By Marcy Clark
Shauntele Richardson is one of the winners of our “Are You Runway Ready?” contest and was featured in our Fall/Winter 2010 Fashion Show at Tela Design Studio. Her line Shauntelé is deliciously feminine, luxuriously well-made, perfectly tailored and quite modern.
From her first design internship at Nikka to her experience tailoring for the likes of Jessica Simpson and Judy Reyes, Shauntele has developed a style ushering in a new phase of appreciation for the female form. The lines are flattering yet concealing as she strives to highlight a woman’s very best assets. Jorge Ramon, former fashion editor of Teen People, has called her collection “newsworthy,” while women in the know, such as Ivanka Trump, are taking note of this new fashion gem.
Enjoy our Q&A with Shauntele below and contact her to order from her Spring or Fall Collections!
Q: Where did you learn to design and how has your aesthetic evolved over time?
A: That’s the first question?! Of course I think I’m expected to name FIT or Parsons as an alma mater but the truth is that I’ve only taken one illustration class and one sewing course. The rest is self taught through internships, past work experience as well as guidance from family and friends. I pick up any little fragment of knowledge, continue collecting it and depositing in into a mental reservoir I carry with me everyday. As I persist my aesthetic becomes more true to the woman I see myself becoming: a wife, a mother, an entrepreneur, a voice in the community. All of those roles are so common amongst all women, it comes across in my silhouettes that i am designing for them and I am confident in the direction I am headed.
Q: You are mostly a one woman show, how do you handle it all?
A: I have a lot of people rooting for me to make it and so willing to give of their own talents without pause. Honestly and gratitude, coupled with an almost unwavering loyalty, has equipped me with an unimaginable, invisible “line of credit” amongst my colleagues of the garment district. In my earlier days, assistants doubled as models and day jobs became a cover for my designer alter ego. I would stay absurdly late at the office to print everything from lookbooks to garment tags. I think the more I have to do the quicker my mind works to make it happen, in theory anyway. Besides, I have to handle it, I’ve got something to prove.
Q: When did you realize you could make your passion your career? Is designing in your blood?
A: When I saw someone making an awful mess of their own fashion label, I thought to myself I see what they are doing wrong and it takes less time to do it right. I began seeking out people in the fashion industry who were sincere, helpful and humble. I knew that fashion could be more than superficial, it could be extremely intellectual and empowering. In the end all I want is for a garment to enhance a person’s mood, their appearance and their confidence. The women in my family used to make all their own clothes and still recount wonderful stories of them stepping into a dance as a trio of sisters with the best outfits in the place. The mental image of the creativity, class and fun they must’ve had is something that always keeps me inspired.
Q: What energizes you? Where do you go to find new inspiration when designing a
A: It almost never begins with a visual inspiration. First I seek out the music. In my head the the melodies begin to suggest bodies and colors. I later come across an artist like Tamara de Lempicka or Henri Rosseau who appear to embody the visual aesthetic of a song or genre I’ve recently discovered. In my teenage years I wanted to be a singer and would always put together outfits to help the audience understand me as an artist. Even till this day I want my appearance to give people a clear understanding of who I am. A picture is worth a thousand words, so why should we be afraid for people to judge us by our appearance?
Q: You are sponsored by the Garment Industry Development Corp with a space in Showroom New York, because you make your clothes in New York’s garment industry. Why do you feel it is important that the Garment Industry remain in Manhattan?
A: Showroom New York has played a huge role in my collection over the past year. The designers that make up the collective are dedicated to seeing one another succeed and we make it happen by sharing our resources, criticism and encouragement. It would be impossible for us to do so if the Garment District became spread out over the 5 boroughs because zoning laws are forcing manufacturers out. I’ve had to do a lot with very little formal training, the pattern-makers and seamstresses who have supported me since my eager intern days are invaluable to me. They see my vision as well as expand it. Innovation is what happens when ideas are thrust into the air making the atmosphere fertile for a surprise, a movement. Right now fashion is stale, but at Showroom New York there is so much to taste. People are looking for something new and we are what’s new.
Q: Lastly, and please don’t be shy, what can the Women’s Mafia make happen for you?
A: As if I wasn’t already fawning over Women’s Mafia and how great your approach is to supporting new talent. First, you can get me a tape of your awesome appearance on NBC. Second I think Women’s Mafia can help forge a solid connection to women who’ve been seeking out the aesthetic that Shauntele represents which is elegant with just the right bit of sexy to get a room buzzing.