Words by Karen Parr-Moody
Photography by Jerry Atnip
On the Horizon
May 12, 8 p.m., John C. Tune Airport
French nuns taught Coco Chanel to sew. Cristóbal Balenciaga and Gianni Versace learned from their mothers. But today’s would-be designers need skills beyond the homegrown to impress the fashion cognoscenti. They gather them at O’More College of Design, a private college located in Franklin’s historic district.
At 8 p.m. Thursday, May 12, 18 of the college’s starry-eyed students will send their fashion collections down the runway during O’More College of Design’s Fashion Show at Nashville’s John C. Tune Airport. The Nashville Fashion Alliance is partnering with the college to host a VIP party prior to the show.
Jamie Atlas, the chair of O’More’s School of Fashion, says that three particular students—Stephanie Caporella, Chelsea Weems, and Angela Jackson—possess a “leader mindset” and know what they want. Their collections are created from strong points of view.
Atlas is preparing all of her students for career success. She knows many will go on to fuel the fast-growing fashion industry of Nashville, which now ranks as the fourth largest fashion hub in the U.S. following New York City, Los Angeles, and Columbus, Ohio. She believes that Nashville has established a niche.
“It is all about quality, custom tailoring, and one-of-a-kind,” Atlas says. And O’More’s School of Fashion is preparing students for that specificity.
“We really focus on the quality aspect of it,” Atlas says. “Tailoring, couture, and custom are arts that are going away. And there is such a need for that.”
For more information visit www.omorefashionshow.com.
The period’s “Japanese avant-garde” included Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, and Yohji Yamamoto—supreme manipulators of silhouette, all. While groundbreaking, their voluminous and sculptural fashions could be traced back to ancient design. After all, Japan is a culture from whence emerged the centuries-old kimono, with its voluptuous layers, as well as origami, the traditional folk art of paper folding that inspires modern architecture.
Student Stephanie Caporella is deeply moved by Japanese fashion design. She arrived at O’More College of Design after graduating from Louisiana State University with a degree in Textiles, Apparel and Merchandising. She wanted to learn more about the fashion trade. Now, she wants to create designs like those by Kawakubo. “I aspire to that type of artistic view,” she says.
Naturally, Caporella embraces the Japanese pattern-making technique of dart manipulation, or “nyokitto,” by which stunning sculptural clothes are created. “I love Japanese culture—their view of clothing, the movement of clothing, and the design aesthetic they produce,” Caporella says. “It’s not like they are just wearing the same old t-shirt and blouse.”
Through Japanese pattern making, designers can add dramatic sculptural details to clothing, including alternating folds, dips in the fabric, and geometric shapes. Due to its nature, there also exists an interplay of shadow and light with this design approach.
Caporella’s women’s-wear collection for the fashion show consists of separates for which she used nyokitto to create a greater variety of dimension, as with a blouse that features V-shaped draping on the front.
Caporella’s designs were also influenced by Japan’s iconic kimono. “I put my twist to it,” she says. “There is a lot of draping and layering. I wanted to give the effect of heaviness when one’s wearing the clothes, because the Japanese wear so many layers. They have all this movement; I love that movement.”
The color palette includes red, black, and gold, tones Caporella says are born of her impression of the Syrian conflict. “It’s inspired by all the suffering that people are going through in the war,” she says. “The gold is actually signifying hope. There is something that is shining over us that will help us.”
“I love all aspects of fashion,” says student Chelsea Weems, who received her first undergrad degree from East Tennessee State University because it focused on the “business of fashion.” She thought it would be practical.
“When I was growing up my dad was always kind of against the whole art scene,” Weems says in her bubbly, Southern accent. “He’s a nuclear engineer, so he doesn’t always see things the way artists see things.” But as soon as Weems graduated from ETSU, she enrolled in O’More College of Design.
“I came to O’More because design was always my passion,” she says. Weems had no sewing experience before enrolling in O’More, so she admits she was a bit behind in the basics. “I just kind of had to work a little bit harder to get to the other students’ level,” she says. “I’m doing great now; I’ve learned so much.”
All of Weems’s skills in draping, pattern-making, sewing, and fitting are now aimed at the pint-sized customer, as her specialty is children’s wear. “I have always been drawn to children’s wear,” Weems says. “I’m obsessed with color and pattern and mixing. I think with children’s wear you can get away with more fun and imagination.”
Weems has two children’s-wear collections for the runway. One collection, called “Woodland Wanderer,” is fall themed and is inspired by what she calls “Tennessee backwoods beauty and the childlike imagery of illustration.” In addition to creating children’s wear, Weems also works at the charming shop Vintage, Baby, in downtown Franklin, as a sales associate, merchandiser, and buyer. “I never get tired of children’s wear,” she says. “It’s never boring.”
Student Angela Jackson has taken a gamble that many, arguably, would not. In midlife, she left a comfortable professional career to prepare for the runway.
Jackson had long wanted to pursue fashion design and had completed some fashion merchandising courses at another college. But she was impressed by O’More’s fashion design program, so she enrolled.
“People get older and they get settled in a job where they’re just there,” Jackson says. “And I didn’t want to be just there anymore when I knew that I had a talent and could use it to do something else. So I said to myself, Do I want to be sitting here doing this for the rest of my life, or do I want to do something that I enjoy doing? I have to make myself happy. I’m going to do this for me. It took a lot of courage.”
Now, as a senior, Jackson has the skills to create what she calls “classic yet modern” fashion inspired by her favorite designers, the Venezuelan-American Carolina Herrera and the Italian fashion legend known simply as Valentino.
Her collection for the fashion show includes clothes that a woman can wear to work, regardless of age. “I want that woman that I am designing for to be able to wear her pretty clothes that she likes to wear to work and feel good and look good in what she wears,” she says. “A lot of times we stay in the same old look when we go to work. But I want to be different when I go to work. I don’t want to be the same as everyone else.”
The collection is inspired by a phenomenon Jackson calls “the Butterfly Effect”—a natural curiosity one has upon observing a butterfly. “When you see a butterfly, you think it’s beautiful,” she says. “So when a woman sees another woman looking her best, or looking happy, she’s going to say, ‘Wow she’s beautiful. What makes her happy?’”