Sky's the limit

The city kicks off Fashion Week with five up-and-coming designers

By Christopher Muther
Globe Staff / September 24, 2009

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With the reboot of Boston Fashion Week and the seemingly endless string of fashion shows and events taking place here every week, the once smirk-worthy phrase “Boston’s fashion scene’’ doesn’t seem quite so comical anymore. A sure sign of growth can be seen this weekend as the city kicks off Boston Fashion Week, which begins tomorrow and runs through Oct. 2.

To help foster new local talent, organizers are hosting “The Launch,’’ a fashion show at the Boston Center for Adult Education on Sunday afternoon, spotlighting five of the city’s most promising up-and-coming designers. It’s the first time Boston Fashion Week has held this kind of event.

Standout graduates from the city’s fashion programs were asked to present their work to Fashion Group International of Boston, the organization that runs Boston Fashion Week. Hair, makeup, and modeling services are all being donating so these budding designers will have an opportunity to parade their clothes in a professional setting. For the record, there is no element of competition involved.

“Honestly, I’m just tired of competitions and reality shows,’’ says Boston Fashion Week founder Jay Calderin. “I wanted an environment that represents what the fashion industry is like in Boston. It’s more of a community. Many of the designers here actually work together often.’’

According to Calderin, the designers were also chosen for their wide range and diversity, which you can see firsthand Sunday from 3-5 p.m. Here’s a look at the city’s next wave of fashion talents.

NARA PAZ, 38, Woburn

Did growing up in Brazil affect the way that you look at fashion? It’s a bit different because fashion in Brazil is very important. People judge you by the way you look. They’re always wearing makeup, their hair is always done. Everyone is dressed up for work - even at the bakery they wear high heels to work. I’m from South Brazil, where all the supermodels are from. I went to many beauty contests when I was young. Fashion has been a big presence since I was a young girl.

You were already designing beachwear in Brazil, why did you decide to go to school in the United States? I needed to learn to sew, and make patterns. I went right to the manufacturing level in Brazil, but never really learned to sew.

What’s your fashion aesthetic? I really want to reach the high end of the market. I really like collections from couture houses that have a theme, and I’ve created a theme for my collection, which is the Renaissance. There’s a lot of hand sewing, so it’s very couture. Sometimes I look at my clothes and think “This isn’t a piece of clothing, it’s a piece of art.’’

Whom do you see as your customer? I design for a person who is very chic and sophisticated, and not afraid to wear clothing that is different. They have to have an attitude to wear my clothes and be comfortable in them.

Why did you decide to stay in the area? My husband has his office here in Boston, but we also have big plans. Maybe next year we might move to New York or LA. But it is good to start here in Boston. It’s a lot less expensive to have a design studio here.

PAVLINA GILSON, 38, Manchester-by-the-Sea

How do you think growing up in the Czech Republic influenced the way that you look at fashion? Fashion was something that I always wanted to do, but when I was back home I never really thought I’d be able to do it. When I moved here and I met my husband, he gave me the courage and the confidence to go for it.

What’s your fashion aesthetic? I usually focus on a timeless silhouette, and really play with different textures and materials. I also like using materials that you normally wouldn’t think about using together. My line, called Priemlov, is a balance. It’s not overpowering when you keep the silhouette simple.

Do you remember the first piece of clothing that you made? I think I was making a top. I was just putting different pieces of fabric together and I just wanted to do it fast. I remember that my father, who was a tailor, was always trying to tell me the steps to take if I wanted the garment to fit well. I just wanted to do it my way. And now, looking back, he was right. I’m much more like him now.

Whom do you see as the customer for your clothes? I’d say 20s, 30s, and up. I don’t really have one age group. An older woman or a younger woman could wear my designs, the piece just might need some adjustments. It would also be a woman who is not afraid and likes to stand out. I think my garments catch attention.

Why stay in Boston? The primary reason is my husband. But I also like it here. There are opportunities here. It doesn’t always have to be just New York. I also get inspired by the area where I live, the ocean and the quiet.

EDDI PHILLIPS, 43, Southbridge

Given that you’re 43 and you graduated last year, it sounds like you had a career change. What were you doing before you went to the School of Fashion Design? I was an accountant, but fashion is something that I’ve always loved. Accounting was a job to pay the bills. I finally said, enough is enough, I’m changing. I got my midlife crisis over with early. I’m a creative person, and there’s nothing creative about accounting.

What’s your fashion aesthetic? I mostly make cocktail and evening wear. I like clean lines, but I also like punches of color and unexpected details.

Do you remember the first thing that you designed? I was 8 years old, and it was a pirate costume. My mom didn’t think it was so cute. I made it out of her drapes. Even though I ruined her curtains, she encouraged me to continue.

Why did you decide to stay around the area and not move to New York? I don’t think you necessarily need to be in New York anymore. There are a lot of fashionistas in Boston.

MILLE BAUTISTA, 24, Jamaica Plain

What’s your fashion aesthetic? I feel like it’s still evolving. For my senior thesis at MassArt, I made a collection of evening wear inspired by the 1940s. I like to concentrate on texture, so I worked with fabric layering. The collection I’m working on for this show is again inspired by the 1940s. I wanted to take ideas from that era, but make it not as dressy. I wanted a more laid-back sophistication. Something that could work from day into night.

What is it about the 1940s that captivates your imagination? It’s funny, but I don’t know. I really like the high-waisted trousers, the sleeves. It’s a very feminine look. I don’t know what it is. I wish I could articulate it.

It’s not an underlying love of the Andrews Sisters or the Glenn Miller Orchestra that inspires you? I wish it was. I’m still trying to figure it out.

Whom do you see as your customer? I want to aim it at anyone and everyone. I don’t think this collection is aimed at a particular person. If I was to give it an age, it would be a young adult, 20-something to 30-something. But I hope it’s not that limited.

What’s the first piece of clothing you remember designing? I was 11, and my dad was a tailor. He would sew garments that I designed. I would sketch them for him, and he would make them. I remember the very first thing of mine that he sewed was a top and a matching bottom, and it was in the nastiest looking fake satin fabric. It was awful. It was very skimpy for an 11-year-old to be wearing.

Why have you decided to stick around and design in Boston? I think it’s about time that Boston got some recognition. There’s a lot of great schools here that have produced a lot of fantastic talent. I’m really hoping we can get Fashion Week going strong in Boston.

ELENA SANDERS, 23, Watertown

Tell me about the inspiration behind the clothes you’ll be showing this weekend. It was my senior collection at Mount Ida, and I was inspired by a movement called steampunk, it’s a subgenre. It’s fun because I get to work with a lot of nontraditional materials, like metal. It’s pretty much anything goes.

You probably get asked this all the time, but what is steampunk? I get asked that about 10 times a day, and every time I give a different answer. I don’t really know how to describe it because it’s so ingrained in me. It deals with time travel and Victorian-era technology that’s powered by steam. It’s like if you time-traveled from the Victorian era into the future and everything was steam-powered, dirty, and old.

I’m picturing lots of coal-stained faces and dust. How do you work different materials into your pieces without them becoming too much like costumes? Well, sometimes they do become a little bit like costumes. I just experiment with a lot of different materials, and my hands pay dearly for it. They’re always cut up and burned. The first time around I used basic metal. This time around I’m using rivets and I’ve taken apart several old clocks and reassembled the parts.

Do you remember the first piece of clothing you created as a child? I made myself a crayon outfit out of a pink towel and this cone that I wore on my head. I walked around and said that I was a pink crayon.

Why stay in Boston to design and not move to New York? New York stresses me out. I like to go there to visit my friends because all of my friends moved there. But I know that New York really isn’t for me. I like Boston much more.

Tickets for “The Launch’’ are $25. The show takes place at the Boston Center for Adult Education, 122 Arlington St., 617-267-4430. For details, visit