Amy Newton has proven that creativity, courage and good craftsmanship are key elements in transitioning from a rookie talent to an established designer.
The London-born artist is one of the fashion industry’s most promising new talents – and she showcased her impressive skills on Sunday during New York’s PLITZ Fashion Week.
Newton’s colorful presentation delivered looks from her Spring 2014 collection, where she debuted her “East Meets West” line – which represented contemporary, cultural fusions from Asian and African inspired prints on flattering dresses and tailored ensembles.
After the last model sashayed off the runway, the audience stood to applause and theGrio headed backstage to talk with Newton about her journey into fashion and her aspirations for the future.
theGrio: Congratulations on presenting such a wonderful line! I’m sure it marks a momentous time for you – briefly, tell me about your experience working in the fashion industry
Newton: I started off as a graphic designer in London then moved to advertising before moving to New York in 2007. It was really interesting really, I wanted to pursue more of a creative path so I went into fashion merchandising. I already had the basic skill of graphic design and playing with shapes so I pretty much used sort of that same methodology to do fashion through using illustrator. I don’t sketch, I do everything digitally so it allows me to play with shapes and patterns and I create my own artwork. I actually designed all the prints, print them on fabric and overlay them onto contemporary designs.
What sparked your change of heart to pursue fashion?
I made the decision to go into fashion in 2011 because I used to be a graphic designer and I didn’t love it. I loved [fashion] design. I like that it’s diverse and that it give me a more unique voice, it allows me to express myself.
Tell me what you think makes your fashion line so distinct from others
Everything I do is one of a kind and unique not only because of the prints but also the layering of different textures and fabrics. I mix it all up in a different way.
Have you found it particularly difficult as a minority trying to break into the fashion industry?
I launched in March so it hasn’t even been a full year for me yet to give an accurate assessment of my journey so far. It’s been really good. I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback and positive vibes from everyone but there are certain things that can be an obstacle. The fact that it’s an ethnic contemporary line and the concept is taking ethnicity — Indian, Asian and African — and to deliver a more unique work, that can be challenging because ethnicity scares people. So we’ll see how it goes.
Do you think there is a need for more diversity in the field?
Absolutely. I think one of the main African-American household names is Tracy Reese – but people typically can’t name two or three. So I get compared to Tracy Reese a lot, which I think is a huge compliment. But yea, there definitely needs to be room to allow more talented designers.
Describe your brand in a few words – and talk to me about your past collection
It’s contemporary, fun and artsy. Each season has a different theme. My first collection was based on my Africana symbols so that was using a lot of west African symbols and reflecting that in the print for the more modern day woman.
How does that differ from this line?
The 2014 collection is “East meets West,” which is pulling from a lot of Buddhism and Buddhist symbols. Buddha eyes, using symbols about unity – everything is always positive, togetherness. I didn’t want to just do another line that was standard. I wanted the print to have some sort of meaning behind it. I thought taking the positive prints and creating my own version of the symbols is something I haven’t really come across.
If you could dress any celebrity, who would it be?
I really want to dress Janelle Monae. I really want to dress her. She’s great. I love everything about her style. It’s just so cool and different and I love the way she performs. She’s energetic, I love what she does and she looks amazing.
What advice do you have for other aspiring fashion designers?
Follow your dream and keep your vision because along the way you’ll have external advice on what your designs should look like and how you can make it look more commercial. There’s definitely a middle ground but keep your voice, keep your vision because ultimately, you know what you want and you should go for it. And you should do it because you enjoy doing it, because you’re passionate about it and because it makes you happy.
Follow Lilly Workneh on Twitter @Lilly_Works