by Mel Fenson
Bright, colorful designs, accented with black, accentuated shapes cut and sewn from custom dyed fabrics and hand -woven textiles, designed to flatter the femine figure - these are the trademark creations, of 24-year-old aspiring fashion designer, Stephanie Smith. She comments, “Being an artist, I design things I like that are unique and different.” And, she infuses a sensual essence into her pieces to create alluring fashions.

Discussing her design concepts, Stephanie said, sometimes a fabric will inspire a dress idea and sometimes an idea for a dress will inspire a fabric. She said, “I like things to be shapely - curvy shapes, shapes that accentuate the shape of a woman’s figure. First, I conceive an idea, then I find a pattern and modify it to the shape I want, then I apply it to a particular fabric I have created.

Stephanie likes to use bold, striking colors in her fabric designs. She also always uses black in her color schemes, “...because it’s classy and it gives your eyes a break when you are looking at bold colors. I use black in almost everything I create.” She also uses a lot of turquoise and purple and she used an iridescent color called, angelina fiber in one of her purses, and she sometimes uses sequins to add some excitement. Explaining her experimentation process, she said, “I usually just try different ideas and keep working with them until I get a result I like.”

Stephanie works with mixed media to create her fashions. She uses fabrics such as organza, a sheer fabric traditionally made from silk, and chiffon, a lightweight, balanced, plain-woven sheer fabric, among other fabrics in her creations. Her material selections also include natural cotton fibers. Most of her materials come from the Dharma Trading Company, an online company in California and some silk is from American Silk Mills, a company she previously worked with as a college intern. Stephanie said, “I am able to use a lot of different mediums in my fashion designs and that’s the beauty of working with textiles and fabrics. “

Stephanie not only likes to use different textiles, she also employs a variety of production techniques, such as stitching, embroidering, weaving, and felting, along with many dye techniques, which she uses to add colors and patterns to her fabrics.

One dye technique she employs called burnout, creates a sheen on top, but it can also be used to create a sheer quality as well. She said, “I sometimes dye fabrics, then screen print on top of them. I draw from 30 to 40 different dye techniques to create different looks with fabrics. Another technique, she described is a traditional Japanese dye techinque, called shibori which is a cloth resist-dyeing technique that may include binding, stitching, folding, twisting, or clamping. This method has been used to dye patterns on silk in Japan since the eighth century. Stephanie described her use of the technique as taking fabrics, folding them in various ways, then wrapping them before dyeing them. She said, “The more times you fold a fabric, the more repeated patterns you get. Each individual step results in different color patterns. You never get the same result twice, so it’s really interesting and it’s fun to experiment and see the changing array of beautiful colors you can create.”

She also a shibori technique in which she wraps the threads around fabric, then dyes it. That results in the color showing up only on the material that is exposed. She also employs several different screen printing techniques. She added, “I use a lot of layering processes to create special design effects. One of those techniques is to fold and dye materials, then screen print patterns on top. My woven pieces are dyed then woven and I sometimes use embroidery to achieve a unique look. I have also used a technique where I dye the fabric to create a basic background color, then layer in other colors. In the layering process, I dye a fabric, then resist it, then dye multiple times again to add more colors to underlying layers of color."

Stephanie hand-looms some of her fabrics and hand sews some of her pieces if the threads are too thick to sew on a machine and she also does a lot of stitching by hand.

Stephanie said she gets much of her inspiration from nature. “When I take a close look at a leaf or observe the many changing colors in the sky from dawn to dusk, I get ideas for different color palettes. I develop my ideas with sketches. I’ve been able to draw since before I could write - it’s something I’ve alway had a natural talent for. When I once worked for a furniture design firm in North Carolina, I was a sketch artist I did furniture illustrations and upholstery design.”

Stephanie started working with textiles during her sophmore year in college and became interested in, “...the wide array colors and designs you can achieve with fabric.” She reminisced that she had always had fun getting dressed up when she was young, so her interest in fashion blossomed at an early age. “I started working with fabrics because I love how they drape and the way they fall on a human figure. The body is probably nature’s best work of art , so what could be better to hang pretty creations on. “ Stephanie believes her work should be totally original, so she does not want to be influenced by other designers.

She is from High Point, North Carolina and has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from East Carolina University with a concentration in textiles. She is considering getting a Masters Degree with an emphasis on fabric sculpture.

She is currently working on placing some of her clothing designs in some west coast galleries and boutiques and she is going to try to place some items in shops in Aspen. She is currently showing some of her textile designs in an exhibit at a restaurant on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder.

Stephanie is planning to move from Boulder to a ranch on the western slope, near Grand Junction, Colorado. She loves riding horses and says the ranch life will give her the opportunity, “ find some wide open spaces, because I like to be in the middle of nowhere - it’s so peaceful out there.” She plans to set up her studio there, continue her fashion design work and teach.



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