I had the pleasure of being able to ask fashion designer Rufus Dixon some questions… You can see Rufus’ feature on The Flying Fruit Bowl here
1.Tell us a bit about yourself…
I grew up in a small city in central Massachusetts with big dreams to become a successful fashion designer. My dreams and ambitions have carried me to graduate from college and now have brought me into the real world to begin my career in fashion. I design women’s wear with an androgynous twist that also can be worn by men. I work with leather to express my inspirations and thoughts that tend to be on the more grim side. I create garments that tell stories through textures, shapes, details, and style lines. Everyday I am growing in my design aesthetic as I discover new inspirations that open my eyes and keep me alert to the new trends.
2.How did you become a fashion designer? Did you study it or are you self-taught?
When I was in high school I took sewing classes every year and there my love for fashion and sewing grew. I then decided to go to college to get a degree in fashion. I went to Lasell College outside of Boston and there I learned all of the tools to design and make patterns. With this college I also had the opportunity to study abroad to London for a semester. It was such an amazing experience I will never forget.
3.What is the best and worst thing about creating your own clothes?
The best part about designing my own clothes is being able to have artistic freedom with my work and being able to go from an idea to a completed garment all on my own. The worst part about creating my own clothes can sometimes be the amount of work I am putting into it. I am a part of the design process, the drafting process, the sewing process, and the finishing process.
4.What is your favorite material to work with and why?
My favourite material to work with is leather. There is just something I love about the feel and look of leather that inspires me to design. Leather just has that tough and hard look that I like to play with to make feminine silhouettes more edgy.
5. Who or what inspires you?
Many different forms of media including paintings, architecture, movies, music, places, and people inspire me. Some of my favourites are the Parisian Catacombs, graveyards, Grace Jones, horror movies, Hedi Slimane, Francis Bacon, the concept of good vs. evil, Jeremy Scott, Transylvanian castles, Maison Martin Margiela, Annie Lennox, Givenchy, Andy Warhol, Yolandi Visser, and all things Halloween.
6. Who are the target audience for your clothes?
My target audiences for my clothes are women and men who wear edgy garments and feel confident in them. They aren’t afraid to draw attention to themselves in a fashionable matter. They would wear pieces like mine to make a statement at a gathering and have everyone’s eyes on them.
7. How do you generate ideas for garments? Do you go through a particular process?
My ideas usually start with a feeling, sensual, animalistic, powerful, then I find some inspiration that goes with these feelings. I scour the internet, magazines for images or paintings that shock me and open my eyes to these new emotions. These emotions bring shapes and forms into my head to start sketching and getting my ideas down. Each time the process is different and always a spur of the moment. I carry a notebook in my jacket pocket so I can write things down as they pop into my head.
8. If you could create a garment for anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
This is a really tough question, there are so many people I would love to design for but I would have to say the number one person I could design for would be Grace Jones. I just love how androgynous she is and how confident she is in herself. She enjoys wearing extreme and extravagant garments and she makes them look wearable because she has the right attitude to wear them. Her stage costumes are to die for and they give me so much inspiration for not only my designs but for my life too.
9. What kind of music do you like and do you think that this plays a part in helping you create your clothes?
I enjoy a wide range of music; from electronic to pop to heavy metal to punk, I am a fan of it all. Music is another art form that inspires me from time to time. When I need to sketch some ideas I find myself listening to different music depending on my mood and feelings. I will usually listen to an album from beginning to end and I see my sketches evolving as the songs on the album play.
10. How do you market yourself and your work?
I am still working for myself so I am using outlet medias like facebook and instagram to get my products out to people to see and want. I am also working for a website, www.thehautehouse.com, which is a Boston based website helping young designers out of college to sell garments on their website. Also with this company I am showing at fashion shows and doing photo shoots.
11. Do you think that fashion has to be practical? Is there room for artistic and impractical clothing?
Fashion needs to be practical to a certain extent for everyday needs, like movement and comfort but I feel the most creative when I am making more artistic and impractical fashions. In order to be innovative in fashion you need to make impractical things to push boundaries to grow and move forward.
12. Do you think that fashion is seen as an art form especially when compared to painting or photography?
Fashion is absolutely an art form, it is a cut and sew medium that helps people express themselves creatively by being able to alter and play with their own look. Everyday you are the “artist” and your body is the “canvas”, you dress yourself depending on your mood, the weather, and activities for the day. That’s why fashion design is so exciting because you can “paint” these beautiful “paintings” when you design and make garments for people to wear. Unlike artists whose paintings hang on the wall, I get to create art that moves and breathes as people wear it day to day.
13. I notice that the clothes in the images you sent me are all black. Is this your favorite color to work with? If so, why?
At this point in my life yes, black is the primary colour in my work. I love to use different shades of black together to create depth and character in each of my garments. I love to use matte leather and shiny leather in the same garments to play with shadows and shape on the body. I find something so romantic and at the same time morbid when I look at my garments, the blacks all come together and tell a story evoking different emotions for the person wearing it and the people looking at it.
14. I also notice that you make a lot of clothes for women as opposed to men. Is there a reason for this? Do you think that women are more interesting to dress than men?
When I went to college the classes were more focused on women’s wear, we only had one semester for men’s wear. At first I thought men’s wear was boring and I only made women’s wear, but now I am starting to sketch some men’s wear designs and I don’t know why I ever thought it was boring. Men’s wear today is starting to evolve and change into more than just a button down shirt and tie; it is becoming a whole new androgynous world where men are starting to wear more interesting clothes and silhouettes.
15. I think that some of the best fashion designers and fashion photographers, such as Alexander McQueen, Gareth Pugh, Nick Knight and Tim Walker are all male, yet they predominantly design for and photograph women. They do an amazing job and, in my opinion, they often do a better job then some female fashion photographers and designers. Do you agree with this and if so, why do you think this is?
I sort of agree with this. There is just something about male designers that know how to make garments for women. I think it is the male designer expressing his inner feelings for the ultimate beautiful woman that they could never be. They project these feelings into their garments and make women look ultimately beautiful. Each garment is a new personality of themselves for women to wear and become these personalities.
16. When you have clothes you need photographed what do you look for in a photographer (if you hire one) and how much control do you have over the final outcome of how your clothes are portrayed?
I am always looking for photographers who have a similar aesthetic to mine in their work. This is always the perfect pairing because they see my garments through their creative eyes and takes them to new levels. They think of things that I wouldn’t, to help make my garments come alive in the photographs. So far I’ve had a lot of control over the final outcome of the photographs, but at the same time it is good to let them take over and show you how great your garment can look.
17. What messages, if any, do you try and express through the clothes you make?
Be confident in yourself. Except yourself, no matter who you are. After you except yourself then you can express yourself. I see some of my garments as pieces of armor, when you put on the thick leather you take on a new persona, a stronger, tougher you.
18. Do you think that it is hard to create your own style as a fashion designer?
It is hard at first because when you figure out what fabrics you work best with and what silhouettes you love to create people will always compare your work to things they have already seen in the fashion industry. It takes confidence in your work and your ideas to separate yourself from them and then gain your own identity in the fashion world. It is hard because everything in fashion has already been done, it is about showing your own interpretation on it. The artist Jean-Michel Basquiat once said, “If you want to talk about influence, man then you’ve got to realize that influence is not influence. It’s simply someone’s idea going through my new mind.” It is all about taking an idea and growing and improving on it and putting your creative touch on it to make it exciting and new.
19. What are your plans for the future?
I am itching to move out of Massachusetts and move to NYC. Everyone keeps telling me to move to a smaller city and be the big fish in a small pond but I know I won’t be happy until I have lived in NYC for at least a few years before I move somewhere else, like Europe! I want to start interning at big fashion house and learn their techniques for patterning and designing and to see how a company works and is productive. Eventually I would love to have my own brand and website selling garments all over the world.
20. Do you have any advice for aspiring fashion designers?
Don’t force yourself into one area of design, expand yourself past your boundaries and be creative with everything that you do. It is exciting to see yourself grow as the years of design go on. Every opportunity could lead to a bigger and better one so don’t get discouraged when you are doing the little jobs because one day, that one special garment that you create could be the next big thing.
To see more of Rufus Dixon’s work head to: