To me, Allison is the sassy, well-dressed lady who works in the glass-box office across from me at the Saint Louis Fashion Incubator. To you, however, she is the award-winning handbag designer whose designs have been featured in Women's Wear Daily and Vogue, and who has cultivated a name for herself from the ground up. I was fawning over a few of her bags (I may have bought one) and asked Allison if she would be willing to be featured here. She is awesome so she obviously agreed. Read what she had to say about her style below and see why I'm constantly complimenting her fun-pants-game in I Think I’m Extra’s second Summer Style Profile.
Anna Wesche: What has been your biggest moment in fashion to-date?
Allison Mitchell: When I won FGI New York's Rising Star Award for Accessories earlier this year. The moment I heard my name called; I wish I could bottle that feeling.
AW: What's that "thing" in your closet?
AM: Hot pink Comme des Garçons skirt pants.
AW: How do you ensure that you're constantly evolving your designs? Do you feel pressure to conform to trends?
AM: I think trends and popular culture are very useful influences for a designer to rely on when creating new collections. For me, the synthesis of separate notions is what creates truly special collections. Trends are a notion, so they should be used in combination with other notions, influences, and elements to create pieces that are more profound than the trends that inspired them.
AW: Do you feel that you design for yourself or for the consumer? A bit of both?
AM: Oh I full on design for myself. My customer and I have deeply similar traits that go beyond personal taste and style, and I design for those pieces of my persona that I constantly see reflected in all of my customers.
AW: How does designing go from an interest, to a hobby, to a business? Or was this always the end-game for you?
AM: Oh my goodness, I'm almost embarrassed to tell you how this happened. I never had plans to have a career in the fashion industry, and never in a million years did I think I had the chops to be a designer. In 2012, I founded a digital marketing agency in Dallas for small businesses, and around our second year of business, I was going to a lot of networking events and meetings to meet prospective clients. I had this idea for a large, oversized clutch that I wanted to take with me to the next event, but I couldn't find anything like what was in my head. I decided to make it myself, and even though I used a hot glue gun and some vinyl from JoAnn Fabrics, it looked really chic! It seemed like every person I came in contact with wanted one, and when a buyer at a fabulous boutique in Dallas asked for ten, I knew I had something. I launched a small collection of oversized clutches made of jewel-toned calf hair, lined in chartreuse velvet, all made to the exact dimensions as the first one I put together at my kitchen table. The business took off so quickly, so organically, that it took me a couple of years to convince myself that I could really do this. Seven seasons later, I wonder why I spent so much of my life discouraging myself from a creative career - I've never felt more like myself or more at home. I am still very inexperienced, though, and each time I design a new collection, source new materials, develop samples with my manufacturer, or work with my sales team to fine tune the product and brand, I become a better designer and business owner. I am super focused right now on learning and experiencing everything I can in the shortest amount of time so I can begin to creep up to the professional level where my fellow Saint Louis Fashion Incubator designers are. I try to be as effortless and professional as they are, but I'm sure I betray my inexperience constantly. They are all wonderful and supportive, I couldn't ask for a better learning environment! (Someone please tell her that this is the opposite of embarrassing.)
AW: What's the most "extra" fashion-related thing you've ever done?
AM: I think when I walked in the SLAM Vogue fashion show as a model, that was the most ridiculous fashion-related thing I've ever done. André Leon Talley asked, no, rather, told me I was walking in the show (even though I was a foot shorter than all the models!), and I had to go with it. The whole thing was absolutely nuts, and I'll tell you something: gliding down a runway in heels with a fierce look on your face is SO much harder than it looks, especially when you have to step double-time to keep up with those long-legged gazelle-humans. (I can vouch for the ridiculousness of these "long legged gazelle-humans.")