Amanda deLeon's moody yet structured designs have made her a darling of the New Orleans fashion scene. At NOLA Fashion Week, her shows routinely pack the house. The architecture student-turned-fashion designer is drawing attention from beyond the Big Easy. Next month, she debuts her fall 2014 collection, LaNouvelle-Orléans, at New York Fashion Week (NYFW).
Here, deLeon talks about what this means for her career as a designer and the fashion industry for New Orleans as a whole.
Congrats on showing at New York Fashion Week! How did you accomplish this?
One day I was contacted via LinkedIn by a PR girl with amazing credentials. She is a creative director/contributing fashion editor with Condé Nast as well as a PR representative for some incredible high-end brands. She loved my work and said it had an edge she hasn't seen before. We continued casual phone conversations over several weeks. She fell in love with my inspiration of New Orleans and how intriguing the city is, and we began working together. Before all that, she posted my work on a private account so she could get feedback from her industry connections. She said the response was amazing and she was positive she wanted to help me.
My publicist decided a full-on presentation [at NYFW] would be more impactful, due to the heaviness of my inspiration. … She has been setting up sponsorships and a venue for all of this to take place. She has been a real asset to achieving what I could not.
What does a day in the life of a fashion designer look like for you?
Sometimes I get up, have breakfast and jump straight to answering emails. And then it's nothing but that and phone meetings all day. This is what it has been like as of late. Some days I get straight to work in my studio, fixing patterns, sewing mock ups, testing ideas. We have been shooting for the short film that will wrap this Sunday. Then, back to pushing for more KickStarter donations. When that is over, I can go back to sewing and fishing up with tweaks to my collection.
You say your inspiration is heavy. Can you tell us more about your influences?
The Amanda deLeon FW2014 collection began with inspiration from John Boutte and Paul Sanchez’s song, “Foot of Canal Street.” The cemeteries of New Orleans are so beautiful and rich with architecture. After musing over the idea of a New Orleans burial, my line developed based on my feelings and experiences of not only death, but also my struggles with religion, depression and anxiety. Essentially, it is a collection based on what I would want people to wear to my own funeral.
What are your goals as a designer?
I don't want to conform to the fashion industry norm — I'm not planning on creating four collections every year. I'll leave that to the big fashion houses. I take great care in designing my pieces, and I don't want to have to rush through and end up producing meaningless drivel. I want to grow my business with care, to be able to create jobs by building a team of sewers. I want to live a comfortable life here in New Orleans.