the silk nomad
an interview with featured new orleans fashion week designer michelle o'reagan
It's almost here! We're down to only 6 days until the kick off of new orleans fashion week! To give you a preview of what you can expect to see on the runway, we spoke with featured designer Michelle O'reagan. She gave us the scoop on her design rituals, New Orleans inspiration, and her dream celebrity client, bjork. Her line for NOFW, the Silk Nomad, was inspired by her own backpacking adventures through North Africa, Spain, and Portugal several years ago, in addition to her investigation into Mongolian culture after watching the Netflix series, Marc Polo. She also sourced materials from a broad range of international locations such as China and North Africa. You can catch Michelle's line on the runway, Friday, March 18th at the New Orleans Board Of Trade.
Describe your design process. How do you turn your inspiration into the final product?
My design process for each collection is unique, but a common thread during my last two collections has been fully realizing a majority of the looks in Prismacolor, ink, and Chartpak illustration pens and displaying them on foam core in my studio. I then move to draping or directly to pattern making depending on the style or individual item. I often wait to add finishing clasps, grommeting, or buttons until the collection is mostly complete as the search for the perfect hand-crafted details can be relentless.
Do you have any design rituals?
One indispensable design ritual is breaking often during long sews such as formal skirts or hand-stitching to do yoga outdoors. I also scan sites like vogue.com for inspiration several days before I start sketching, but don't save any images so that my collection stays original and pure.
What New Orleans places and/or events inspire you the most when it comes to designing?
fter living in many of the arenas of New Orleans, I find coming back into an area such as the Bywater, which is teeming with unique attitudes and vibrant house colors and murals, immensely inspiring. In addition, Halloween downtown, and the way that the entire culture plays into a symphony of exotic costumes and alter-egos sparks new ideas for both my fashion and costume design.
Over time, how have you seen your design aesthetic evolve?
Where do you see your designs going in the future? While I have pursued the arts for virtually my entire life, fashion design did not become my obsession until the last several years. My grandmother was an amazing seamstress and as a child I often crafted patterns while she did the sewing. In college, I made my own looks for the weekend when there was a desert of unique fashion design in the area. Then, I interned under a couple of designers who revolutionized the way I envisioned fashion. I began to take the craft and the planning more seriously as I saw the research and tickled the fine industrial machines in the design house of Kano (Kun Flama). In the future, I would like to pull swimwear back into my Spring/Summer or resort collections. I also plan to create my own fabric designs or commission tribal artisans who specialize in processes like batik.
If you could design an outfit for a celebrity, who would it be and what would you design for them?
Designing for Bjork would be a dream job. Bjork creates whole new worlds when she parts her lips and I attempt to do the same when I pick up a needle and fabric. Not only are our philosophies similar, our gravitation toward creativity and unconventional materials would be unstoppable. I would create a red carpet look for Bjork utilizing a sleek shark-skin like fabric as I connect her strongly with the element of water.
What time period of clothing do you most identify with and why?
That would be a toss up between the androgynous yet delicate concoctions of the flapper era and the sumptuous details of the late Renaissance/ Elizabethans. I love the silhouettes of the corsetry and the textures of the fabrics and trims.
In five years where do you hope to be in your career? How do you think the fashion industry will be different in New Orleans?
In five years, I hope to be designing full time and focusing on ready to wear. I would like to continue to develop my online presence while expanding to boutiques and major stores as well. I would also like to focus on designing and pattern-making. I think the fashion industry will be more mature in several years in Nola. Fashion events will still be exotic and generate tons of publicity, but they will also be a staple of more people's must-attend list. I hope we will network more with the cities I love such as Austin, New York, and Charleston.