Soon after winning an Emerging Memphis Designer Project (EMDP) Audience Choice Award at Memphis Fashion Week (MFW) for the second year in a row, designer Tara Skelley
took the hint and made her mini-collection available to wear off the runway and, conceivably, off to the glamorous places where her tropical prints were destined to be.
One of the key prizes offered to EMDP winners is access to fashion education through a scholarship to the Memphis College of Art fashion program. With her clothing line Dilettante Collection
, Tara essentially has launched a serious career in fashion, fulfilling the intent of Memphis Fashion Week in nurturing new talent.
Here, Tara speaks more about her win and models the summery pieces in her collection, showing that her designs are a true extension of her own personal style — “feminine and polished but with a bold and eclectic twist.”
What new things have developed for you particularly in fashion from the 2014 MFW EMDP mini-collection win?
During the preparation for MFW 2014, it occurred to me that if I was taking the time and energy to illustrate my own fabric designs, source materials, and create patterns, then why not make my designs available to a larger audience. The positive feedback I received from the MFW experience provided me with the confidence and motivation to actually pursue it and shortly thereafter, I launched the web store, www.DilettanteCollection.com
You said the inspiration for this year's MFW runway collection came from a vintage postcard. Can you describe this postcard a little more in detail and how it translated to the collection? (See a glimpse of the postcard in Look 2 above.)
Last fall, I discovered a vintage postcard at a favorite bookstore in Seaside, Florida. I was designing the mini-collection at the time and the image helped to crystallize what I wanted the collection to be: breezy and bohemian, but with a touch of sophisticated vintage glamour. I've also been inspired by some of my favorite travel destinations. In fact, every piece in the collection is named after a beach locale
, many of which I've been to and a couple that are still on the "to-travel" list. Have you added any new pieces to the collection since showing at MFW?
Yes, I added several more pieces to round out the Spring/Summer Collection but all of the additional pieces were created using either the signature prints or complimentary fabrics to maintain a cohesive feel. The St. Lucia Maxi, Hamptons Crop, Capri Skirt, Key West Dress, Palm Springs Party Dress are all new pieces not previously shown on the MFW runway. I even added pillow covers and iPhone cases to the mix, so there's something for everyone.
You also won the same award in 2013. How much feedback did you get from people who saw your collection last year and/or this year? Did any of that feedback get incorporated in your designs?
Last season, I think people connected with the fact that the pieces offered a dash of something interesting while still being very wearable, so I definitely tried to incorporate that into the current season. I also wanted to have a greater mix of special occasion pieces and casual pieces that could easily be incorporated into any wardrobe. But at the end of the day, I design what I personally would like to wear and focus on finding lovely fabrics and creating a beautiful fit. How did you first get involved in MFW?
I have volunteered with MFW since its inception. I first participated as a member of the Advisory Board and I was very excited to be a part of creating a dynamic event that would benefit the arts community while being an exciting and cosmopolitan event for Memphians to attend. MFW is a fabulous vehicle that connects the fashion community and as I've transitioned into designing, I've been privileged to meet so many local talented individuals from stylists and models to photographers and designers. Is fashion your full-time job or do you have other ventures?
I'm currently "retired" from my former career as a CPA. I work in events part-time, but for the past few months, my primary focus has been navigating the ins and outs of small business ownership and entrepreneurism. What's your typical day like? Do you spend a good bit of time in a studio environment to design or create any pieces?
There is no such thing as a typical day for me! Some days I might do a lot of work at the computer working on sales, marketing, and finances, and other days, I might be sewing fanatically at 2 am! When designing, I like to go someplace new and fresh to find inspiration and to free myself from distractions. But I also consistently spend a lot of time in a studio environment actually bringing the ideas to life, and that's the gratifying part. What type of woman are you designing for?
The Dilettante Collection client is a cosmopolitan and vivacious woman who is constantly expanding her horizons. She enjoys mixing styles and colors with confidence to create her own unique and sophisticated look. Any summer style tips to share?
Memphis humidity reigns supreme, so dressing for the heat is key. I love to wear breezy and feminine shapes, like a flowy maxi skirt, and stick to natural fibers that breathe like linen, cotton, or silk. Overly styled makeup, hair, and jewelry looks heavy and contrived, so lighten up for summer! But primarily, embrace the fashion freedom that summer inherently permits; it's the perfect excuse to wear bold prints and experiment with new silhouettes. Favorite local shops?
I love vintage, so I'm always prowling around Midtown and East Memphis estate sales, as well as Hoot & Louise, to find pieces to incorporate into a current look. I also love one-of-a-kind pieces with a story, so I enjoy scouting out accessories from other local designers. The lines carried by Southern Couture are fantastic and it's always a breeze to find a quality and interesting piece there as well. Is the floral dress (Look 3) a new piece you are working on? Is it a glimpse into the theme of the next collection
Yes, the floral dress is a new, one-of-a-kind piece from the Dilettante Custom Collection created from a sourced vintage fabric. I love creating unique pieces for special occasions! But I'm a consistent fan of florals and envision creating new fabric designs inspired by vintage finds with a modern color palette. So stay tuned for Spring 2015!
You can purchase through the Dilettante Collection
website. For updates on her new collection, upcoming trunk shows, and special offers, visit the Dilettante Collection website or social media links below.http://instagram.com/dilettantecollectionhttps://www.facebook.com/dilettantecollection
Look 1: Shorts, Dilettante Collection. Silk blouse, Hilton Hollis NYC. Wedges, Aldo. Earrings, vintage Hoot & Louise. Watch, Timex. Clutch, Lilly Pullitzer.
Look 2: Ivory silk tank, Dilettante Collection. Silk pant in signature print, Culebra pant, Dilettante Collection. (http://www.dilettantecollection.com/store/p3/Culebra_Pant.html) Earrings, Macy's. Necklace, Brave Design. Shoes, Steve Madden.
Look 3: Maxi floral dress, Dilettante Custom Collection, constructed from vintage fabric. Earrings and cuff, vintage family pieces.
Shoot Location: Dixon Gallery & Gardens