Huntsville Fashion Week 2011

kimberlynoland.jpgView full sizeKimberly Noland shows off a chic sheath done in a bright pop of color. (The Huntsville Times/Mike Mercier)
newkimnoland.jpgKimberly Noland says she tries to “add a lot of feminine touches to my pieces because nothing is more beautiful than a woman who really dresses like the woman she is.” (Courtesy of Kimberly Noland)

Three area designers bring unique fashion sensibilities to making clients look their best

New York. Paris. Milan. And Huntsville?

The first three evoke images of elegant locations, models with mile-long legs, paparazzi, celebrities and, of course, fabulous fashion. Huntsville is climbing up the fashion ranks, helping to make the South a “haute-bed” of fashion.

Three area designers join a list of fashionistas who create with local color, all south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

All three of the designers have different aesthetics, training and styles but are united by their love for fashion and their desire to help people look their best.

Kimberly Noland is the creative force behind Kimberly Noland Designs. Noland has been designing for a little over five years and launched her self-named brand in September. Originally from Chicago, Noland moved to New York in 2006 and started her journey in fashion merchandising and design at Marist College.

“I studied draping, pattern-making, sewing, illustrations, product development and more,” Noland said. “And since my school was so close to New York City, I had the opportunity to participate in Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. I helped designers prep their shows, dress models backstage and make sure everyone was seated correctly.”

During her third year of school, Noland spent a semester studying fashion abroad in Florence, Italy. While there, she met her now husband. Following graduation she moved to the South. Not finding her ideal career opportunity, she decided to start her own fashion label.

Her designs are classic pieces inspired by different eras in fashion – drawing ideas from ’60s mod, ’70s glam and from iconic women such as Audrey Hepburn or Twiggy. Noland often incorporates bright punches of color and unique fabrics into classically beautiful shapes.

“I like to work with silhouettes that flatter most body types and really accentuate the feminine figure,” Noland said. “I try to add a lot of feminine touches to my pieces because nothing is more beautiful than a woman who really dresses like the woman she is.”

Kimberly Noland Designs are available at The Pink Pelican. Prices range from $120 to $280. Find more information about Noland online at facebook.com/kimberlynolanddesigns.

ellenasmith.JPGEllena Smith with a dress of her design. (The Huntsville Times/ Michael Mercier)
ellenasmith.JPGEllena Smith says “to be able to design and empower others, especially women, in their personal pursuits is my passion.” (Photo courtesy of Ellena Smith)

Staples and more Ellena Smith is a longtime designer, having worked and created for more than 20 years. Her line, LeJeune House of Fashion, showcases her skill and experience.

Smith is from Birmingham but has lived in Huntsville for more than 20 years. In college, she studied computer science, but her love for fashion led her on a different path. She opened her first boutique in Huntsville in 1996 in the Terry-Hutchens building. After trying the business world for a while, she decided to pursue fashion full time.

“I’m thankful for the abilities and gifts God has blessed me with,” Smith said. “Having the opportunity to exercise them is my ultimate inspiration. To be able to design and empower others, especially women, in their personal pursuits is my passion.”

Her designs are timeless and classic, using simple lines combined with interesting details and luxurious fabrics. Smith strives for instant visual appeal. Designing allows her to be who she is – creative, personable and encouraging. Her line showcases that freedom and confidence.

“My style is classic, sophisticated and affordable,” Smith said. “My line offers staple pieces that add longevity to one’s wardrobe. I also have signature items that are exclusive to my collection and that are offered in every seasonal collection. LeJeune House of Fashion offers clothing in sizes two through 18.”

LeJeune House of Fashion clothing is available at Five Points Boutique, online at lejeunehouseoffashion.com or through private showings and appointments. Prices range from $39 to $200.

josiewachi.jpgView full sizeAmy Robinson, left, shows off a dress from the Josie Wachi Collection. (The Huntsville Times/Mike Mercier)
Josyline MurakaruJosyline Murakaru says, “I often get great ideas before I fall asleep, so I sketch them. Then I get to bring it to life and share it with other women.” (Photo courtesy of Josyline Murakaru)

Yes to the dress Josyline Murakaru is the designer behind the line Josie Wachi. Murakaru’s interest in fashion was sparked while living in California. She has been in Huntsville for 10 years and studied business at Faulkner University. The allure of having family nearby made her decide to stay and pursue fashion in Huntsville.

Murakaru’s line began out of necessity. Having difficulty finding clothes she wanted in the area, she learned sewing and began creating her own looks.

“I wore the clothes I made out to parties,” Murakaru said. “People were asking me where I got them and wanted my dresses. It gave me the confidence to start a collection. Clothing is part of life, too, so we may as well make it look good and make us feel good.”

Murakaru’s vision is all about the dress. She creates chic and easy-to-wear day, party and cocktail dresses that aim to make women feel glamorous, confident and in style. Murakaru designs with the goal of flattering the body and silhouette of a woman. The short and fitted dress is a staple.

“The Josie Wachi woman looks smoking and knows she will make an unforgettable statement whether at a party or simply out on the town,” Murakaru said. “I love designing. I often get great ideas before I fall asleep, so I sketch them. Then I get to bring it to life and share it with other women.”

After getting many requests, Murakaru is working on a men’s line. The line will mainly incorporate relaxed, beach styles, and, of course, swimsuits will be a part of the offering.

Josie Wachi dresses are available at josiewachi.com, and prices range from $98 to $128.

South is evolving The designers, in addition to the love of fashion, also share the belief that the South is becoming more well-known and more fashionable.

“Fashion has become much more accessible,” Noland said. “People have a lot more knowledge about the industry now. Popular TV shows have really opened a lot of people’s eyes as to what is really involved in being a fashion designer.”

Murakaru agrees that fashion is far more accessible and that the Southern states are becoming more involved in the industry.

“The South, particularly Alabama and Tennessee, is definitely becoming more evolved in fashion,” she said. “More social scenes are opening and people are migrating here from all over. And more people want to look and feel good in social gatherings.”

Smith believes so strongly in local talent that she is coordinating Fashion Week Alabama. The first-ever event will bring together area designers and consumers. Huntsville is well-known for cutting-edge technology and diverse business offerings; the organizers of Fashion Week Alabama are hoping to bring attention to the area’s fashion and beauty businesses.

“With events like Fashion Week Alabama, we can begin to turn the tide and bring visibility to the awesome talent in our area,” Smith said. “And most importantly we can create a market for fashion and lifestyle industries.”

Fashion Week Alabama kicks off today.

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