Pittsburgh Fashion Week has evolved into a showcase of some of the city's fashion talents, three of whom will be featured tonight at Highmark Stadium.
One who is new to Pittsburgh Fashion Week is Alicia Akrie, 23, of Chartiers City. Inspired by her grandmother to pursue her passion for the arts, Ms. Akrie earned a fine arts degree in fashion design at Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, Ga. She graduated in June and will present her senior collection at Pittsburgh Fashion Week's opening extravaganza.
How long have you been designing? I think I started designing when it came time for prom season when I was in high school. I wanted something unique and thought this could be my first stab at designing a garment. It went pretty well!
I get inspirations for my collections from ... literally anything that captures my attention, from my Bible scriptures ... to "Beauty and the Beast."
I would describe my design aesthetic as ... sharply confident. It's angular but smooth. I love menswear, and it has significant influence on my work. Overall, I want my clothes to bring out a possibly inward confidence forward. Every woman is masterfully created. I want her to feel confident in that.
At Pittsburgh Fashion Week, the collection I have in store for audiences is ... inspired by ancient samurai armor and intricate paper sculptures by Yun Woo Choi. I like to blend totally different concepts to have more to draw from. It allows the collection to take on its own life.
My proudest moment as a designer was when ... [having someone consider me] a "designer," graduating from a prestigious school, having my parents proudly support me, seeing each garment come together from a daydream of a sketch to walking down the runway. I'm thankful for it all, even the mistakes that turn into design decisions. Just seeing how God has moved and is moving me is a blessing to me. I want to take nothing for granted.
In 10 years, I'd like to be ... what Karl Lagerfeld is to Chanel, a highly respected creative director for a flourishing brand that is leading the way. Whether it be my own personal brand or one I take over, I plan to be great.
One of the greatest challenges of being an aspiring designer is ... the possibility of "being discovered." No one knows if or when the time will come, and it's a frightening thought but one I pray over. And then I throw myself into my collections.
If I could tell myself when I was starting out in fashion something I know now, it would be ... expect to work hard. Every day at every moment work hard, and stand behind every decision you make.
If I could collaborate with anyone in the fashion or beauty industry it would be ... without a doubt Alexander Wang. I am a huge fan of his work and hope that someday I really can collaborate with him. As a young designer, I think he makes ambitious decisions with his collections, and I aim to do the same.
A go-to spot for shopping in Pittsburgh for me is ... local thrift stores! I love thrifting and repurposing clothing, and there's always the hunt! I also love traditional shopping stores, as well.
One of the greatest misconceptions of the Pittsburgh fashion scene is ... that we aren't "real" designers and that we all "distress and rework" clothing that's already made. I have every original pattern for every garment you'll see. This is a real career for me. ... Nothing is wrong with reworking clothing; I have friends who do it (and do it well). But as a designer I create from nothing.
In the next five years, I think the Pittsburgh fashion scene will be ... even bigger and better than it is now. The fashion scene here is growing, and more people are recognizing the talent that is here.
My advice for other aspiring designers is ... to work hard and settle for nothing but the best. God has blessed you with a specific skill set that no one else has. Walk in that, and know that anything worth having is worth the struggle.
Photos: Above, one of Alicia Akrie designs. At right, Alicia Akrie.