There are few things more powerful than a woman with enough fire inside of her to realize multiple dreams in one lifetime.
These ladies have each caught their second wind, now racing forward with fabric, thread and a clear vision for a new future in fashion. Meet the three winners of Fashion Week San Diego 2015.
The designers have been given the opportunity to show and sell pieces from their collections at a pop-up shop in La Plaza La Jolla (7863 Girard Ave., La Jolla) until Nov. 24, open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.
Marcie Bain - B.JASH.I
Drawing from both Native American and Danish backgrounds, Marcie Bain designs with a reflection of her deeply diverse cultural roots and creative impulses. Bain is the force behind B.JASH.I, an apparel label in San Diego named after her four children: Bradley Jon, Ashleah, Ashawnee and Ishi.
"One reason that I make couture wear is because of my family; my aunties and elders were always basket weaving, doing all the intricate work by hand," said Bain. "Something of quality cannot be replicated. Some of my pieces take three to four days to make, and some take two weeks to a month."
This devotion to the art started when Bain attended FCC, Fashion Careers of California, but her designs were quickly put on hold for her children and career. In a fresh wave of inspiration, Bain applied to show at Fashion Week San Diego in 2013, but wasn't accepted. She returned in 2014 though, and made the cut as director Allison Andrews said to her, "I'm so glad you came back. I want you in the show this year." "I always continued to sketch and do textile designs. I never gave up on that passion," said Bain.
This year, Bain was voted the number-one designer at Fashion Week San Diego 2015.
"I think I was out of the loop for 15 years," remarked Bain on the power of persistence. "All of my stuff has been on trend this year though, with bright hues and colors inspired from the medicine world."
Much of Bain's heritage is revealed in her pieces, which span the gamut from showy, bright gowns to versatile, cozy ponchos. Growing up in Happy Camp, a rural town in Northern California, she was surrounded by nature and drew inspiration from the outdoors.
"For me the hardest part is narrowing down an idea," said Bain. "Right now, I am thinking about the sage plant and trying to turn that into a 3D textile. I'm trying to think of new ways to bring those to life on the garment without looking too costume-y and trying to make jewelry pieces that will go with that."
What's up next for B.JASH.I? Bain plans on moving to the East Coast to open a storefront in New York. She's also adding leather handbags and clutches in her next fall line and wants to try a shoe line, as well. "My fall 2016 collection will feature more of my luxury knitwear. I have my own knit machine. I'll be doing everything in-house."
At the pop-up shop in La Plaza La Jolla, shoppers can purchase her tribal ponchos, shawls, plaid scarves and place orders on some of the couture pieces.
Fatsani Dogani - TaSanni
Africa isn't largely recognized as a main fashion hub, at least not yet. But San Diego designer Fatsani Dogani (and her partner Tariro based in Dallas) is seeking to change all that with their label, TaSanni.
The collaboration between the two childhood friends from Africa started just a year-and-a-half ago when Dogani had a revelation after receiving colorful, traditional clothing from her mother in Malawi.
"She would send me outfits made from prints that I don't normally wear here," said Dogani, who is also a full-time nurse in San Diego at Sharp Memorial Hospital. "For me, having grown up all over the place, I just don't relate to that kind of style." So Dogani, with no background in fashion whatsoever, decided to create a collection using the African prints in apparel made for modern women on-the-go.
The catch? Dogani wanted to ensure that all of the clothes would be manufactured in Africa. The entire TaSanni line in fact, is designed in the U.S., but manufactured in limited quantities in Southern Africa, as the two founders of TaSanni seek to give back to the continent economically. That means multiple trips each year for Dogani to supervise production and ensure ethical business practices are in play.
The challenges Dogani faces with this long-distance partnership include overcoming the style traditions in Africa, where up until very recently, women were not allowed to wear pants or shorts. The pieces from the TaSanni collection may defy some of the African customs, but Dogani is persistent to make sure they're constructed correctly despite cultural differences.
"I think the biggest thing is that people have an image of African designs in their head, and then they see our clothes and how we've used the African print into everyday wear. They realize they can actually wear it," said Dogani. "We were trying to be practical because we are working women and moms, and we think about how to transform a look into something else just by adding a blazer or jewelry."
Dogani's vision is to have other designers follow her lead and manufacture in Africa, providing employment possibilities in the communities there. "We were fortunate to come to the States to find education and work. The focus has to change from us always giving a handout. That's where we come in and say that we have opportunities for them to grow."
In the meantime, the duo is just starting out as a women's clothing line and eventually plans to add a maternity line. At the recent Fashion Week San Diego 2015 show, TaSanni was voted the second place collection, leading Dogani to gain exposure through events and learn the business side of running a store, an invaluable experience for this emerging designer.
At the shop in La Plaza La Jolla, she is taking pre-orders on the spring collection and selling some items from the runway, including handcrafted jewelry.
Territa Torres - Territa Torres Designs
Territa Torres knew that once she set her mind on designing, she would jump in feet first with one big end goal: to one day see her designs displayed on a mannequin at the Smithsonian.
It's the kind of determination you might only see in someone who has worked in the United States Navy for nine years as an Information Systems Technician, as Torres did before pumping the breaks and veering into the world of fashion.
"I really learned how to sew and thread a machine when I started attending The Art Institute of California - San Diego," said Torres. "I wanted to make sure that I was considered a respectable designer and took my classes very seriously. I pretty much went into orientation with a mindset that I was going to learn the craft inside and out and respect all of the tools."
Torres' first full fashion show was at Fashion Week San Diego earlier this year, and her collection took third place in the competition. The sleek silhouettes tailored to perfection on the runway showed off her eye for design, with pleating strategically placed to create slimming looks and lightweight fabrics clinging to every curve. Fitted dresses and separates such as pants, shorts and tops are created by Torres with a confident, sexy woman in mind.
"I've always been a fan of architecture. In school, I learned about pleats, and I thought they were a nice detail, but you only see them on bridesmaid dresses and cheerleader outfits," said Torres. "I wanted to try and reinterpret the pleat. I would sit and sketch and try and put the pleat in different areas. That grew into a bunch of new designs in my collection."
Setting herself apart from the flowy styles of other designers, Torres' pieces are structured and form-fitting, stemming from her admiration of modern art and costumes in old films.
Currently, Torres is enjoying her recent recognition and spot in the pop-up shop at La Plaza La Jolla. She's building up a clientele list with local celebrities, creating a website and hopes to start online orders soon.
Shoppers can purchase some of Torres' most popular designs in the shop right now, including the Margaret navy blue pants with pleating and the Demi dress, both available in sizes four, six and eight.