Deacon Profile: Riley Phillips

Riley Phillips is a junior majoring in studio art and German. As an artist, she has expanded the scope of her artistic studies from the classroom to innovative new projects. She is an emerging fashion designer representing her label, Riley Phillips Art, which was recently shown during Vancouver Fashion Week.

Why did you become interested in fashion design?

I became interested in fashion design through the sculpture program of my high school. I was given an assignment to make something wearable out of unconventional materials, and, as cliché as it sounds, I really fell in love with making art that was both conceptual and functional. I moved on from unconventional materials and a hot glue gun by freshman year at Wake Forest and taught myself how to sew last year, when I also made my first mini fashion collections.

How did you get involved with Vancouver Fashion Week?

I showed my first mini collections in Greensboro Fashion Week last year, and naturally, I posted all about the events and my work on social media. Representatives from Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW) saw my work online and reached out to me to invite me to show with them for the spring/summer 2020 season.

What was it like to prepare for this event?

Preparation for VFW demanded just as much mental and emotional prep as it did actual sewing. VFW reached out to me with interest in the mini collection I showed in Greensboro, so I expanded that collection to a full 16 looks, which required the addition of five more full designs, stylings and the necessary alterations of pre-existing looks.

Because I was abroad when I accepted my position in the event, I didn’t have my sewing machine with me and wasn’t able to begin construction until I came home at the beginning of the summer. I also received the Richter Scholarship to complete a research project on “Multicultural Influences & Developments in Berlin’s Fashion Scene” for a full month in the middle of the summer, so in total, I had two months to complete and fine-tune my collection before the semester began. Time management was the biggest factor in my preparation, and I planned a very specific and regimented daily sewing schedule to keep me on track for my two-month sewing window. Once this semester started, there was the added challenge of balancing schoolwork with my production’s responsibilities, like planning the runway hair and makeup or mixing my runway music. Somehow, with lots of coffee and late nights, I pulled it all together.

How would you describe the central elements of your collection that you curated for this showcase?

My collection included jewel-toned colors, movement and texture and detailed hand-embellishment. All of the design choices of my collection reflected my inspiration: Venice, Italy and my time abroad. I integrate artistic influence and bold colors, reminiscent of the canals and landscapes, to characterize my designs with a vibrancy that recall a respected or “saved” Venice. Visually, I aim to maintain a balance of romantic fluidity and sensuality to connect the Venetian waterways and the evolving, modern architecture with feminine silhouettes. I further tie the collection together with meticulous hand embroidery of figures and faces, which are a reference to the figurative art of Venice and the work of Italian sculptor Lorenzo Quinn. Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

Though this collection was specifically inspired by Venice and my time abroad, I find inspiration for most of my creative work through my travels, cinema and photography and editorial magazines or graphic design.

How do you envision your fashion line growing over the next few years?

I fully envision that I will continue to design and create looks or collections for as long as I am capable. Because fashion design is not included in my formal education here at Wake Forest, the balancing of schoolwork and design is a challenge, but I think I have been quite successful in devoting my minimal free time to fashion in order to cultivate my skills as best as I can. The dream, of course, is to further develop my label, Riley Phillips Art, and continue to create and show my collections; however, with my studies in photography and German, there are so many options for me to consider in pursuing fashion as a career field with multiple creative ties and opportunities.