With spring right around the corner, fashion weeks are gearing up to debut a plethora of new styles from up-and-coming fashion designers. The 9th annual Emerging Designers Competition at Charleston Fashion Week (CFW), held March 17-30, will feature Wilmington’s very own Casey Crespo. Crespo was chosen as a finalist and will represent the Port City at the premier style event of the Southeast. Local jewelry designer Kristin Wood, creator of Kopious, will accessorize Crespo’s collection. However, this will be far from the first time these ladies have taken the spotlight. Wood has had her jewelry showcased in popular magazines like O Magazine and on TV’s iconic fashion face-off, “Project Runway.” Crespo won Wilmington Fashion Week’s Designer of the Year showcase at the inaugural event in spring 2014. Crespo showed off her spring and summer collections, alongside eight other designers. A panel of judges determined the winners by scoring predetermined criteria, such as creativity, range and cohesiveness. Since then, the award has opened many doors for Crespo.
“It gave me the credibility I needed to gain new customers,” Crespo says. “It was a great experience, and it’s always great practice doing a fashion show and figuring out the way I want to represent myself. I’m sure having the title under my belt helped pave the way to Charleston Fashion Week.”
The contestants of CFW must undergo a lengthy application process before given the green light. A combination of writing, artwork and photography illustrates how each contestant fulfills his or her passion for design. They are to present a sample of the collection they would show if selected. Crespo turned over quite a pristine portfolio. “I took off three weeks last September to travel and really be free to design and concentrate on the application,” Crespo says.
In fact, Crespo launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund all the materials—which she purchased from Mood in New York—and costs that help her get to CFW. She pledged $3,200 and had surpassed her goal with the help of 44 backers and only 29 hours to go on the crowd-sourcing site.
Support, in fact, always helped propel Crespo’s success and drive. She took interest in the industry at a very young age. As a matter of fact, she is the third generation in her family to pursue a career in fashion. She began making clothes when she was only 11 years old, after her mother found a sewing machine on the side of the road and repaired it. “My grandmother taught me how to use patterns,” she describes. “I was making all of my jeans by age 15, as I couldn’t find any that were long, or interesting enough for me.”
Crespo studied fashion design at UNCG. She advanced her technical skills and learned how to build a career with an established company during her studies. Crespo’s ultimate goal,though, was to start her own clothing line. After college, she worked as a technical designer and pattern-maker for a yoga clothing line. Then she began saving money by working as a seamstress within the film industry. She made costumes for the casts of “One Tree Hill,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Iron Man 3.”
Crespo’s favorite materials to work with have been bamboo and modal knit fabrics. Both are silky and eco-friendly. She also values the functionality of clean lines and simple color palettes.
“Fashion should make the wearer feel empowered and comfortable, so she can truly be the best version of herself,” Crespo explains. “I don’t follow trends too closely; really, great clothes have something familiar about them. Everything is cyclical.”
For her collection at CFW, Crespo has branched out of her comfort zone by choosing chiffon, knits, faux fur, leather, and wool fabrics intermingled with silver metallic embellishments.
“My collection can be described as dark and ethereal, with an element of lunar reverence,” Crespo divulges. “My color palette is restricted to the colors of the moon and night sky. Some of the shapes of my pattern pieces mimic a phase of the moon.”
Since January all of her time has been dedicated to this collection. With so much work involved, she barely has left her home studio. “This is the most important thing to happen in my career so far,” she says. “Every piece you will see on that runway has been draped, cut and sewn by me.”
To complete her overall look, Crespo enlisted the help of Kopious’ Kristin Wood and her spring ’15 collection. It possessed the celestial elements reflected in Crespo’s line.
“I knew her jewelry would be the perfect complement,” Crespo says. “She is always saying jewelry should enhance the look, not distract from the clothes, and I think we have achieved the perfect styling combination.”
Wood creates a variety of accessories, including rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Aside from Kopious’ bohemian aesthetic, Wood also has a personal line wherein she brings the style “Kopious” into custom-made pieces. After making jewelry for herself, friends and family for years, Wood realized her passion was to learn how to professionally create polished pieces within the jewelry industry.
“It all begins with an inspiration I get from either art or nature,” she explains, “such as the lunar phases this season—followed by months of researching exciting trend forecasts and materials. Then I get to work on sketches that combine the gypsy-like style of Kopious with what’s current and new. After I finalize the season’s 15 or 20 designs, I go to the bench to carve wax models with files and rotary tools.”
Wood’s spring and summer collections will be available for sale at the Style Lounge, a place where fashion-week attendees can go to shop through the latest trends presented by various designers. Wood’s jewelry will be seen on the runway the following night as part of Crespo’s runway show.
After CFW, Crespo plans to sell samples of chosen runway outfits through trunk shows. She’ll be bringing home the collection March 31 through April 4 to showcase it again during Wilmington Fashion Week. Each look will be fashioned with Kopious Jewlery Collection, which will be sold in WFW’s “shop the runway sale” before and after the designer showcase.
Simplified versions of Crespo’s runway collection will be available for sale at Edge of Urge in Wilmington this fall. Before then, however, she hopes to land a work space and hire a small team to help her focus and refine her designs.
“I love this quote I found from Anne Klein,” Crespo says. “‘Clothes aren’t going to change the world. The women who wear them will.’”
Charleston Fashion Week begins on Tuesday, March 17 at Marion’s Square and will continue through Saturday, March 21. Ticket prices start at $45. Wilmington Fashion Week runs from March 31 through April 4, and tickets start at $10 per individual event and go up to $150 for a weekend pass.