Eric Ramirez gets a sneak peek at the collections of the local designers headlining our Fashion’s Night Out Bash.
For a first look at the latest collections by local designers April Johnston and Brooke Atwood, come to Savannah magazine’s and skirt!’s Fashion’s Night Out Bash, Sept. 6, located at the corner of Jefferson and Broughton streets. By Eric Ramirez
Fall 2012 has been touted up as the return of the little black dress, a response to the burst of florals and jewel tones evident throughout the spring and summer months. The LBD’s triumphant return signals an opportunity for Savannah-based fashion designer April Johnston to shock and shine with her latest Mangled Courtesan collection.
“I love to design for women who are romantic, dark and sexy,” April says. “My new collection showcases a feminine silhouette but adds the Mangled Courtesan twist by embossing the garments with detailed hand beading.”
Dark and Sexy
April’s brand struts the line between sexy and spooky—though, admittedly, spooky is never her intention. It’s just something that goes along with her aesthetic and the Mangled Courtesan name.
“When I was younger I was obsessed with the Moulin Rouge—the darkness, but the beauty as well, of the famous French night club,” April says. “I have been through a long winding road in my life, and I wanted the name of my company to reflect the darkness and the beauty in my life and what I do. I felt that Mangled Courtesan portrayed that beautifully.”
Dark and Sensual
April definitely has a flair for the dramatic and engaging. A previous collection, Coeur De Goudron (French for “heart of tar”), represented April’s personal take on a broken heart. The emotion evoked from the collection isn’t melancholic, however; it’s theatrical and evocative.
“I love to leave the audience wondering where the inspiration came from,” she says.
April’s unique sensual sartorial sensibilities mixed with Gothic tendencies invites comparisons to director Tim Burton, whose work influenced her Bonaventure Cemetery wedding last spring. She doesn’t mind being mentioned in the same breath as the quirky director behind Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride, as it speaks to a dream she holds: “I would love to work with him someday on a film as a costume designer.”
Dark and Playful
April has stayed true to her sleek, eccentric style even in the fabrics she designs and sells nationwide through Jo-Ann’s Fabrics. “I really wanted to please all audiences but still stay true to my dark, playful side. I came up with a shabby chic concept to develop the prints,” she says of her of-the-moment designs in deep purples, rich reds and brilliant blues.
For her haute couture, April remains true to her beloved Savannah, sourcing fabrics from local shops. That local touch will be on display at Fashion’s Night Out Savannah—see if you can spot the Mangled Courtesan designs in the crowd.
Brooke Atwood turns heads. It’s not just her natural beauty, but also her inimitable Boho-rocker chic style that captures attention, says “I set my own trends.” It’s with this same attitude she has infused her debut line, which she will introduce to Savannah at Fashion’s Night Out this week.
“All the leather I’m using in this collection is a maroon, reddish leather, and I see that trend is getting common,” says Brooke. “I used a lot of velvets. I had a lot of my velvets embroidered by this process found in the 1700s called trapunto. So, I hand-drew this embroidery. Embroidery is kind of in right now, too.”
This warm, rustic style has its roots in Brooke’s beginnings. She hails from Mississippi, and is by birthright a fan of blues music. She weaves her passion for strong guitar licks into her threads. “My first collection that I did for my (SCAD) thesis was completely based on Shelton Hank Williams III,” Brooke says. “He has as song called ‘Three Shades of Black’ so my whole collection was named for it. The outfits were inspired by what he wears on stage.”
Leather and Velvet
Her new collection was influenced by classic country and western music. “I went to a Wilco show at the Ryman in Nashville, and they have all these pictures of Pasty Cline, Minnie Pearl, June Carter…and I was like ‘What would they wear today’?”
She’ll find inspiration in all kinds of place. Brooke also drew from her travels, blending it with that Opry attitude. In this particular case, a hotel couch captured her imagination. “I went toNew Yorkand I was at the Ace Hotel,” Brooke explains, “and I was looking at their couches and they had velvet that was tied in ropes with grommets.”
Something to Talk About
Her own casual, effortlessness finds it way into her work, as well.
“I try to make [my designs] wearable. And I always like to have a little bit of shock value, so there will be a back out or stomach showing,” she says. “There is always a shocking element to it, but it’s enough so that you can still wear it out on the streets and not be talked about.”