The fashion world is a tough place. There is no hand holding, no spoon feeding - it's dog-eat-dog for new fashion designers, and although many try to reach success, very few manage to make it to the top.
For a few of Chattanooga's own fashion designers, this prospect doesn't seem as daunting. After all, they are all under the age of 25 and have more experience under their belts than many designer hopefuls dream of having. Be prepared to see their collections in stores, on the runway and on your friends as these three trailblazers begin taking the world by storm, starting in their hometown.
Describe your design style: Classic designs with a bold modern twist
If you could dress anyone, who would it be? Adele, I absolutely adore her. She's hilarious and so beautiful. Also, Jennifer Aniston and Carrie Underwood. Those are my top three. They're all very different and they are all just real. They don't fit into the celebrity stereotype.
What designer inspires you? Blake Mycoskie, founder and designer of TOMS. He inspires me the most because the way he founded that company to help others. Service is key, and that's why I believe he's so successful. He's stayed true to himself and he's unchanging.
Can you give us a preview of your upcoming collections? One dress is a very dark shade of aquamarine blue but when you move, it changes. It's sleeveless and the bottom is a gold tulle skirt. The inspiration for it was Pride and Prejudice - it's got impact just like I imagine Lizzie made when she walked in the room and Mr. Darcy first saw her. I've seen the movie more than a dozen times and read the book twice. It's one of my favorites.
DESIGNS BY MALYSE
Talking to Madison Waldrop is like talking to every other eloquent, worldly 40-year-old that you know - only she's just 15.
The budding evening, cocktail and bridal designer began her artistic journey at 13 years old and has since graced the pages of the New York Times, watched her fashions come to life on the runway and is even slated to open her own studio on Broad Street this month. In spite of her startling success at such a young age, Waldrop shows a grace and humbleness that is far beyond her years, putting most of the emphasis on providing opportunities for others and being a good role model.
"The business is something that has moved very quickly and has evolved on its own. I'm very focused on what I want and what I'm seeking to become," says Waldrop. "And I think as long as I'm helping others through my design and enhancing the beauty of people and making them feel confident in my designs, that's my biggest goal."
When you make a purchase from Designs by Malyse, 15 percent of the purchase price goes to KEYS, a charity component of the business that supports causes meeting one or more of four core values: Kids, Education, Youth and Service. One effort that the funding supports is the SHOCKS Cause, a program begun by Waldrop and her sister, McCall, which provides shoes and socks for the homeless at the Community Kitchen. "It's like a chain reaction but it helps so many other people and those KEYS open so many doors. That's really what means the most to me through all of this," she says. "That's the nitty gritty of that side of the company and the core of who I am as a person."
Waldrop has made many sacrifices as a teenager to bring her dreams to reality, such as working long hours and choosing to take online classes rather than traditional school to focus on her business. Although sometimes the process has been overwhelming, she credits her upbringing and support system for helping her along - and ultimately loves every minute of what she is doing.
"Being that design is such a passion for me, it doesn't feel like work. I think that kind of brings that fun aspect into it. Even though it's a lot to take on, it's been good," Waldrop says. "I think from an early age, I knew that what you were given didn't pop into existence. We should never take things for granted. We should always work to give something to someone else. That was a core value that was taught to me at an early age that I really believe in and will always live by."
For more information on Designs by Malyse, visit www.designsbymalyse.com .
Describe your design style: Definitely feminine, but I like to keep it modern as well and add unexpected details
If you could dress anyone, who would it be? Jennifer Lawrence. Her dress for the Oscars was unexpected - it was a pale pink with a big full skirt. I think she can pull of edginess really well, which isn't me, but I think she can pull off feminine pieces as well.
What designer inspires you? Ellie Saab. They are my fantasy dresses ... beautiful gowns in really flowy, beautiful fabric.
Can you give us a preview of your upcoming collections? I really love color so my spring and summer collections are really colorful. For summer we used a lot of color blocking with bright colors like fuchsia and lemon yellow.
ANNA VICTORIA APPAREL AND DESIGN
The Girls Preparatory School alum and recent Auburn University grad is not your typical artistic type - her business savvy combined with sheer determination gives her a significant edge over other designer hopefuls looking to get their collections picked up by boutiques and department stores.
"It's scary just because the amount of work I put into the pieces and, of course, the cost, but this is something I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember," says Mittelstadt. "I'll do anything to make it work and I really do believe in it."
Mittelstadt cut her design teeth in 2011 during an internship at Rebecca Taylor, a women's clothing company in New York City, which inspired her to not only find her place in the fashion industry, but to take the leap into creating her own clothing line. "I've always been really creative ... I would make dresses for my dolls when I was little. Then I got my first sewing machine at 13 and I started making my own clothes," she says. "During my internship, I got a good sense of the business side of things. I kind of realized I liked all aspects of a clothing company, not just the design side but the business side as well. It helped me realize that I wanted to go on my own. It was just having the courage to start it ... It would have been easier to apply for a job at an already established business."
Although it was far from easy, Mittelstadt successfully launched her Spring 2013 collection last year from her studio in the Business Development Center in North Chattanooga and is now working painstakingly on her Summer and Fall 2013 collections. Although her last collection was not picked up by any stores, she says it isn't unusual for clothing buyers to wait for a new designer to successfully launch two to three collections before they take a chance on a new line.
"The key is really to create a name for yourself and for them to feel comfortable," Mittelstadt says. "They want you to know that you've sorted out stuff like getting a manufacturer. We've definitely made good contacts for spring and summer and we're hoping fall will actually sell. We've had a lot of people who saw the spring collection and it was always good to hear people say, 'I like that. I want to buy that.'"
And as for being young? Mittelstadt doesn't see that as a disadvantage. "Obviously I don't have as much experience as someone who has worked in the business for 10 years, but I have the energy to do this and am really passionate about it now, so moving forward with something isn't a bad thing," she says. "I can also relate to the age group we're designing for and I know what girls my age are looking for in stores and in the South. I'm also really open to learning from people."
For more information on Anna Victotoria Apparel and Design, visit www.annavictotoriadesign.com .
Describe your design style: Elegant. A Carruth Couture woman is someone who expresses herself with what she wears. She's brave, outgoing, the center of the party and definitely the most fashionable one there.
If you could dress anyone, who would it be? Probably Lady GaGa or Jennifer Lawrence - she's my new favorite celebrity so I think it would be cool to collaborate with her. Sometimes I look at the red carpet and I wish all of those gowns could be a Carruth Couture. That's not how it works, though.
What designer inspires you? I've researched people in general and that's one reason I think I got this far. Artists like Lady Gaga ... I love her braveness and her style and her fashion and how she runs her entire company. I enjoy reading about Alexander McQueen, as well. It's inspiring to learn about other people.
Can you give us a preview of your upcoming collections? I'm using gold sequin fabric and black satin. I'm also mixing two different kinds of silhouettes. It only took a week to sketch the 12 pieces out, and I'll edit as I go.
Brandon Carruth has always loved the limelight.
He vividly remembers making his sister help him perform variety shows (in front of the curtains he had specially installed in his room) and putting on impromptu piano recitals for friends and family. As he grew older, he decided that he would become an actor, which led him to Ambiance Models and Talent, which eventually led him to the fashion industry.
"I knew there was something more than modeling that I wanted to do," says Carruth. "Then when my parents were going through a divorce, it was sort of an overnight decision. That sounds kind of cheesy, but that's how it happened. Instead of turning to the bad in the world, I turned to designing and I'm really blessed that that's the decision I made at such a young age."
At 13 years old - exactly two years ago this month - he designed his first collection, "Simply Flawless." "I didn't have any experience. I didn't even know how to sew," he says. "This collection I'm working on now I am doing myself. Before I designed everything, but I needed help to sew the pieces. This will be the first one I'm actually making. I think with this being solely me, I'm going to be even more proud of myself."
Since his official launch at Nashville's Middle Tennessee Fashion Week, Carruth's work has been shown in several fashion shows locally, one in Dallas, Texas, and even at Plitzs New York City Fashion Week in New York. "It's been overwhelming to say the least. I have school and everything else a normal teenager has, along with my business," he says. "But that's what I like about it - it's challenging. That's another reason I enjoy what I do."
Carruth's goals for the future are lofty, but none insurmountable, he says, thanks in part to his focus and also to his supportive family. "Business wise, I really just want to work up to the point where maybe I have a store. We're planning that, but it's going to be a while," says Carruth. "I'd just like to expand the business and perfect what I do as far as design. To have my own studio, my own company, my entire company under one roof, people working for me and seeing my designs on celebrity clients - that's pretty much my goal, but then it's going to be a lot of hard work to get to that point. That's why I have that goal. I have something to look forward to."
Some people have doubted that he would succeed, but Carruth says that only makes him more certain of his vision. "At school there's been a couple of people that don't like what I do and I know a lot of people secretly hope I don't succeed - the judgmental people, the closed-minded people. But those are the people that I don't listen to," he says. "Chanel, she was an orphan and then she became a world famous designer. You don't have to have a lot of money or support, you just have to be determined and motivated, and you can do anything."
For more information on Carruth Couture, visit www.carruthcouture.com .