We’re willing to bet you’ve never heard of Shawn Florence. Neither had we, until he stopped the show at Dallas’ recent auditions for NBC’s Fashion Star. Here’s why you should note the name of this talented local designer.
Shawn Florence, a 32-year-old Fort Worth school teacher, has been quietly designing his own line for years, creating custom garments for clients in his home. His looks are sophisticated and distinctive, most showcasing a palette of warm neutrals in figure-flattering silhouettes. There’s a certain ‘70s flair to many items as well. Picture Diana Ross at the height of the disco era.
Though Florence made it through to the final rounds of casting for both Fashion Star and Project Runway this year, he wasn’t selected to appear on either show. Don’t think for a moment, however, that either setback will slow him down.
Below, we talk reality TV, inspirations, and a Tom Ford fixation with the local up-and-comer. Plus, don’t miss our exclusive gallery featuring four of Shawn Florence’s latest looks.
DFW Style Daily: At what point did you become interested in fashion?
Shawn Florence: “I always knew it was going to be a very big part of my life. My parents, both my mom and my dad, were very stylish people. My mom grew up making her own clothes, for economical reasons, in the ‘50s and ‘60s. She started taking a real interest in style herself.”
What was your first foray into the business side of the fashion world?
“In college, I started making tee shirts and going shopping with girls. I would say, ‘Give me $25 and I’ll pick out your outfit for the party.’ …I didn’t know anything about the business of being a stylist or a personal shopper. I just started putting out these little flyers and slipping them under doors. …I would go and find pictures of celebrities and I would tell [the girls] that I could make them look like the celebrities.
“Then, the next step, I thought maybe I could start making some of the clothes. …At this time, I didn’t have a job, and I had just graduated from college. I had travelled to New York and Europe and I had seen all this fashion, and I was like, I need to find a way to really get into this [world]. So, I went and bought sewing equipment with what little money I had, and my mom taught me technique. I also started watching videos and television shows, and really trying to figure out how to construct clothes. I just got better with time.”
How would you characterize your perspective as a designer?
“I would say that my design aesthetic is high fashion, but relatable to the ready-to-wear woman. …It’s not so dramatic that it isn’t wearable. The woman I design for is stylish, and she knows exactly what she wants to look like. She is into fashion, but she’s not so over-the-top that it looks costume-y.”
How did it feel to get so close in the Project Runway and Fashion Star auditions, without making it onto either show?
“It didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to this time, but I met a lot of great people. I met buyers from H&M and Macy’s while I was there, and they gave me the confidence to say, ‘No matter what happens here, you should keep on trying because you have a statement to make in fashion.’”
Finally, let’s take out the ‘crystal ball’. Looking into the future, where do you see yourself and your career?
“I would want to see my clothes in major boutiques and high-end department stores – Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman. I want to associate myself with the quality of work, the craftsmanship, and the artistry that the designers in that group represent.
“Tom Ford is one of the designers I’ve looked to since first starting out. Even his personal style, the way he dresses himself, the way he carries himself. I thought he was the kind of designer I could pattern my career after. I would want to see myself not just being a designer, but being a fashion personality.”
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