The most recent RAWards showcased a hell of a lot of talent in the area, the majority of it from fashion and photography giving a glimpse into rising names. --- One of the standout names making it through the ranks was Sterling Bitsue, a former student of the SLCC Fashion Design program who earned a lot of fans and honors while being in the program, and is not turning heads beyond the Utah borders with his creative designs.
Today we chat with Bitsue about coming up through the program, branching out into the local fashion scene, thoughts on what's currently out there and a few other topics. (All photos courtesy of Bitsue.)
Gavin: Hey Sterling! First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Sterling: I was born in New Mexico and I'm Native American. I love being out doors and hiking. Love to travel and take road trips. I like to marvel at things I've never seen before and I also love music.
Gavin: What first got you interested in fashion and what were some early influences on you?
Sterling: While attending SLCC I needed an elective, so I took the introduction to fashion class. I wasn't sure what to expect but it definitely caught my attention. But even before then I enjoyed flipping through fashion magazines. Watching models going down the runway and seeing how the audience was moved by the collection and how it all collaborated. Loved the makeup and hair designs that all made a collection a collection.
Gavin: Did you create anything prior to joining SLCC?
Sterling: I've never created anything before attending SLCC. I mean, I made the basic pillow back in high school but it never really sparked my interest. I hadn't even though of becoming a fashion designer.
Gavin: What was it about women's apparel and accessories that drew you to making them?
Sterling: I enjoy women's wear because there are so much more creative options compared to men's wear. With women's wear there's no telling what you can create, masculine or feminine.
Gavin: What made you decide to join SLCC's Fashion Design program and what was your time in the program like?
Sterling: After taking introduction to fashion, I loved it so much that I wanted to see what other fashion classes were available. At that time there weren't that many and none I wanted to take so I stopped taking fashion classes for a semester. When the semester ended I checked the fashion program again and saw that they were offering more classes, and I knew this was the direction I wanted to go. SLCC's fashion program was fun, rewarding and definitely a lot of hard work. While attending SLCC there was a Fashion Design class only for seniors graduation that semester. I was a year away from completing the program but I had asked the instructor who taught the class if I could take the class. There were pre-requisites to that class that I hadn't taken. She said that I shouldn't take the class until the other pre-reqs were completed. But I wanted to take the class so bad, so she accepted and told me that I was in for a lot of work and that if I fell behind she wouldn't help me. So I took all the advanced classes incongruent with the Fashion Design class. It was rough learning the basics while creating a collection but I believe it helped me push me to my best. Winning first place in 2011 and second place in 2012 in their annual Raw Couture Fashion Show were my best accomplishments. Being the only male to ever place first in Raw Couture was definitely exciting! From there I knew nothing could stand in my way. I pushed the standards of what SLCC had to offer.
Gavin: What were some of the most important skills and lessons you took away from SLCC?
Sterling: “Measure twice, cut once” was probably the best advice given to me by one of the instructors. Still to this day I use this method every time so I don't waste fabric or time designing.
Gavin: During that time, how was it for you breaking into the local fashion scene?
Sterling: I didn't even try to break into the fashion scene, after placing first in Raw Couture everyone wanted to work with me. Before I knew it my designs were being featured in local magazine articles, in the local news and being showcased in local fashion shows. Then all of a sudden I'm part of the local fashion scene. It was all so exhilarating. My fashion career took off faster than me finishing school. I still don't feel like I'm part of the local scene because I didn't push for it. I just did what I love and I have only been doing it for a short period if time.
Gavin: What made you decide to go under your own name rather than create a brand?
Sterling: I like my name because I'm the only "Sterling Bitsue" and I didn't want to hide behind any labels. My work is my work and I want people to know who I am as well as my designs.
Gavin: What's your process like in designing a new piece, from concept to final creation?
Sterling: Music! Music is my passion. I love to listen to music through my whole creative process. Music helps with my inspiration, it captures the mood of the design I'm creating and I can place the complete look in an editorial aspect. From the look of her make up, the way her hair is styled down to the smallest accessory. From there I find a color pallet, come up with a few sketches. Draft a muslin sample. Form there I buy fabric and begin sewing the actual piece. The final products always amazes me every time. I do a little happy dance and then it's accessories.
Gavin: Do you find yourself changing the design around a lot while you make it, or do you try to stick to the plan?
Sterling: Ha! Well I'm a huge procrastinator. I like to wait until the very last minute to design something usually before a show or a photo shoot. I'll slowly pull ideas but won't draft anything just yet. If I start designing something early I'll finish it and stare at it and change it too much until I hate it. I like to create when the idea is fresh in my mind. I get my best ideas working under pressure when time is my only enemy.
Gavin: How challenging has it been for you cultivating a style that's unique to you and makes you stand out from others on the runway?
Sterling: I really haven't found my style just yet. I like to dip into different styles from elegant to grungy. I just like details to stand out in anything I'm creating. I like having a wow factor in my designs, something for them to talk about.
Gavin: You've primarily been kept yourself a request-only designer and haven't put much of anything into local shops. What made you decide to take that direction with your designs?
Sterling: I'm more of an artistic designer. I like to create one of a kind pieces and play with details. A lot of my designs aren't for everyday use and/or hard to find and that's how I want to keep it. I love editorial designs and that's the course I'd like to stay in for now. Eventually I'd love to be able to sell locally in shops or maybe have a shop of my own one day. I don't know just yet it's all up in the air.
Gavin: What do you hope to achieve with your line over the next few years and where do you see yourself headed as a designer?
Sterling: I want my name to keep getting exposed everywhere. So I will continue designing and give the best I have to offer. I also hope to continue school at FIDM, maybe.
Gavin: Going local, what are your thoughts on the Utah fashion scene, both good and bad?
Sterling: Of course like any designer I've had my ups and downs with the Utah fashion industry and have learned a lot. But for the most part I love collaborating with the local scene. There is so much talent and creativity that Utah has to offer, it's exciting and I'm glad to be apart of it!
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Sterling: I wish there could be more events to showcase the fashion industry in all it's fields. Maybe something like a Gala with fine gowns and beautiful dresses other than a bridal show.
Gavin: What are your thoughts about local retailers and how they deal with local products?
Sterling: I feel bad for saying this but I don't really know that much about local retail shops in Utah. For anything in Utah to gain exposure is pretty hard and I wish more people knew about them, I wish I knew more about them.
Gavin: Do you have any favorite shops you like to work with or shop from?
Sterling: I used to have a favorite shop and that was Black Chandelier. Their creativity level was amazing! But I don't think Utah was quite ready for something like that. I would have loved to work for that store.
Gavin: What's your take on events like AMF and the part they play in supporting local fashion?
Sterling: I like events like AMF because it show cases the best Utah has to offer, but not much of Utah knows about it and they need to.
Gavin: What can we expect from your and your line over the rest of the year?
Sterling: I want to be able to do everything from the designing, makeup, hair and photography. I have done it once before for a school project. I would like to know more and I feel like makeup is calling my name and it has been something I've always wanted to do. So who knows, anything's possible.
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