“I love everything about my work,” says Valerie Phillips ’07, who recently developed an independent clothing design business, Glister, in Asheville, N.C., that merges sustainability and fresh couture. Recently featured on the cover of the February 2011 Edition of Verve, North Carolina’s Smartest Magazine for Women, she has been hailed as the young professional that “can make a dress from just about anything.”
Sifting through clothing bins to find “buried treasure,” Phillips uses discarded shirts, tablecloths and curtains to construct her late 1950's to early 1960's inspired fashion. Add the breathtaking view of the Blue Ridge Mountains just outside her studio window and her way of life seems strangely reminiscent of scenes from the musical, TheSound of Music. However, her clients are certainly not members of the Von Trappe family.
Her waist cinching, carefully embellished dresses give an earthy yet sophisticated impression.
“It all started when I found a pair of purple clown pants in a free bin and thought they would make a cute dress,” explains Phillips. “It was a great success and I continued to find used materials and make dresses and skirts. Eventually, it became a business.”
As a Theater and English Arts major with a minor in French, Phillips chiefly focused on lighting and costume design. She credits Arcadia for the depth of her sewing skills, and her acute attention to sustainable production practices.
“I studied costume construction under Alisa Kleckner, Costume Shop Supervisor, in my Stage Practicum course,” she says. “She taught me so much of what I know about garment construction and I wouldn’t be a clothing designer without her. The class built upon those skills and I really enjoyed being challenged.”
Drawn to Arcadia for its ample study abroad opportunities, Phillips gained more than just fluency studying at Hollins University in Paris, France. Living in the world’s fashion design capital for eight months certainly may have helped shape Phillips’ free-spirited style.
Phillips also thanks Arcadia’s Communications 101 course for her inclination to use discarded or recycled materials for her clothing designs, as it was the first place she encountered the topic of sweatshops and unethical labor practices that are often common in the fashion and retail industries.
As Phillips works towards sustainable solutions to produce zippers, needles and other construction implements out of recycled materials, she hopes to expand her product distribution in the future.