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  • Writer's pictureBrandie June

Now I'm Also An Award-Winning Fashion Designer

Updated: May 25, 2019

Brandie June and Erica at Project Nunway Fashion Show
My favorite picture from the night, as we walk down the runway after finding out we won Top Designer. Photo credit Motorboot Photography

Saturday night I did something I’d never thought I’d do – I was a designer in a fashion show. Not only that, but my design won first place! For me, this show was all about going outside my comfort zone and the power of teamwork.

Back in the summer, I first saw the Los Angeles Sister of Perpetual Indulgence post about the return of their charity fashion show, Project Nunway, after a three-year hiatus. I had volunteered at the last one and had a blast. The theme for this show would be Cirque Des Soeurs, with the goal of challenging designers to create over-the-top artistic creations that encompassed the circus theme. I immediately thought that a costume with lights and spinning parts would be a fun way to embody ‘circus’ and though my costuming skills were little more than creating some cosplay outfits and costumes a few theatre shows, I signed up.

Now here’s where I got lucky. On my own, the piece would have never been as amazing as the dress our model wore last night. I say ‘our’ because soon after I signed on, my best friend and amazing costume designer, Erica, came on as my co-designer. She took my initial vision (red and white as the primary colors to represent a circus tent, lights, spinning pieces) and added on her artistic ideas (let’s do MORE plates, only some of which need to spin, a bigger dress, even more elegant than the initial design) and thus we had Design 2.0.

Design 2.0 by Erica Palay

For the months that followed we worked separately and together to make this vision come to life. My husband, an engineering student, was even brought in to figure out the motors and the electrical wiring needed to make them work. It was an exploration in trial and error as we tested various glues and adhesives to get the plates to stick to the motors. Even the day of show, Craig worked backstage to finish soldering loose wires as we re-glued a few renegade plates.

Craig backstage before the show doing emergency soldering.

Ultimately, it was a satisfying thrill to see our creation come to life as our model strode down the runway. There were lights, spinning plates, stationary plates, popcorn, rhinestones, glitter, circus animals, framed pictures, giant balloons, even a tiny circus tent, and more on that outfit. It was the culmination of months of discussions, fitting, sewing, gluing, painting, glittering (that’s a verb, right? It was after this dress…), soldering, wiring, late nights and long hours. Erica and I felt like we had really held our own with the talented group of fashion designers at the show. Then, much to our surprise, we were announced as the winning designers, taking 1st place! I think we screamed and cried all the way down the runway. It was an amazing experience.

The top 3 designs. What a show! Photo credit Motorboot Photography

A million thanks to Erica and Craig for joining me on this crazy idea I had to compete in a fashion show. Many additional thanks to the Los Angeles Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence for letting us be a part of their show, especially Sister Mariposa Patriota for being our model. It was an experience I will never forget, and one made all the more special knowing that it was raising money for the Alliance for Housing And Healing. Ok, now it’s time to catch up on sleep and fish stray rhinestones out of my carpet…

The runway walk. WERK!

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