Nichole Steuart is sewing today. She’s doing it all day, and she’ll be sewing all day tomorrow, as well.
Though normally Steuart takes a few hours during her free time to design and sew clothing, this stepped-up production has a very specific deadline and goal — a fashion show and design contest in New Orleans.
The 26-year-old is one of 10 up-and-coming designers who are looking to break into the design industry. Fashion Week New Orleans is a five-day event featuring more than 50 fashion shows from emerging and established designers, boutiques and retailers.
“There will be some big influential people there, so I’m excited to do the meet-and-greet and see if I can get my name out there,” Steuart said.
Starting in design
Steuart, a native of Houston, Texas, attended Louisiana State University, graduating in 2010 with a degree in fashion design and a minor in business management. After graduation, she moved to Virginia, just outside of the Washington, D.C., area., where she got a job as a visual merchandiser for two high-end retail stores. Things weren’t moving quickly enough for her, however, so she decided to start her own company, called Wicked Symbol.
“At the time, the style was very vintage, hipster, taking older thrift clothes and making them (my) own,” she said.
She sold primarily to vintage stores in the area and used connections in the music world to do a few shows in connection with concerts.
“Because it was kind of that grungy, vintage look, it did really well at the shows,” she said.
It was in 2012 that Steuart got a call from a friend who had moved to Colorado and who urged her to come out, too. She decided to take the leap, packing up her things and driving to Summit County.
Since then, she’s been working as a server at Copper Mountain Resort, splitting her free time between enjoying the outdoors and working on design concepts.
“I’m actually somewhat happy that it turned out the way it did,” she said, on being unattached enough from the industry to move to Summit, “because I don’t think I would ever have moved here, and I do love it here.”
Since moving here, she’s done some custom work — a prom dress, several coats — and had been selling pieces to The Snob Shop in Denver, before it changed owners.
At the beginning of the year, Steuart got a message from a college friend who was working at Fashion Week New Orleans. The friend thought Steuart would be a good candidate and suggested she apply. Steuart did, sending a portfolio, and was contacted several weeks later with an invitation.
“The last month and a half has been nothing but me working and me sewing,” Steuart said. “I haven’t really thought of anything but getting ready for this show.”
Each entrant in the Top Design Competition must enter eight to 12 outfits, and Steuart is planning on nine. Her unifying theme, she said, is a fall/winter ready-to-wear collection with a business-casual attitude.
“The color scheme is very neutral. I’ve got a lot of blacks, olive greens, tans. There’s a decent amount of stripes in there, too,” she said. “My inspiration was actually the styles out here, like in Summit County, and utilizing how a lot of people out here are very casual, so taking that and using a lot of really nice silks and leathers and amping up these very simple shapes to make them look nicer, but they’re still very comfortable to wear.”
Comfort and style are Steuart’s focus, and how to blend them together for the perfect outfit.
She doesn’t believe that a person needs to choose one over the other.
“My style has definitely changed since I’ve gotten here,” she said, referring to the influences of Summit County, and her fashion show in New Orleans will show that.
“I want it to look like a fall and winter collection and have that kind of appeal for a mountain town, but could also roll over into different areas.