So happy to finally introduce y’all to Riley Phillips! Long long ago we put on our stories that we were looking for an intern. We had no clue anyone with Riley’s skill set would even pay attention to Sifted. She immediately blew us away with her professionalism- she might as well have interviewed us. When she mentioned that she designed and constructed her own fashion line I knew I wanted to work with her. A little over a year ago I was antiquing and found a pair of full length dresses that were handmade probably sometime in the 70s. They had a high neckline and FULLLLLL sleeve. We had the dresses hemmed and the lightbulb came on- I wanted to create a signature Sifted dress using vintage fabrics. But! It has to be better than the antique mall one- it had to be perfectly over the top, have a big sleeve and VOLUME VOLUME VOLUME from every angle. I can imagine garments in my mind but I can’t sew and I can’t engineer patterns....in comes Riley. I described the dress, showed her a few hilarious drawings and she made a mock up for us..... it stunk. It was not hitting the mark- to no fault of Riley’s but because I had never designed clothing before. Five or so mock ups later and we had our dress. We fumbled through different fabrics in order to pick materials that carried the best weight and attractively distributed themselves along the body, felt wearable etc etc. Riley was so patient with me as I poked and prodded at each mock up. Below she graciously answered my series of questions for y’all to get to know her a bit more. Within the post you can find links to her full line Riley Phillips Art. She quite literally kicks ass and is a tedious sewing genius- proud to introduce our lead Garment Engineer (made that up) RILEY PHILLIPS.
Introduce yourself! Where are you from/school/interests/family/first username etc. (you can tell a lot from ones first email address)
I usually say that I’m from Orlando, FL because that’s where my family is settled right now, but I grew up as a military child so we moved around a lot. That makes it a bit difficult to pin-point where I’m “from,” but I spent my most influential years between Germany and Florida. Home is a ~state of mind~ really influenced by my family-- my siblings are some of my best friends!
I’m a rising senior at Wake Forest University where I’m double majoring in Studio Art and German with an Art History minor. My focuses are in Photography and Drawing, but within the WFU Art Department, I’ve really been pushing myself with other media like painting and sculpture. Always trying to work on something new, and I, of course, always try to incorporate fashion into my studies where I can (-- I pursued an independent research project in Berlin last summer through the WFU German Department, studying the multicultural influences of the city’s fashion scene, complete with a fully-fledged, street style photography project! Truly life-changing). Art and travel really influence my interests and experiences.
First memory regarding fashion?
Oh wow, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t rallying for a Project Runway marathon. That show was definitely my first glimpse into the creation of fashion. I’m still holding out for a Tim Gunn meet and greet.
My first memory of my own fashion construction comes from my sophomore year of high school, when my Humanities teacher, Ms. Mac, assigned a fashion unit where we had to design our own garment out of unconventional materials (very Project Runway-inspired). I hot-glued together a trash bag dress, and I’ve been designing ever since. So, thank you, Ms. Mac!
Any vintage items that you will never never let go of?
I can’t imagine a day in which I part with my 1970s Levi’sdenim jacket (my ~big girl~ purchase from when I studied abroad in Venice last year). Or the very grandma-looking blouse I thrifted in Vancouver. Or my 100% cotton red high-waisted jeans. I am very attached to my statement pants.
Describe your relationship with creativity? Where do you glean new ideas from/when do you feel most creative?
I get a LOT of inspiration from art, architecture, film, and travel (even just through photos, but I’ve been very blessed with an adolescence and young-adulthood that have allowed me to engage with other cultures). My creativity is definitely spurred by learning and spontaneity and other people! Collaboration and cross-cultural connections are invaluable.
What interests you in small business?
The relationships! Especially in art / fashion, connecting with people is so special, and small businesses are the perfect example of that. I love hearing the stories behind the businesses, the people who created them, and the motivations behind the product.
Describe your own fashion line- how did you build out the collection and what was that process like- also tell about your fashion week experience!!!
Ps- where can we find this collection?
Ah, my baby :) My multidisciplinary label, Riley Phillips Art, focuses on fine art, fashion, and photography, inspired by travel and multiculturalism, art, and individuality (especially pertaining to style).
I founded the label just after I graduated from high school. At that point, I had made a mini collection of unconventional fashion made from fashion magazines and a few other odd materials. Haphazard straight stitches and hot glue were my tools of choice.
When I started at Wake, I found a few local gigs for fashion photography and heard about some opportunities for fashion showcases. I spontaneously decided to apply for them with my little paper dress portfolio and was miraculously accepted under the stipulation that I showcase conventional, textile fashion and not paper dresses. So I got to work and taught myself how to properly sew at the beginning of 2018, just in time to unveil my first (conventional) mini collection that June. That mini collection, entitled ROMAN HOLIDAY, led to my first full, 16-look collection, LA DOLCE VITA, which previewed at Greensboro Fashion Week in October 2018.
LA DOLCE VITA was inspired by my excitement to study abroad in Venice that coming semester (and later refined with details inspired by my completed experience)-- think waterways / canals, worn down stone, Renaissance art. I developed the collection over the course of about 5 months-- there was a lot of trial and error and consulting of old seamstress manuals, but I learned so, so much through the process.
I had a few photo shoots with my fashion and obnoxiously posted about my collection on social media. While I was in Venice, I was contacted by talent managers at Vancouver Fashion Week in Vancouver, British Columbia. They invited me to professionally debut my collection at their Spring / Summer 2020 season showcase in October 2019, and I am not exaggerating when I say that it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I truly get butterflies leading up to a runway show. Seeing all of my hard work culminate into a professional showcase with industry models and full styling and my name on the screen at the end of the runway… it was really an overwhelming feeling of “wow, I did that.” I learn more everyday and certainly have a plethora of room to grow, but I am very proud of all of the hard work and creative development that went into that collection. I’m taking my time with my next big project, but I would love to show at VFW again. Berlin is next on the list.
You can see LA DOLCE VITA here (featuring the VFW runway video!): https://rileyphillipsart.com/ss20
And my greater art portfolio here: https://rileyphillipsart.com
I typically ask for folks to describe their style- but I feel like that is limiting at times. Why do you think describing personal style is difficult?
I like to describe my style as contemporary art meets Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996) meets flirty Italian grandmother. But personally, I find that my style is always evolving, even if subtly. My interest in style and carefully considering the way I dress myself is pretty fresh-- like within the last 2 years. That being said, I think it’s difficult to describe because styles are often too fluid or complex (with many, many influences, like in my case) to effectively narrow down to just a few words.
What makes you hopeful in life right now??
Art, art, art-- especially, seeing people express themselves and using their artistic voices to speak out and make change. That creative support within the formation and strength of our communities really keeps me hopeful and motivated.