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Fashion Here & Now: designer profiles

“This can really be whatever I want it to be, and this is a way for me to express myself.”

- Cierra McNeal

Nikki Blaine

Nikki Blaine opened Fashion Here & Now, during Indiana Black Expo’s Summer Celebration on July 18 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. “I was having a playful experience with color. You’ll see a little bit of yellow, black, white, red, fuchsia [and] blue. I was thinking along the line of resort, borderline professional glam-chic, multi-purpose, multi-tasked type collection,” Blaine said. “I’m always about that little bit of va-va-voom.” Her collection featured pieces that ranged in ages, from young girls to working-age women.

Color wasn’t Blaine’s only inspiration for her collection. She used a lot of geometric shapes, especially circles, in her designs. “You’ll see a lot of skirts that have a lot of flounce in them,” said Blaine. But she also made sure to stay true to herself by changing things up with little quirks, she said. “Some asymmetrical, some little inconsistencies like half of a collar. There’s a little mix of pleasure for me. I like to do things a little different, so it’s a little off, but it’s intentional, therefore, it creates its own art that way.”

Since she was a young girl, Blaine said she has known that she was destined for the fashion industry. “I said I wanted to be a fashion designer when I was nine. It has been something that I have cultivated as I grew older, and it’s just a passion that never left me.” Although her mother was talented with makeup, Blaine isn't sure what sparked her interest in fashion. “It was something that was just in me,” Blaine said.

Cierra McNeal

Cierra McNeal was one of the fashion design students featured in the fashion show. “Design, for me, is just something that I kind of fell into in high school. I always liked fashion,” McNeal said. “After I took my sewing class, I started interning at Carmel Civic Theater doing theater design and stuff like that, and I just kept going.”

McNeal’s designs are inspired by music and movies. “This collection, in particular, is inspired by a song by A$AP Ferg, called Cocaine Castle, so that’s where the color came from and mood and all the layering.” The song gave her the inspiration she needed in order to combine colors and techniques that she had wanted to use for a while. “He’s talking about the effect that cocaine has on you and how it can consume you – and it just worked out for me because I really like this song and the mood is really dark and I was really wanting to do a tan and cream/off-white collection, so it really helped me envision the design.”

McNeal uses fashion design as a form of expression. Each collection, just like a painting or a song, tells a story, she said. “The way that you alter and layer each outfit projects a different mood for each look. The way that you order them, coming down the runway, can help tell a story.”

Jessica Greenier

Jessica Greenier, a student at the Indianapolis Art Institute, dove headfirst into fashion design about five years ago. “I didn’t know how to do anything until I went to school,” Greenier said. “I didn’t know how to sew or how to sketch or anything. I just had a passion that I knew I wanted to do it.” She added that her pieces, which were featured during the fashion show, were part of her senior collection.

Greenier said she used a technique called fluting to create texture and made the pattern herself. “All of these are sewn in separately, so it took a lot of time to make. I love that little tedious stuff though.”

“This is my favorite one. It looks so good on the model,” Greenier said. The lace used for the dress was originally a nude color, but she dyed it red to match the red fabric she was using for the dress already.

“When I’m designing I do try to think of it more as art than as like a piece of clothing because I want to do something that you haven’t seen before... Just like you would go to see a painting to be inspired, you can do the same thing through clothing and design.”

- Cierra McNeal

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