawal's sneak peek involved five pieces, each one inspired by her mother's fight with breast cancer saying, "They continue from the fall collection and are pieces that just consume the body."  There are differences between the previous line to the spring one though. Last season, it was all about the burnt orange, rust, and red wine hues, while the current one involves more of a peach and pale pink tone. Her preference for sheer and construction on the other hand, are two aspects that remain the same, but in a good way. They have become in form, her signature style.

It was an absolute delight to speak with her. That's why, in my opinion, interviewing new comers to the industry is the most exciting. They aren't jaded by the hardships of trying to make it just yet. Instead, they are like a couple in the honeymoon phase of their relationship, where everything is bright, new, and beautiful. To see the excitement in someones eyes and hear it in their voice is the best gift of all. It's like me when I hear a new Justin Timberlake song. I can't contain the glee!

I noticed that you use a lot of sheer. Is that a preference?

That's something that I really pushed this season. I felt like they help illuminate the concept more. I like sculpting, so that's part of the process.

Not  a lot of designers go for the edgy look, for fear of not functioning, you on the other hand do exactly that. 

Where as functionality is so important in fashion, since my background is so different, I'm more focused on expressing myself as an artist. I just do that through the medium of fashion. I want to stay true to my architecture roots.

I can totally tell. As for your runways show where are you planning to debut all of your pieces? 

I was actually selected for Fashion Scout and I have been given the chance to have my show in Kiev for Mercedes Benz Fashion Days in October.

That means you get to fly there. That's going to be so much fun. 

I'm excited! It should be my biggest show to date. I'm really looking forward to it.

Are you completely set to go or will you be planning and finishing things up until the very last second?

It's starting to come along. Right now I am finalizing shoes and other last minute details. I am pretty sure I will be sewing until the day of.

Oh yeah that is normal. That is why the backstage is always crazy. 

Yeah. Last year I actually brought my sewing machine with me just in case.

Of course, sometimes things rip and then you have to fix it.

Oh I can't even tell you how many times I've had to sew up a model into a garment.

Well there is always duck tape. Just tell the model here you go! 

(Laughter ensues) Yeah, it happens though. Like five seconds before a model walks out the zipper will tear and then I have to sew it up quickly.

That would terrify me. What is your worst fear for a fashion show.

I don't know what is worse. It's between a dress ripping before the model walks out or her just falling on the runway. I'm pretty sure slips are never fun. I have been very fortunate that I have never had any slips or models falling on the runway. I have had a lot of rips though, before hand, and that's never fun.

It all comes with the territory. I'm sure some of the greats have gone through the same scares you have. Speaking of, who is designer you would love to meet?

Iris van Herpen is one of my favorites. I would love to work with her. That would be a dream. I feel like I have so many fashion designers that I look to that are conceptual, but I have completely different list in terms of aesthetics. Marchesa's color pallet and detailing are amazing. Elie Saab is also a favorite of mine.

You had mentioned that you live in Miami. How is it splitting time between there and here in the city?

Usually the month before Fashion Week I am here sewing away and at other times, I come back as well. Miami is great for the weather if you like the heat. Quality of life in Miami is more exceptional. Work wise, it's better to live in New York City.

As a designer, it's definitely competitive in New York, but for fashion do you feel it has more than Miami?

Yeah definitely. My dream is to go to Paris actually.

Is your ultimate goal to have a fashion show there?

Hopefully, yeah. That is ideal.

I can definitely see your pieces for a Parisian market because they tend to gravitate towards that wild look. 

Denmark also, like Copenhagen, have some really conceptual clothes as well. I always look forward to seeing their fashion week.

Well what is your demographic right now? Who are the people gravitating towards your clothing?

I would say women obviously (laughter) and it's usually between the ages of twenty-four to forty something. Those are most of my clients. They are people that are looking for new and unique pieces to wear to events. I mean they don't necessarily buy it to wear to the supermarket. (chuckles)

I can just imagine. That would be hilarious. Do you actually have a design area, or you make everything from where you live?

Right now it is out of where I live, which is always fun (laughs sarcastically). I am hoping that within the next year, I can divide home and work space. It would be more professional and I can bring people in and seamstresses to help out.

Are there fabrics you try to avoid?

I love silks. They are the most difficult to work with, but that is where I am drawn. I feel that if you can work with silk you can work with anything. It is very sensitive though. I actually had something pull this morning.

Do you wear any of your designs? 

I wore one once, but I try to just wear all black. I've been yelled at for that. I never want people to
look at me and think of what I am wearing. I would rather they focus on what the models are wearing.

Are you like that with your personal style? Sounds as though you are like Rachel Zoe who loves to rock black all the time?

I enjoy neutrals and the simple style. I am most comfortable in leggings and a t-shirt.

Does that simplicity show in your hair and makeup? What are your favorite products that you can't live without?

Ah yeah. I don't wear a lot of makeup. It's just mascara and Bare Minerals Foundation for me.

How about your go-to accessories?

I have a lot. I would say a watch, rings, and earrings are some. Up until a few years ago, I never wanted to wear a watch. I didn't want to know what time it was.

If you had to recommend the perfect fall ensemble to someone, what would it be?

Fall is my favorite season, so I love leggings and booties. I am a big fan of button down long blouses and if you could add a cool sweater to that.

Yeah fall is awesome for fashion because it is a time where you get to really test run a lot of looks and layer multiple pieces together. That's why I actually love fashion. Fashion is so important, not only for dressing, but for much more. It represent a time of year. So many people dismiss it and think of it a just vanity driven, but it isn't. It is an art. That's why your pieces are so interesting because they are different. When I actually looked at one of your pieces I saw an octopus. It was a chic one though. (laughs)

I love hearing different opinions on the collection because I get such varying opinions. We just did this collaboration which was high fashion Disney. One of the pieces was pulled for Pocahontas. That's why I like how people see different things. I actually had someone who, last season, said that the pieces looked pornographic. That's really the furthest thing from what I was trying to create, but I am glad he is the only one that saw that. (laughs)

Well I would have just told them, "That just means everyone get's their happy ending". 

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