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Friday, August 22, 2014

DESIGNER INTERVIEW: Discover Damsel White Label by Natalie Harris

Friday, August 22, 2014 - by Shalanda Turner · - 0 Comments

"Tradition for the sake of tradition has been sidelined in favor of showcasing the personality of the bride and the groom."

I first met Natalie Harris at FGI-Houston's mixer event at Straits restaurant in City Centre.  I approached her to tell her about and she showed me her cool lookbook for Damsel White Label. I really liked her design aesthetic for bridal. I like to call it edgy and rebellious, but it's also fun! Natalie invited me to view her runway show at the Houston Bridal Extravaganza a few weeks ago and I had the chance to interview Natalie on her career as a Bridal designer. 

Are you from Houston originally? If not, where are you from?
I'm from a cornfield in Carroll County, Indiana (approx. halfway between Indy and Chicago). My Dad is a beef and grain farmer. 

How long have you been designing?
I've been doing custom bridal since 2006, and launched the first season of Damsel White Label in 2013.

Are you self-taught or did you go to school for design? If school, where did you go and why?
Purdue University was very close to my hometown. I debated between there and the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. My junior year in high school, I attended Purdue’s student runway showcase, and I was hooked. Runway is like designer crack. But Purdue was a great choice because of the equal focus on business and the art of designing. I studied not only draping, but also retailing, marketing, accounting, etc. I knew I wanted a more commercial approach to design. In fact, I never really identified myself as an artist, per se, until (after some arm twisting) I opened my space at Silver Street Studios. 

Fashion is a funny business, as it is both manufacturing and art and when you add in the bridal element, that’s an entire industry as well!

How did you come up with the name Damsel White Label?
It took years. I wanted something that felt both luxurious and rebellious, delicate and bold. It finally came to me in a brainstorm after checking out a Diesel Black Gold runway show! The cocktail collection I named Damsel Maids, and I like how that hints at some Arthurian court. It's sort of noble.

What are your goals for Damsel White Label?
Mostly I’m just out to solve a problem – the utter lack of innovation and excitement in bridal fashion. Our timing is fortunate, as the trend toward hyper-personalization and DIY continues to be huge when it comes to planning a wedding. Tradition for the sake of tradition has been sidelined in favor of showcasing the personality of the bride and groom. I love that. I love being able to offer – truly offer – just about anything they can imagine.

Why Bridal fashion vs other design niches?
Part of it is the challenge, (or ego?) and honor of dressing a woman in a dress that epitomizes her style for all posterity. There was so much room for creativity that the bridal industry left untouched.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I just use the collection as my outlet to experiment. I’m constantly playing with new techniques, new fabrics, & new details. In the past year, I've added custom textile design/printing and rhinestone embellishment. Currently, I’m working on designing my own lace pattern. I have a bride that wants skull lace. How rock and roll is that!? I was like, “YES, PLEASE?!”. 

However, in the midst of all that experimentation, my muse is always in front of mind. The Montrose/Heights/EaDo (distinct neighborhoods of Houston) brides who are old enough to be confident in themselves.  I describe the collection as a fusion of Grace Kelly and Gwen Stefani, and I think that sums it up beautifully. It’s about the balance of pushing the envelope, but with sophistication.

How many collections do you do a year?
In theory, on, but when it came time for Spring, I was too full of new ideas. Two seasons a year is typical for bridal, though most small lines just do Fall.

Any plans to do something other than Bridal fashions?
Actually, I've been sprinkling more casual dresses into Damsel Maids. I’m starting to feel like it could spin off into a day dress collection. I despise the concept of bridesmaids' dresses as a one-time-wear garment, and the existing styles are all great cocktail styles, but it makes sense to offer something for the less formal affairs as well. I also want to create some print ties & pocket squares for men as well. 

Do you design any of your own clothes?
Only formal wear. It’s hilarious how little personal interest I take in sportswear and day to day fashion. Though, if I had the time, I’d just make myself a closet full of maxi and sundresses with random, quirky prints; like a squid or vintage circus posters. 

How did you link up with the Houston Brides' Bridal Extravaganza?
Back when I was engaged, I attended, as the thousands do. I also worked for another designer and then a bridal retailer before launching on my own line, so I was very familiar with the show. I knew it was where I needed to be, and I took a big risk to do it the first time.

What are your takeaways from showing at the Bridal Extravaganza? Was this your first runway show? If not, where have you shown before?

January was actually my first bridal runway show. It was the full DWL collection and it was at the Bridal Extravaganza.  I've shown at market in Chicago and Dallas, and came to realize that I understand the brides locally, here in Houston. It’s always amusing to note the brides I repel, as well as the ones I attract. I only get enthusiastic brides because the super traditional girls sometimes get scared by things like neon pink veils. Haha! I’m working to prove myself here first (in Houston), because store owners nationwide are still skeptical that my target client exists. The big brands will continue to lead the marketplace with their standard fare, but the trends I embrace are only gaining momentum. We’re in talks with a handful of stores now to open accounts this year.

Do you do custom gowns?
The Damsel White Label line is customizable, and I also offer a full Haute Custom Design service. I launched the collection, and it mainly served to grow my custom business. Go figure, haha!

Do you have any tips for new designers?
Maybe 10% of what I do is based upon what I learned in school. The rest is what I learned through observation and experience from working for established brands. I have a long list of things I knew I would do the opposite way from my last employer, but learned about how bridal manufacturers operate even in a retail setting. I have organizational systems in place like that of my first employer – pattern cataloging, accounting software, etc. Statistically, fashion entrepreneurs are doomed to fail. Appreciate the depth of that challenge and be prepared. Then expect your business to be a constant evolution of challenges and solutions.

Is there anything else you would like my readers to know about you and DWL?
We’re a locally manufactured brand! I love employing Houstonians and avoiding the hassles and ethical dilemmas inherent in manufacturing overseas. No designer is an island! Behind every quirky creative type, there’s a Type A to keep it all together. That’s my husband. Our toddler son pulls his weight, too.

You can follow Natalie and Damsel White Label on the following social media sites:
Twitter: (note, there's no "i")

Visit the Studio (by appointment evenings, weekend appts available):

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

EVENT RECAP: George Kotsiopoulos for Gap Fashion Show

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - by Shalanda Turner · - 0 Comments

To be honest, I don't think I've ever shopped at the GAP....not  once, but this all changed after August 10th. About 15 bloggers or so, were invited to attend the Gap Outlets' Fashion Show hosted by George Kotsiopoulos from E!'s Fashion Police at the Houston Premium Outlets.  We were invited to arrive before the show and interview George, and stay for the runway show.  I loved the looks that George styled for the models so much, that promptly after the show, I headed to the GAP Outlet and shopped liked crazy. It also helped that I won a $25 Gift Card that was taped under my chair!  As a plus-size gal, I always wonder if I can translate what I see on the runway into clothes for me, and was curious if I could even FIT into GAP clothes! Turns out, the GAP goes up to size 18! Yay! That's my size! Anyway, I left the outlets with a nice haul from he GAP and I can officially say that I've shopped at the GAP and it won't be my last time. 

After the blogger group interview (return to my blog later this week to read the interview) we took our seats for the show that started around noon. Prior to the fashion show, GAP and Houston Premium Outlets asked a couple local dance troupes to perform for the budding crowd around the tent that housed the fashion show. In addition to dance troupes, there were 4 people wearing GAP shirts and jeans on stilts, but they weren't the regular stilts that we're used to seeing...they were uber, fancy, hi-tech stilts.  They also helped attract a crowd to come see the show. 
To kick off the event, Houston Premium Outlets brought a couple local dance groups to perform before the show! They did a great job, but it was way too hot to be in those black outfits! 
GAP had models on these fun stilts! I kind of wanted to get on one. They look way more supportive than the traditional stilts. 
Strike a pose, there's nothin' to it! 
Since the fashion show was outside, each seat was prepped with hand fans for the guests to stay cool! 
Yummy mimosas and bottled water were also available to stay refreshed and cool! 
Cookies & Pastries

Once everyone took their seats it was time to start the show! The show, as mentioned was hosted by Style Expert and E!'s Fashion Police, George Kotsiopoulos and Stylists Ashley Dunn.
The first look reminded me of a high-school chic, especially with the varsity jacket- inspired cut and design of the cardigan. I loved it paired with the off-white jeans and the cute oxfords! 

Which look (s) did you like the best? 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

WHAT I WORE: Overalls

Sunday, August 17, 2014 - by Shalanda Turner · - 1 Comment

Yes I'm 30 and I wear overalls! Overalls are having a major comeback, and I love it. Why wouldn't I love overalls? I'm obsessed with rompers and jumpsuits, so it's only natural that I love overalls.  This pair is super chic from Forever 21+. I typically go for dark washes when it comes to denim, but I like this lighter wash. I chose to wear this look for day two of our #GOHOUSTONGNO trip in The Woodlands. It was perfect for a day of shopping and eating! #lolol. Ironically, the part of my body that I'm always trying to mask is my stomach, but I went out in this crop top. I find that crop tops can actually be flattering for body shapes if worn correctly.  This works with the overalls because the overalls cover my stomach, and even from the side it gives the illusion that my stomach is flat because the little baggy part in the front of the overalls. I paired this look with my favorite necklace from Rewind Jewelry. 

Floral Crop Top: Forever 21
Overalls: Forever 21 (similar)
Handbag: Henri Bendel
Bracelet: Aldo Accessories
Necklace: Rewind Jewelry



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