published Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Chattanooga home school student to show work at New York Fashion Week

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    Brandon Carruth, 15, began designing clothing, including dresses such as this one, when he was 13.
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BRANDON CARRUTH

School: Rising 10th-grader, home-schooled.

Sibling: Sister, Summer, 18.

Favorite designer: Alexander McQueen.

Fashion show he'd love to be shown in: Naked Without Us in Nashville.

CLAIM TO FAME

Brandon Carruth, 15, began designing women's couture clothing in January 2011. He debuted his first collection in Nashville in April 2011 during Middle Tennessee Fashion Week. Since then, his work has been shown in six shows, including several in Nashville, locally at Palate 2 Palette and once in Dallas.

NEXT UP

Brandon has been invited to New York City this September to debut his fall/winter fashion line for 2012-13 at a showcase he is producing during the Plitzs New York City Fashion Week.

Some people look at a dress and see only a dress. When Brandon Carruth looks at a dress -- his own design, anyway -- he sees a colorful statement wrought in fabric.

At 15, the East Brainerd teen has been pursuing an interest in fashion design for only 18 months, but he said he quickly determined that he could achieve more with his work than just covering skin.

"I want people ... to be able to relate to the collection," he said. "To me, it's not just fabric and a sewing machine -- it's art."

Slender and red-haired, Brandon spent years modeling locally through Ambiance Models and Talent and acting in plays at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre. In January 2011, he suddenly announced to his mother, Jennifer Carruth, that he was interested in designing clothes.

Carruth said her long-standing assumption was that Brandon would be on a runway or treading the boards, and she initially dismissed this new interest as a passing fancy.

After looking at the designs in his sketchbook two days later, however, Carruth said her attitude quickly changed.

"I was really just taken aback" she said as she and Brandon drove to Nashville, where he has shown his work most often and where he most recently was enrolled in a modeling agency.

"He was only 13, so I thought it would be more childish drawing, but he was just more mature than that," she added. "It was very professional and not what I was expecting to see."

Brandon and his mother enlisted the help of his grandmother and a local seamstress to bring his designs to life under the name Carruth Couture. Three months later, he debuted his first collection, "Simply Flawless," in a showcase during Nashville's Middle Tennessee Fashion Week.

The eight pieces in his first collection were primarily youthful dresses that incorporate trends such as color blocking. Brandon's age and the quality of his work attracted a lot of attention.

He has produced a fashion show for Nashville-area designers, models and musicians and has shown his first collection at a half-dozen other shows, including one in Dallas last November and locally during Palate 2 Palette. He said he also has been invited to show at events in Norfolk, Va., and New York City.

Brandon, who is home-schooled, said the management and self-promotional skills he learned as an actor and model have prepared him for his new role. He said he also serves as his own manager, publicist and creative director.

"I literally do it all. It's me, myself and I," he said. "It gets stressful and challenging at times, but determination and support from family and friends keeps me going."

Brandon is currently preparing a 12-piece collection for fall and winter. The new designs include longer dresses and a more somber color palette to reflect the depressed mood he was in when developing the designs earlier this year.

He was invited this February to show his initial collection during New York's Plitzs biannual New York City Fashion Week but couldn't make the trip on short notice. He said he instead will debut the new line during Plitzs' second showcase week in September.

"[The new collection] definitely shows I've grown. It's more me," he said. "I've worked very hard to go to this show."

Brandon is working a part-time job grading papers to pay for his design work. Someday, he said, he hopes to open a studio in New York. In the meantime, his short-term goal is to get his designs carried by local boutiques.

Although designing clothes is a relatively new pursuit, Brandon said he thinks he has found what he was destined to do.

"My modeling career introduced me to the fashion industry, and my life suddenly changed," he said. "I grew up thinking I was going to be an actor or a model, and I'm neither of those."

TALENT SHOW

Do you know a child age 17 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is searching for children to feature in "Talent Show," which appears in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or call him at 423-757-6205.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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