Coffee with ... Rachelle Briton: The newlywed Austin fashion designer chats about her new clothing line and what's next
Rachelle Briton is on a hot streak. The Austinite got hitched the first day of the new year and recently moved with her hubby to a new place.
That alone might be enough for some people to settle into for 2011.
Not Briton. She is a fashion designer, and there's a new line to ready and a new season. Her upcoming collection of women's wear is going to be aimed at a mass market.
And she's added one more item to her 2011 to-do list: She's the mentor of a student at the Austin School of Performing and Visual Arts who is learning how to sketch . Briton will turn their collaboration into reality and show the garment March 9 during the Art of Fashion event at the Long Center for the Performing Arts.
"To me, it's all about helping each other out," Briton, 25, said last week when we met at Jo's Coffee on Second Street at the start of New York's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, which ends today.
A few years ago, Briton was in the mix for Fashion Week in New York, where she was working as a freelance stylist for MTV and dreaming about having her own fashion line. Now, she oversees Austin-based Rachelle Briton Designs (www.rachellebriton.com ) and sells her wares through her website, as well as on Etsy.
"Now I'm so focused on women's wear," she said, sipping a latte. "Really, my line is inspired by rock royalty."
By rock royalty, she was referring to the likes of singer and actress Kelly Osbourne, daughter of rocker Ozzy Osbourne, and actress Liv Tyler, daughter of "American Idol" judge and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler.
Eventually, she wants to add accessories, a men's line, a baby line and plus-size clothing to her brand. Plus, she said she has hopes to one day show her clothing during New York Fashion Week, and she'd love to show in other fashion cities, such as Paris and Milan.
But for now, she's working her strategy to create buzz for her new line. Like other designers, she has been using social media tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, to reach her followers, and her New Year's resolution is to become a better blogger. Of course, she said, she plans to have a proper showing this spring in Austin.
"I'm really looking to do a big show in May, but I haven't found the right venue," she said.
Briton grew up in Austin and attended Round Rock High School. She went to Baylor University, where she studied fashion design. Her father insisted she minor in business.
"Which was probably the smartest thing," she said. "It takes a real passion to be a fashion designer."
She did an internship in 2007 and 2008 at MTV and would go to the runway shows and designer collection parties with other stylists. She also made clothes for several national MTV commercials. She graduated in May 2008 from Baylor and then went back to New York. At MTV, Briton mostly focused on menswear, including dressing Damien Fahey , who was the host of "Total Request Live." Briton didn't stay long in New York. Ready to get her fashion line going, she returned to Austin in late 2008.
New York "wasn't the right place for me," she said . As for styling in the fashion capital, she said, "It was challenging."
She said her now-husband, Brian Miller, begged her to come back. The couple, who had dated off and on since high school, married Jan. 1 in a ceremony at Lakeway Resort and Spa . Now, Miller, who works for Apple Inc., is her biggest supporter and confidant, she said.
When she returned to Austin, Briton worked in the interior design business. But interior design wasn't her passion, and her husband asked her what she was going to do. She decided to pursue her fashion dreams.
"Good things just started to happen," she said.
Her big break in Central Texas came in 2009 with the annual Healthy Woman show at Cedar Park Regional Medical Center . She created several design sketches and presented them to the event's organizers.
"They took a chance with me," Briton said.
Briton focuses on cocktail dresses and gowns, and she has funded all of her work herself. Usually she works with natural fibers, including silks and cottons, and when she's doing ready-to-wear, she works with wool.
For the Healthy Woman event, Briton designed and produced 12 runway looks. Like many starting designers, Briton made her collection while working her day job.
One of the dresses Briton has become known for was a colorful collaboration with artist and musician John Guerin. The $10,000 Queen of Hearts gown is made of muslin from Briton's patterns, and Guerin painted the piece, which Briton would love to see in a museum collection one day.
"Everyone knows the dress around here," Briton said. "It's just something different."
Now Briton is working on the production of her next collection of cocktail dresses and outerwear. It hasn't been easy to find a production facility in Central Texas, she said. But that's not going to stop her, especially with Austin's fashion scene picking up.
"It's a tough economy, and it's hard to be a designer," Briton said. "Austin fashion really recently has taken off. It has always been about music. But fashion is making a stance, and we're being respected and acknowledged."