from hats to haute couture:
INTERVIEW WITH NOFW TOP DESIGN COMPETITOR
BY: LORI LEDAY
Each year, a group of diverse and talented designers come together to showcase their collections and compete in the highly anticipated Top Design Competition at New Orleans Fashion Week. It's a competition we at this magazine look forward to seeing on the runway. This year, we had the pleasure of chatting with one of these competitors, Mimi Holaday. Having already made a name for herself designing hats, Mimi gave us the scoop on where she feels her hometown of New Orleans stands in the fashion industry as well as what inspired her first collection of women's apparel.
FELICITY: When and how did you get started in fashion? MIMI: My mother was a runway model for local boutiques and department stores when I was young. She had beautiful clothes and hats. I was always very opinionated about fashion and style, telling her what to do with her wardrobe. As I got older, I found some creative freedom in New Orleans’ music culture, making costumes for myself and other performers for various events, like House of Blues and local concerts and festivals.
FM: Why hats? How did you get interested in that field of design? MH: I've always worn hats since I was a child. I studied design and worked in various areas of the industry from knitwear to textile design, and lingerie. It wasn't until my trip to London, in 2014 when I bought a hat I loved so much I wore it everyday for like 8 months, that I thought to myself, "I need to be making hats." I took a class in California and was instantly hooked. I’ve been doing that for about two years now.
FM: Tell me a little bit about your line for NOFW. What inspired it? MH: This collection is under my label Halo Mimi. While I’ve been making hats for a few years now, it is my first collection of women’s apparel. As the collection developed I wanted to maintain an ethereal vibe, a kind of "tribe of angels" feeling. There's lots of contrasting elements at play here, like transparent clear vinyl with fringe, chiffon, silk jersey and woolly fleece. I love the juxtaposition of using an ostrich feathered vest beneath a vinyl corset belt. Throughout you'll see elements of soft and hard, like chunky Venetian lace draped over a vinyl peplum or a beaded cape. For silhouette, I wanted to have very feminine shapes throughout with big shoulders and small waists.
FM: How is New Orleans an inspiration to your design aesthetic? MH: Having moved around the US quite a bit, I've randomly had people ask me if I was from New Orleans. That always shocked me. How did they know? I think growing up here we have a certain flare. There's something just a bit more radiant and care free about us. There's a lot of charm and elegance to the southern belle, and all her frills and fuss. Nola reminds me of a J. Gatsby party. There’s lots of vintage, old world glam, and turn of the century fashion still happening here because of our jazz heritage. There are definitely elements of that throughout this collection.
FM: Having been well traveled, in your opinion where does NOLA stand in the fashion industry? MH: New Orleans is famously known for cultivating great art. It is more commonly know for music and food. We have a slight disadvantage as trends tend to travel here later, but maybe that's because there's such an abundance of creative freedom here in costume and wearable art, that people don't really follow the curve like the rest of the world. We are gaining much more traction thanks to some fashion pioneers (Tracee Dundas) since hurricane Katrina, who are organizing events and helping the city to become more organized in its fashion presence.
FM: Any crazy quirks that get you through a long day of designing/sewing? MH: Being in a state of play is the best way to get results. Playing music helps a lot! When you are excited about something, the grueling hours tend to become less of a burden. I get lost in that mind frame, next thing I know it's dawn.
FM: What do you hope to gain from showing a line at NOLA fashion week? MH: My dream was always to show my first collection in my hometown. I hope to gain some new friends, some business opportunities, exposure, and hopefully support from local fashion media. Next step would be to do some trade shows.
Catch Mimi's collection on the NOFW Runway Wednesday, March 22nd at the Civic Theater. Get tickets here!
Thumbnail image by: Brian Perkins