Showing during NYFW is a huge dream of many up and coming fashion designers. But few know how astronomically expensive and sometimes political the road to Lincoln Center can be. The fashion industry by nature can be an extremely treacherous place to navigate through and become noticed. Often times, indie designers with a true love for art and the craft of design aren’t recognized in lieu of more noted names. Fortunately for you, we have been on the prowl and have come across Chicago-based, Detroit born designer Laurie Underwood and her line Wanda Grace. This remarkable talent is definitely one to watch and support. Read our Q&A interview with the designer and be sure to follow and check out her line!
ColourByNumbr: Tell me about yourself!
Laurie Underwood: I am originally from Detroit, Michigan. I attended Cass Technical High School, where I could focus on Fashion Illustration and Design, as I had started illustrating at the age of nine. I was always so passionate about fashion, that I wanted to go to New York for design school. I had big dreams and I still do… What’s funny is, I never even thought about working for a fashion company, until I got to fashion school in Chicago. All of the fashion students were planning to work for big brands in New York…I decided to stay focused on my goal of having my own line.
CBN: How did you start your line?
LU: I never really planned it, it just happened because I had previously positioned my mindset to make it happen. So while in design school, I participated in local fashion shows and eventually started designing Lycra dresses. I was designing by the bootstraps…When someone wanted a dress, they would purchase it and I would use those funds to purchase the material and get started on producing the item myself. Eventually, I had outgrown that process and started wanting more for myself and my brand. I’m not where I’d like to be just yet, but the idea is to continue to grow and maintain my brand, while designing quality pieces that speak style.
CBN: What caused you to live and work in Chicago versus a larger market like NY or LA?
LU: I got the letter that the FIT was full for Fall 2003 and that’s when plan B came into play, which was to move to Chicago and attend the Illinois Institute of Art. But everything happens because that’s how it’s supposed to happen. I’m glad I was not accepted into FIT. I feel like being in Chicago, Wanda Grace can stick out, rather than being in New York, where everybody is climbing on the same small ladder. Besides, I wouldn’t have my daughter had I moved to New York….she’s the best!
Hi my name is Kori, and I am a makeup stan. I love beauty and I LOVE people who share the same passion as I do. Instagram phenom and professional makeup artist Drini Marieis one amazing artist who undoubtedly is in it for the love of the game, and I admire her work and willingness to share with other budding MUA’s. Driniwho hails from LA, studied fashion merchandising and design with dreams of creating a line of affordable clothing for plus-sized women before diving into the world of beauty. She shared that makeup was something she stumbled upon, and that “…it was something that literally just happened and when I realized there was major potential to make real money from it, I tackled it head on and here I am today. ” And thank God she did!
Makeup is such a beautiful art form. To experience transforming someone and often watching their confidence blossom in a matter of minutes is priceless. Most people view makeup artistry with such disdain, but don’t realize the impact it has on women who weren’t born with flawless skin and to some, amazing features. And while I’m all about universal beauty and the uniqueness in non-conventional beauty, some women feel more confident with makeup on, so to be a part of that is a blessing.
Beauty According to Drini
I feel like we were born natural and we’ll die natural, so I live to spice it up in between. Why not go there? Obviously I cater to the needs and requests of my clients and can go from bare to THERE, but I’m all for the art of it all……color, glitter, highlighting, contouring and so on! Whatever makes you happy!
On Her Biggest Inspirations
Well I’m inspired by artists like Kevyn Aucoin, Sam Fine, Scott Barnes, Billy B, Pat McGrath……artists who have bridged the gap between couture and editorial seamlessly. But I’m also inspired by visually appealing references such as fabric, landscapes, abstract art, etc. I can create a look from pretty much any visual reference.
The Big Picture
My master plan is essentially to create my own line of cosmetics, practical and essential with a touch of glam. I would also love to take makeup classes worldwide. There are aspiring artists all over the world who lack the confidence, key techniques and products, to really move forward in their careers because they don’t have the resources and people who care enough to teach them.
Advice For Budding MUA’s
My advice to all mua’s is to pace yourself. Never be afraid to work under someone and invest in yourself, whether that be purchasing quality products, classes or advertising. And most importantly, remain humble and keep God at the forefront.
Her Fantasy Celeb Makeover
I would have loved to do Cher’s makeup back in the 70’s. She was absolutely, 100% not afraid of color, glitter, lashes or glam…..like she was a makeup artists dream!
Drini on her Beauty Pet Peeves
Harshly drawn on eyebrows aren’t my fave, but everyone from time to time can have a heavy hand. Super matte foundation irritates my life b/c it makes women look casket ready. And I don’t like when eyelashes don’t sit properly on ones natural lash line.
Check out even MORE of Drini’s work and find out her MUST HAVE products!
Don’t you just love her! Be sure to follow @missdrini on social media.
Heidi Denha, of Heidi D. Cosmetics is a force to be reckoned with. The Arizona born, self taught MUA with a degree in business management, literally fell into her role as CEO of a her own cosmetic label. Starting out with zero experience doing makeup, Heidi found her niche and has since been recognized by countless publications including Vibe Vixen and Glamour. She currently works from 6 Salon in downtown Royal Oak. But enough from me, read on to hear directly from Heidi!
What would happen if fashion and faith meet? This is the question that Jireh DeJose a fashion and Jesus loving blogger seeks to answer. Jireh or Ji for short is an extremely talented fashion designer with a killer sense of style. Coincidentally Ji and I met at work but really didn’t “meet” until I saw her out and about at a local fashion show. From there, our friendship and shared love of God and fashion took off. I am certain that the two of us crossing paths and being able to work side-by-side daily is no coincidence. Ji is extremely hardworking and even more dedicated to her mission of sharing God in a stylish way! To boot, this girl never has an off day fashion-wise either, and that is no small feat considering we are required to be up and fully functional at 5am. To watch her work is to witness her passion first-hand. Whenever we have a moments break whether it be for a few short minutes or while at lunch, it’s not unusual to see Jireh pouring herself over the latest inspirational book, or typing away feverishly on her iPad in order to meet a deadline or get a story posted. Whatever your religious preference, I am certain that you will be able to take something away from my interview with fashionMeetsGod that you can apply to your life. So without further adieu please meet my dear friend, Ms. Jireh DeJose!
There’s no such thing as an overnight success, especially in the world of fashion. It can take years of effort before an individuals’ talent is fully recognized. Right now Detroit based fashion stylist and denim designer Marvin Deshawn Neal or Marv Neal is finally receiving his due credit, but what most don’t know is that Neal has quietly been honing his craft for quite some time now. This shouldn’t be surprising coming from someone born into a fashion family full of seamstresses and tailors, Marv’s love for style literally is apart of his DNA. Neal even admits that his love for fashion, “… was always there. It was always about fashion even in the 90s or in high school or even as far back as elementary, there was nothing else I wanted to do…” As the saying goes, hard work pays off, and in the case of Mr. Neal the saying proves true. Enough of hearing me talk, meet Marv for yourself. Continue on to learn a little more about the man behind the hanger.
How Did You Start?
That’s kinda hard to narrow down… friends would ask me to help them with their outfits when we were partying hard, and my cousins had a rap group called D.M.B, I would dress them for shoots or they would come get my clothes …. But professional wise it was with the help of my friends that knew my love for styling or having a eye so when someone was having a shoot or needed someone to go shopping for them they would call around 2010 . I just built as I went from having a small Polo Book bag with all of my things to vista print cards showing that I was serious about the gig .
Why Fashion? What draws you to this crazy industry?
Aww man I don’t know its just always been my first love and I’ve never fell out of love with her lol I think my family always knew i would do something within the industry cause while all the other kids were playing i was making sure i was fresh back then I wanted the older folks in the hood to say lil man you fresh you know
How would you describe your own personal style?
Jeanous lol Jean.ous/Gen-yes/Noun Something Or Someone embodying originality,creativity to a degree that is beyond this world. Marv Neal….Jeanous but no seriously I love high and low end fashion. The ghetto chicness of it. You know, sort of like if you are from a working class family and always dream of the whole Brooks Brothers suit but can afford the coat so you have to make it work from there. Thats me, I keep it simple and i turn it up a notch .
Did you face any challenges developing your brand?
Not really or maybe cause I still feel like I’m building but its no more challenging than what any other stylist would face. I think cause I’m a man that does men and women’s fashion period there will be certain things people think or wonder, but I just let my work speak. It’s about the work really .
I’m not a huge fan of reality television; many of the situations and reality stars that are presented I feel are gross exaggerations of the truth. I’ve always question whether the people on them would act the same in real life. This past season of Project Runway, native Detroiter and self-taught seamstress Char Glover was a contestant and finalist during the Fashion Week finale at Lincoln Center. Now of course I watched to support my fellow Detroit fashionista, and actually became a fan of Char’s. Having had the chance to meet and talk to her on a few different occasions, I can wholeheartedly say that the vibrant and humble person that she appeared to be on Project Runway, is who she indeed is in real life. While interviewing Char for the blog, I asked my typical questions but received much more from our brief conversation. Aside from her time on Project Runway end experience running a thriving fashion label Char, has a gift, story, and was humble enough to share both her successes and shortcomings. I was inspired and learned a lot from our brief conversation and know that you will too.
How would you describe your style?
“My own personal style is definitely comfortable. I HAVE to be comfortable. I don’t care what it is, that is one of the driving forces when I decide what to wear. Shoes I don’t mind, clothes they have to be super comfortable. And I don’t like to dress like anyone else. So I like to be different and comfortable.”
What caused you to stay in Michigan vs. L.A. or NY?
I actually liked in LA for a year and a half. One of the things that keep me here and the reason I haven’t moved back as soon as I would like to, is because there is a gap as far as fashion is concerned. There are a lot of things going on as far as the redevelopment of fashion here but, it’s an open market and that’s one of the reasons I’m staying. It’s a total open market.
What inspires you to create new pieces?
I have this girl in my head that I call my fly girl, that I design for. I’m always thinking of what she would wear to a party or event. I don’t even have a face for her, but she is just that hot girl in the party that everyone is like WHERE did you get that jacket? So, that is usually my muse, I always try and design for the girl that is a showstopper. It’s kinda like ‘I know she just has on a sweatshirt, but I’ve never seen a sweatshirt like that.’
How was it being cast on Project Runway?
I think you are just in disbelief. When I got cast on the first episode when we were filmed the reaction was raw. We’re sitting there and she [Heidi] is saying names a with infamous Heidi pause. The one where she is slowly saying names and your stomach is literally at the bottom of your feet and you are just thinking “Please let her call me name.” You’ve prayed for that moment for her to call your name, and when she does, you are just in disbelief and you can’t believe it. You kind of feel like that for the first few weeks because of getting there and walking into the workroom that you’ve seen on tv and you just sort of have a moment. For the first week you are still in disbelief, it takes a minute for that high to wear off.
What did you learn about your design aesthetic and self from the experience?
I didn’t know I was that safe, I felt like I learned that I played it safe a lot when designing I saw that I needed to step outside of the box and believe in myself a bit more.
What the one thing you would tell someone who wanted to start a business or line?
Stop being scared, fear drives people more than they know. You also need to stop listening to people. People can only give you opinions from their perspective.You almost have to have a rebellious driving force behind you, almost like ‘I’m doing it not matter what nobody says.’ People can only give you what they have, if they aren’t going in that fields or direction, then they don’t see your vision like you do.
What is the biggest thing you have learned while in this crazy industry?
One thing that I’ve learned is that no opportunity ever goes wasted. You learn from other people, you have to pay your dues and hit your head. A lot of times people are so impatient. When you go through certain things and feel someone more have shortchanged you or not given you what you deserved, that is exactly what you needed at the time. That is your lesson. Those are the things that will strengthen you. A lot of time things that happen to us, happen for us.
Any crazy Chargrel Couture stories?
I was working with fashion stylist Olori Swank and we did a custom piece for Keyshia Cole, this was one of our first big hits right when she started taking off. Long story short, Keyshia wanted this fabric made from scratch and I actually made the fabric from scratch, I went and dyed it, I took the picture she gave me, downloaded and made. Not only did she want the one dress, but she also wanted a second one in green. And not to mention and I only had 4 days to get it to NY. When Olori texted me we literally didn’t know if she would even be wearing the dress for her appearance on 106 and Park. The outfit got there but we still had no idea if she would actually wear it. 7;30 Keyshia was supposed to walk out on stage, Olori texted me at 7:19 and said Keyshia took the outfit off and decided to wear something else. But she end up changing again and put the outfit back on at like 7:29. I couldn’t tell anyone until literally when she stepped foot on stage, it was that last minute. Everything had to line up perfectly.
Any Final words?
Rock with me! I love interacting with people that support the movement!
I know I’m not the only one who stans on social media over some of the beauty and fashion industries best. Well just recently the beauty stars aligned and I, Kori C. Fields…wait for it… got a chance to not only meet Alexandra Butler (@themuaalex)- one of my favorite MUA’s – but also got the opportunity to assist and pick her brain during her Beautiful Face: Makeup 101 Tour. The entire experience from start to finish was life-changing (I’m dramatic) and I really learned a lot in a short amount of time, like using Milk of Magnesia as a facial primer to combat oil and shine. Let me say that Alex is amazing not only because she is an absolute beast at makeup, but as a person too. She is extremely funny, humble, (so much so that she doesn’t like to be called a celebrity MUA) and willing to share her craft and story with whomever wants to know. Not many people are willing to do so for up and coming beauty enthusiast so I really appreciated her for sharing. Anywho, if you happen to be one of Alex’s 30K+ followers on Instagram, watch her tutorials on YouTube, or see her work on VH1’s hit reality show Love And Hip Hop Atlanta, it is easy to lose sight of her journey. Like most people I interview, I was intrigued not such much with the success that Alex currently has, but in the how. That is where a person’s true character is told, and where I always draw the most inspiration. Mixing beauty and brains, Alex has a very unique story. Despite being an extremely creative child and always having to draw and doodle on anything she could get her hands on, Alex studied and pursued a career in Industrial Engineering. After working for a while, feeling unfulfilled, and absolutely hating her job she began posting makeup tutorial videos on Youtube and decided to try her hand at professional makeup by freelancing for MAC. Upon getting fired from her day job because of her lack of interest, she decided to pack up her life and move toAtlanta on a whim. In Atlanta, she continued to freelance for MAC eventually landing a job at the counter. It was a chance encounter with an industry producer that would later introduce her to the rapper Da Brat that thing’s would begin change. One major turning point that Butler accredits to her success occurred when she began tithing in church. Alex went on to reveal that she “worked for MAC for almost 3 years, and then I was able to open my wings to freelancing full-time. I was not trained, all self taught. I believe my first BIG break was working on set of Vh1’s Love and Hip Hop Atlanta. That was in February 2012.” As things picked up with LAHHATL Alex left the MAC counter and began working for herself full-time. Currently Alex has turned the makeup world upside down and is literally on a world tour teaching beauty to the masses through her Beautiful Face: Makeup 101 Tour. In between touring and teaching she still manages to find the time to BEAT the faces of countless women and men. If you get the chance to attend her class, I promise that it will be well worth your time. Her work speaks for itself and so does her and work ethic and drive.
Some of @themuaalex Beauty MUST HAVES!
Her Advice for Aspiring MUA and Entrepreneurs
My biggest advice is to not give up and to perfect your craft. Utilize the fact that you are not established so that you can practice and build your experience.
Her #1 beauty pet –peeve
I really take it personal when women have horrible eye brows or the extra fake looking brows, or if ladies don’t match their skin color correctly.
Follow Alex and check out her work! She also is really good about feedback and answering questions.
Photos courtesy of Alexandra Butler Facebook and Instagram @themuaalex