It seems like just a short time ago that Andy South and his fellow "Project Runway" designers were waiting to be judged on their Spring 2011 collections to determine the Season 8 winner. But that was television.
Now, as South prepares to preview his South by Andy South Fall 2011 collection tonight as part of Neiman Marcus’ "Fashion Rules" event, he admits some trepidation. This is real life, with real costs and consequences.
"It’s so scary but so exciting to be putting out something," he said. "You wonder, are they really going to buy it?"
It’s been one thing to bask in the love and support of friends and followers in his real and in digital Facebook communities who have consistently asked how and where they can buy his creations since the show ended in October. It’s another to see whether store buyers respond to his designs and consumers follow him to the next step of mass retail.
Neiman Marcus Honolulu will carry South’s designs beginning in August, and tonight’s show will be a casual presentation, during which the designer will be introducing and talking about the pieces. His collection will have its world premiere at 7 p.m. March 24 on Ala Moana’s CenterStage, during one of several free fashion shows highlighting the mall’s spring Shop A Le’a event.
» When: 6:30 p.m. Spring Trends runway show, followed by South by Andy South Fall 2011 collection at 7 p.m. today
» Where: Neiman Marcus, Ala Moana Center
» Cost: Free
The event follows the 5 to 6 p.m. in-store reception for the Empty Bowl Hawaii Signature Bowl Silent Auction that continues through March 14 and serves as the kickoff for the March 18 Empty Bowl Evening in Chinatown. Artists volunteered their time to make 3,000 bowls for the event to call attention to the plight of the hungry.
From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. March 18, the public is asked to head to the ARTS at Marks Garage and contribute $20 for a simple meal of bread and a bowl of soup to benefit Hawaii Meals on Wheels and River of Life Mission. The soup and bread are provided by some of Hawaii’s top restaurants, and the bowls will serve as a keepsake to remind of the needy in the community year-round. Visit www.emptybowlhawaii.org.
With production being done in China and a full line of 33 pieces, South appears to be far ahead of his fellow competitors who are still stitching garments one at a time, formulating business plans or simply crisscrossing the country for various fashion, charity or educational events.
His collection comprises dresses and separates that can be mixed and matched dozens of ways, in easy-to-wear combinations of black and grays, with a few white accents. They include tank and body-hugging dresses, T-shirts, light cocoon and structured jackets, harem pants and leather shorts. The pieces easily meld with any wardrobe, whether one is picking up a T-shirt to wear under a structured designer jacket, or a diaphanous top to throw over leggings.
Many of his pieces incorporate a signature South directional chevron design that marks the evolution of work he started with his sportswear collection on "Project Runway."
His main aim was versatility "because people dress that way now," he said.
Reflecting on his own style, he said, "I don’t want to wear one thing one way, or one outfit that’s set. I want to break things apart."
While not activewear per se, the collection nevertheless has an active, kinetic vibe reflecting the spirit in which it was created.
"That’s how I felt, like I hit the ground running," South said. The collection also reflects strong women whom he believes are confident, quick, decisive and in perpetual motion toward accomplishing their aims.
Sending his designs overseas for production, South said it was somewhat hard letting go of the work when he’s accustomed to going over every detail of his creations. But having seen the work coming from factories there, he said, "I knew the quality would be there, and I’m really happy with what they did. (The process) was a lot smoother than I thought."
Now he’s playing the waiting game as buyers pore over "lookbooks" and line sheets coming at them from various manufacturers. Since the downturn in the economy, fewer retailers are willing to take a chance on new designers.
"I feel that it’s really important to be seen by buyers in New York, so I’m trying to stay current with their schedule, otherwise it’s easy to fall behind very quickly. It’s a struggle. I’m already working on Spring 2012 and realized I’m going to have to go back to China in the next two months," he said.
Although South has said he’ll make pieces of his inaugural collection available online, he’s taking a wait-and-see approach as he awaits the verdict of buyers in New York. Retailers often don’t want to be in the business of competing with individual designers marketing their own designs.
If he’s successful, he would like to bring production home to Hawaii someday. "It’ll be a struggle but I think it’s possible," he said.