When Hope Wallace was selected to show her designs at Charleston Fashion Week, she had no idea she would wow the crowd and win the People’s Choice Award in the 2013 Emerging Designer Competition: East. “It was an absolute surprise,” said Georgia Southern’s fashion merchandising and apparel design professor. “I didn’t walk up right away to collect my award and prize because I was so stunned when it was announced that I had won.”
Founded in 2007, Charleston Fashion Week in South Carolina has grown into a five-day affair that attracts talented designers from across the country, industry bigwigs, students considering careers in the industry and people who just love fashion. Designer Christian Siriano, a “Project Runway” winner presented his spring Ready-to-Wear collection and Fern Mallis, who is considered the creator of New York Fashion Week, was a judge in the Charleston event.
Wallace was among 20 semifinalists who showcased collections in the Emerging Designer competition, which is always the main event. “I was really worried about Fern Mallis because she is one of the biggest names in fashion,” said Wallace. “She gave me positive feedback, and said she was intrigued and interested in seeing the rest of my designs.” The clothing line the University professor presented was inspired by the Art Deco period and featured bright colors and geometric shapes. Italian fashion designers whose creations are classic, yet edgy and a bit sexier influence her work.
The award-winning designer and professor grew up in Maryland and said her interest in designing began as a young girl when she started sewing and crocheting with her grandmother. At age 12, Wallace acquired the portfolio of a family acquaintance. “This lady was an actual designer, and her portfolio had actual sketches in it,” Wallace said. “For the first time, I realized this could be a profession that I could pursue.” She received her bachelor’s in fashion merchandising from Howard University, her Master of Fine Arts degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design, and five years ago, she began teaching at Georgia Southern. “I always tell my students to stay true to their design aesthetic,” she said. “We have a saying in the fashion world that everyone is a designer and will give you advice. I tell students they can take the advice but they don’t have to use all of it.”
Wallace dreams of manufacturing some of her original designs, but acknowledged it is a struggle to find both funding and the time to focus on designing a collection. Creating clothing for the contemporary woman is her second job, but she noted teaching is what brings her joy. For now, she is happy with what she achieved at Charleston Fashion Week. “It really opened my eyes,” said Wallace, who is considering whether to accept invitations to show at Fashion Weeks in New York City, Austin, Texas, New Orleans, La. and Charlotte, N.C. – Sandra Bennett
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