Thursday seems like forever ago in the wake of the fashion week blur, but it was a scant five days ago that Alicia Wood of Ms. Wood took home the prize at the Catapult emerging designer competition. I took a moment to catch up with Wood about her winning collection and plans for the future:
MERCURY: Can you give us a brief overview of your design background?
ALICIA WOOD: I graduated from the Apparel Design program at Seattle Central in 1994. From there I studied at Parsons New School for Design in New York for a summer, followed by an internship with New York designer Amy Chan. After that I moved back to Seattle and started designing different things, from costumes and bridal to handbags. I went on to work as an Assistant Designer at Tommy Bahama but quickly realized that office work was not my bag. So I quit there to focus more on my own designs, which has led me to the Ms. Wood line today.
How did the idea to transition into more of a street-ready apparel line come about?
After I started creating the Yukata style kimonos about three years ago, I was given a large amount of really nice quality black knit fabric that wouldn’t work with my kimono robes, so I knew I had to come up with something fabulous for this fabric. I decided to make a cardigan, added a leather obi belt, posted it on Esty, and they were quite the hit. So clearly that was what my clients wanted. And then there was the Modified Style fashion show competition, where I was given a bag of random mismatched fabric pieces and told to make something out of it. This wouldn’t work for my robes either so I created a jacket/skirt combo with matching accessories. I just needed the finishing touch, which would be some killer wood/leather platform shoes, but searched high and low to no avail. That’s when my husband, Ben, nonchalantly offered to make a pair for the show. Anyway, this ended up winning first place, which was a huge inspiration to me to go forward with these types of designs.
How do you plan to progress from here with your line? Will we be seeing you continue to develop Ms. Wood as a wider range?
Absolutely! We have so many ideas, and can’t wait to get started. We want to do more with the wood: obi belts, clutches, more jewelry designs, and definitely want to experiment with shoe designs. I’m looking forward to getting a bid more dramatic with some of my looks and feel like the possibilities are endless, really.
What did you think of your PFW experience? Do you have any criticisms of the audience-vote format of the emerging designer showcase?
I thoroughly enjoyed this whole process and am really looking forward to doing it again next year. The people responsible for making Portland Fashion Week happen work really hard and I really appreciate that. As for the voting, I was at first a little nervous at the idea of my fate being in the hands of the audience because that makes it more of a popularity contest and I don’t know a whole lot of people in Portland. But then I was a bit relieved to find out there was also a panel of judges.
What did you think of the presentations by your co-contestants? Who did you see as your biggest competition?
I hadn’t seen anyone’s work until the fittings when I caught a glimpse of a couple pieces from each designer. And the ones I saw made me nervous. It could have been anyone’s win. I am attracted to Nelli Millard’s edgy designs, Rana has an exceptional eye for detail and Devon’s designs are very unique and cutting edge.