'Fashioning the Future' puts students in spotlight
Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation in Pittsburgh rolled out the red carpet for some up-and-coming fashion designers this month.
Junior high and high school students got lessons in the fashion industry from prominent area designers Nisha Blackwell of Knotzland and David Alan of David Alan Clothing . The two shared insights on what it takes to be a successful fashion design entrepreneur at “Fashioning the Future.”
Students represented the Braddock Youth Project, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education. The event was coordinated by the Center for Inclusive Excellence at the university through a grant from the Pittsburgh Foundation via the Scott Fund, the Emil Winter Family Trust and the Lewis H. and Jess Morgan Kelly Fund.
Sharing their stories
Alan’s company creates custom high-end clothing that is tailored to a person’s body and designed with the individual in mind. David Alan Clothing offers three-piece suits, fitted dress shirts, sports coats and pants for men and is expanding to include a women’s line.
The business began as “Proper Knot,” a necktie accessory which is a stylized covering for the knot of a man’s tie that allows the wearer to add color or variety to an outfit.
“There was a void in the marketplace and I thought if I could create a piece that would make the necktie different, that would do well,” he said. “So I bought some fabric and a sewing machine and made them.”
Alan talked about seeing challenges as storms. He said some were like a light rain, others were stronger like a thunderstorm and still others like a tsunami. Some had fierce winds. Others were calm. But they all had one thing in common.
“They didn’t last forever,” he said. “They all ended at some point just like real weather storms. You have to be able to endure tough times and trust yourself and your vision for your company.”
“When you say you are going to do something, do it,” Alan said. “Treat people with respect. Most people are good people and want you to be successful. I have zero regrets. I love people who work hard and who hustle. Dream as big as you can, and go for it. There were people who helped me, so I want to pay it forward and help these young people.”
Blackwell, from Homewood, had just been laid off from a job and was invited to a birthday party for her friend’s daughter. With limited funds, Blackwell saw a bag of clothes she was going to give away and made a hair bow for the little girl. That day, she got six orders for hair bows and from there was asked to make men’s bow ties. Her business became known as Knotzland . She repurposes materials to create formal, casual and wedding bow ties. Blackwell learned how to make them by watching YouTube videos.
Being able to listen to and meet successful designers was a wonderful experience, said Rasaun Brown, who was there with the Braddock Youth Project. He started his own company Cash Flow Clothing WorldWide which has T-shirts and jackets and other accessories.
“This was a fun day,” said Florence Uwizeye, of the Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education. “I have always liked fashion and making things. The speakers were great and being able to actually make something with advice from them made the experience even more worthwhile.”
JoAnne Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062 or email@example.com or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.