Runway Q&A

By: Maria McGinnis

Fashion Talks’ Runway event this year is full of incredible looks from talented designers and gorgeous boutiques from around the world. We have Cleveland locals, designs from New York City and Los Angeles, as well as designs from refugees from Sudan and Jordan. 

The Fashion Talks magazine sat down with some of our Runway talents for a quick Q&A about their work and participation in this year’s fashion show. 

Designers:

Name: Tamara Maroño Garza

Insta: tamy_marono

Q: What do you like to design? What’s your vibe?

A: Growing up as a ballet dancer — in a family of ballet dancers — I have always been aware of the power of costumes to enhance a performance. Whether that performance is a person giving a presentation, walking down the street or doing ten fouettés on stage, seeing fabric in motion drew me deeper into the storytelling ability of clothing.  

 

Q: Tell us about your runway collection.

A: The collection has been a study on opposing fabrics, what difference a garment has when a person is moving in it and living in it, rather than just hanging. I am interested in focusing on the experience and the relationship between a garment and the person wearing it. That is why the color palette is very limited because the focus is on the movement of the garment and the different levels of each garment, rather than the color palette as a collection. 

 

Q: What does fashion mean to you?

A: Fashion has given me a space to exist where I don’t have to get on a stage to express myself. It is a way that I have practiced my autonomy from a very young age, a way to challenge myself and be my most vulnerable self, especially when designing. The reason I went into designing and creating is because I grew up wearing costumes from a young age and it gave me the confidence to dance and be a new character. My mission is to ignite that same confidence for women through my designs. It is all about the feeling. 

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in being a part of the runway event?

A: I am beyond excited to present my first collection at the Cleveland Museum of Art, it is an honor to have my work shown in a building that nurtures works of art that have changed the world. It is a moment that I only ever dreamed about. I would have not gotten to this point if it weren’t for all the support that my family has given me. I am also always incredibly proud to be representing Mexico. My beautiful country is always and has always been a great inspiration. 



Name: Miranda Marti

Business Name: Miranda Lynae Marti

Insta: @mirandalynaemarti

Q: What do you like to design? What’s your vibe or specialty?

A: I design anything from evening wear to custom loungewear and I specialize in working with natural, delicate materials. I especially enjoy creating pieces that are cut on the bias because it allows me to experiment with different volumes and has a beautiful effect on lightweight fabrics. Historic art and fashion connect with me so deeply and I love to incorporate that through my designs and styling. Each piece is one-of-a-kind and built using couture sewing methods that I was first taught here in Cleveland. My hope is to help preserve the art of haute couture and to show the care and precision that goes into garment-making. 

 

Q: Tell us about the collection

A: I’m presenting a variety of pieces from many different stages of my career. Some pieces were created here in Cleveland and others were made while I was studying in France. It will be exciting to see all the different styles and influences come together as one collection. 

 

Q: What does fashion mean to you? Why do you like to create?

A: Fashion and style reflect the changes happening in our culture. It’s an expression of what is most important to us like sustainability or comfort or freedom. I love that it connects with each and every one of us on a personal level. I honestly just like to surround myself with beautiful things. I’m motivated when I see an incredible fabric laid out on the table. Starting from the very first sketch to sewing the final button on a blouse is an emotional and rewarding journey. It’s also cool to see my clients develop a curiosity and appreciation for the clothing throughout the building process. 

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in being a part of the runway event?

A: It’s an honor to be a part of an event that is celebrating diversity and the influence that Black culture has on art. I’m excited to share my collection with people in my hometown and engage with other artists. It’s an extraordinary opportunity to present at the Cleveland Museum of Art, which has been a constant source of education and inspiration throughout my entire career.

 

Name: Emily Rinehardt and Megan Rogerson

Business Name: Salvage Apparel Co.

Insta: @salvageapparelco

Q: What do you like to design? What’s your vibe or specialty?

A: Our designs are upcycled pieces made from a combination of deadstock, vintage and repurposed fabrics. We aim to make every piece feel unique and fashion-forward to help end the stigma around secondhand goods. Our assortment consists of one-of-a-kind men's and women’s pieces. We love designing anything from patchwork dresses to reworking items into matching sets.

 

Q: Tell us about the collection.

A: Our collection "Fika" is aimed to transport viewers to the simpler times in life and create a reconnection to mother nature. Fika is the idea of slowing down and appreciating the good things in life. Silhouettes and prints inspired by the rise in cottagecore come to life through our upcycled dresses, skirts and more. Patchworking pieces together from a combination of deadstock, vintage, and repurposed fabric makes every look unique with its own story to tell. We hope this collection inspires people to look into the story their own clothing tells and use it to reconnect to the planet. 

 

Q: What does fashion mean to you?

A: Fashion to us is a way to express and discover yourself. We use design to tell a story through clothing. With each collection, we carefully thrift and upcycle with a curated theme in mind making the clothes feel thoughtfully presented and special.

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in being a part of the runway event?

A: We are excited to see secondhand textiles and fabric scraps that would have been discarded receive a new and extended lifecycle for this elevated runway experience. We are thrilled to share our designs on the runway alongside so many talented, emerging designers. 

 

Name: Vision Toussaint 

Business Name: Haus of Toussaint 

Insta: @hausoftoussaint, @visiontoussaint 

Q: What do you like to design?

A: At the Haus of Toussaint, each piece is designed and curated through moments of history, embodying the diaspora. Toussaint takes you on a journey through prominent history with each piece of his work. From the birth of the idea to the last stitch, each piece serves as a reflection of power, a reminder of the will to succeed and achieve greatness beyond all odds. 

 

Q: What’s your vibe or specialty?

A: History, Black history and art. 

 

Q: Tell us about the collection.

A: He will be showcasing pieces that give an invitation to remember and celebrate our culture, power, who we are and what we are. 

 

Q: What does fashion mean to you?

A: A craft is of a man and a man his craft, thus, fashion is a part of me. It’s who I am. It’s the very merciless platform used to express my passion for our history, beauty and power in each other and our culture. Being a designer is in my blood. My grandmother taught me how to sew when I was 7-years-old. It was a part of my everyday life.

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in being a part of the runway event?

A: To be a part of this event gives the brand a chance to evoke inspiration and a lasting value to each being in attendance.

Name: Kristina Rauscher

Business Name: Altered Star Co.

Insta: @alteredstarco

Q: What do you like to design? What’s your vibe or specialty?

A: Altered Star Co was born out of the need for more alternative style options for adults. I like to design everyday pieces that push the envelope — think bold cut lines, edgy prints and pockets! I want my clothing to help you celebrate who you are as an individual and not who society wants you to be.

 

Q: Tell us about the collection.

A: I am so excited about this runway collection! I started with simple wardrobe staples and took them over the top with tulle, pops of bold color, metal embellishments and lace. Think, "little black dress" meets "rocker chic.”

 

Q: What does fashion mean to you?

A: To me, fashion can be a kind of silent power. I design my pieces to challenge what is "normal.” I want to celebrate uniqueness and empower different shapes, sizes, colors, orientations and ethnicities to be loud about who they are. 

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in being a part of the runway event?

A: ​​Aimon has created something truly unique within both the fashion industry and the local community and I am so excited to be a part of it. While I can't wait to show off my hard work in putting this collection together, I'm also looking forward to networking and getting to work with other creatives. 

 

Name: Matthew Williams

Business Name: The Freezer

Insta: @_thefreezer_ 

Q: What do you like to design? What’s your vibe or specialty?

A: I usually design suits and dresses, but I dibble and dabble in each area of clothing even though my specialty is in evening/formal wear.

 

Q: Tell us about the collection.

A: On the runway, I will be showcasing evening wear, but something more modern and with a touch of The Freezer in it. Many pieces are suits and dresses, but their design has been altered to create new silhouettes and fresh looks.

 

Q: What does fashion mean to you? Why do you like to design?

A: To me, fashion is a person talking without speaking. What you are wearing is the first thing a person sees when they look at you, and it says a lot about a person and their personality/values. I design because I like making people feel empowered, confident and like they can take on the world when they are wearing a garment of mine. I use designing as a way to express a topic or emotion. It allows me to have an outlet and present something new to the world. 

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in being a part of the runway event?

A: I am looking forward to networking with many people and being able to see my collection walk down the runway. 

 

Name: Gabby Nti

Business Name: GABRIELLE NTI NYC

Insta: @gabrielle.nti

Q: What do you like to design? What’s your vibe or specialty?

A: The NY-based label GABRIELLE NTI was created with the ambition to add an alternative direction to the offerings of contemporary menswear and womenswear with influence from African culture. The brand offers high-quality and essential designs with a cunning eye for detail, color and print design. Nti's collections are inspired by the designer's dual heritage. Being a first-generation American, her Ghanaian roots influence her Afro-Centric and contemporary design aesthetic. Here at GABRIELLE NTI we celebrate all body types and tell the story that Africa is a continent with amazing people and resources just waiting to share with the world, one design at a time. We create clothing in small quantities to remain sustainable and aim to employ women in Ghana and West Africa. 10% of gross proceeds from our GOLD COAST GLORY collection will go towards underprivileged youth charities in Accra, Ghana.

 

Q: Tell us about the collection.

A: I will be showcasing my collection titled "Gold Coast Glory.” A collection by GABRIELLE NTI influenced by the captivating oral and physical traditional wear of royal ceremonies in the Akan culture in Ghana, West Africa. From the placement of the jewelry on the body to the movement of the fabric, every element of these ceremonies was explored to celebrate regality.

 

Q: What does fashion mean to you? Why do you like to design?

A: Fashion is an opportunity to express yourself, to showcase who you are and what you believe in without uttering a single word. It tells a story. A journey. A language.

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in being a part of the runway event?

A: I'm looking forward to the adrenaline that only a fashion show can create. I am also looking forward to the community of incredibly talented designers, models, MUAs and fellow creatives I will be around.

 

Name: Duha Odeh

Business Name: Duha

Insta: N/A

Q: What do you like to design? What’s your vibe or specialty?

A: I like to design for both men and women, but women’s fashion is my specialty. I like designing things with multiple purposes. Making something casual but able to transform for a night out. One piece of clothing that can give you multiple outfits.

 

Q: Tell us about the collection.

A: I am showcasing both men's and women’s looks for a casual setting but also a night out in a versatile way.

 

Q: What does fashion mean to you? Why do you like to design?

A: I love fashion and sewing. My father taught me when I was 12-years-old. Sewing allows me to go into a different world and be truly happy. Sewing and designing are my stress relief where all the bad from the outside world cannot touch me. I can create, put my fingerprint on the world and share my happiness with others. I can show all the ideas in my head and put them out for the people. I like to show how things can go many ways and be creative.

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in being part of the runway event?

A: I am looking forward to showing my work to other people and hopefully it will take me to the next step. My dream for 30 years has been to be a designer. I am finally making my debut with this fashion show and I am very excited to see what can come next. I hope to start my own brand and become a famous designer in my own right.

 

Name: Joseph Peter Vuga

Business Name: Peter’s Fashion Designer

Insta: N/A

Q: What do you like to design? What’s your vibe or specialty?

A: I like to design African styles and show the world African fashion. I make clothing for both men and women but my specialty is making bags and purses.

 

Q: Tell us about the collection.

A: On the runway, I will display African dresses, shirts and bags and show the people a sense of African style.

 

Q: What does fashion mean to you? Why do you like to design?

A: I started learning how to sew very young. I would watch and observe. Fashion and I grew up together. Sewing has helped me in my life a lot. Sewing has given me a sense of adventure. It is my livelihood. Fashion gives you a chance to learn from others but make your own styles. I can bring my personal colors, fabrics and styles and make them mine. Fashion gives you exposure to meet different people and new ways of approaching fashion. I am able to learn from Americans how fashion is designed here as I am a designer from Africa.

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in being a part of the runway event?

A: Being part of the runway I am looking forward to understanding others and connecting. I am looking forward to showing my styles and ideas and selling my product. I hope this gives me the exposure to integrate into American fashion and create my own fashion label and gain sponsorships to help me on my journey.

 

Name: Zahra Najafi

Business Name: Zahra/People Play God

Insta: @1.z__n

Q: What do you like to design? What’s your vibe or specialty?

A: I have taken a fabric first approach. All of my materials were bought or donated (I'm very fortunate to have giving and understanding people around me) to me through second-hand sources. Nothing was purchased new, the thread, buttons, fabric etc. Silhouette is what came next. Color is not very important to me, silhouette and the design are what are intriguing. I wanted to test out "sustainable.” Was it possible? Is it necessary? How does one go about it? I believe that starts with your materials first, seeing what you have to work with and then your design.

 

Q: Tell us about the collection.

A: We are far removed from how a garment is constructed regardless of the fact that we wear clothes all the time. Through my pieces, I have approached creating them in a way that allows the wearer to mess with the garment and adjust it to their liking in a matter that helps them better understand the construction. Creating shapes through seamlines that are easy to follow. The garments are never finished but instead constantly changing, you as the wearer are invited to pull on the strings, analyze its lines, solving the puzzle of how it was made. Almost all of the pieces are made with rectangles. This collection explores playing with the intersection of rectangles and strings.

 

Q: What does fashion mean to you? Why do you like to design?

A: I came to college to get as close as I could to answer the following question: How do you represent an idea in a way that is understandable to many people?  

I wish to go into the entertainment industry, film and music specifically. While I would like to own a brand later in my career, I do not wish to work in fashion or work on clothes. Through fashion design, I am testing my process of bringing an idea to life. Attention to detail, form, perception, movement and conveying an idea/story. 

To successfully pursue the career I wish to have, being able to come up with thought-provoking ideas and stories is a must. Entertaining people while giving them something to think about is what I wish to achieve. I will continue exploring the arts until I better learn how to do that. 

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in being part of the runway event?

A: I’ve never had the opportunity to curate an experience for guests through my personal work. I am looking forward to seeing what I can come up with, how the guests will react and the interactions that come along with it. More than anything I love to perform and I have missed the stage, so I'm excited to walk on one again along with my work. Please come by to say hi after the show at the vending tables!

 

Name: Angelique Wong

Business Name: Artuza

Insta: @angthebudgetbarbie, @artuzaclothing 

Q: What do you like to design? What’s your vibe or specialty?

A: I pride myself on being a versatile designer. I've always loved to dip my toe into different styles of garments and occasions. I would say my specialty is definitely special occasions and bridal. The more dramatic and dressy you need to be, the better. I adore special occasion because it removes all limits from creativity and mold art and wearable fashion together. I also like to do a lot of fabric blocking in my designs. I love to bring together prints and materials that don't usually go together but mold them into something beautiful. 

 

Q: Tell us about the collection.

A: So my collection is called Adde Darling. Its inspired my original design inspiration: my mom. When I first began sewing at the age of 13, she was pretty much my only model. A 13-year-old doesn't have very many places to go outside of homecoming for special occasions. My mother would allow me creative freedom to design whatever I wanted to for each event while giving her guidance as a client and teaching me the balance I would need as a designer when it came to using my creative skills for others. My garments in this collection are based on bringing drama and effortless beauty together. Using fabrics like satin and silk highlights the majestic flow and curves of a woman that constantly moves naturally and unpredictably. I wanted my silhouettes to promote comfortability while also being sexy, feminine and complementary to the wearer. Most of the pieces in this collection were made in the last five weeks. Each has a unique origin story of development, stress, love, tears and joy. Ultimately they come together to make something breathtaking and I'm very proud of it. 

 

Q: What does fashion mean to you? Why do you like to design?

A: I recently graduated from Kent State with my fashion design degree and I went into school seeing design as this fluid motion of working when my mind and body just felt the right vibe. Sometimes I didn't even sketch the designs, I just had it all in my head. School taught me the process. I learned how to sew from Youtube University. Many sleepless nights of trial and error lead me to figure out my own path. My goal as a designer has always been to take the breath away of whoever is wearing my garments. I want to make sure each and every person feels beautiful, valued, loved and confident. Nothing brings me close to tears more than seeing someone's reaction when my garments have transformed into their most beautiful self. That's who I am as a designer and why I work so hard at everything I do. 

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in being a part of the runway event?

A: I am most looking forward to getting to showcase my designs on such a grand stage, it reaffirms the belief I have always had in myself about the heights my designs can take me. My biggest fear after graduation was not working with fashion as much as I wanted to, but so far I've managed to immerse myself every day in what I love to do. I am also excited about the other designers! We come from a huge diaspora of backgrounds and stories that have brought us here today. 





Boutiques:

 

Name: Porshia Banks

Boutique name: Sweet Nothing’s Boutique 

Insta: @sweetnothingsboutiquecle

Q: How do you differentiate yourself from other boutiques?

A: Our collections are custom curated with the dolls (our customers) in mind. We work closely with designers to secure small batch collections and round out the collections with our own in-house designs. We do this all while keeping prices affordable.

 

Q: What is the vibe of the boutique? Do you specialize in a specific style?

A: We like to be a place where you can indulge yourself affordably. So we focus on quality, femininity and uniqueness. The vibe is the ultimate lifestyle brand.

 

Q: Tell us about the runway collection.

A: This collection is all about being bold. There are a lot of bright colors on more subdued and classic silhouettes. People really want to enjoy and express themselves now and this collection really is about getting out and being social. So, there are cocktail dresses, evening dresses and sundresses. 

 

Q: What does fashion mean to you?

A: Fashion means everything to me. It's the way I express myself, how I connect with others and how I provide for my family. Fashion is my life.

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in being a part of the runway event?

A: Honestly, I love seeing all the other designers' collections. 

 

Name: Jen Felice

Business Name: Apricot Lane Boutique Crocker Park

Insta: @apricotlanewestlakecrockerpark

Q: How do you differentiate yourself from other boutiques?

A: We bring in new styles earlier and more often at reasonable prices, offering a unique boutique experience.

 

Q: Do you specialize in a specific style?

A: We offer styles for all occasions from casual to evening wear to the beach or the boardroom. 

 

Q: Tell us about the collection.

A: Modern upscale quality that is fresh, unique and graceful. 

 

Q: What’re you looking forward to in being a part of the runway event?

A: The impact the show will have on the Cleveland Fashion Scene! 

 

Name:

Boutique Name: SW Collections

Insta: @stylishwearcollections

Q: How do you differentiate yourself from other boutiques?

A: We offer a high-quality selection of South Asian, specifically Pakistani, designer options as well as custom options for all occasions. We are based in Canada but ship all over the world. 

 

Q: What is the vibe of your boutique or specialty?

A: We specialize in South Asian wear. From casual all the way to custom bridal, as well as accessories including jewelry and shoes. 

 

Q: Tell us about the collection.

 A: We are showcasing this year's latest and hottest designs and brands from Pakistan.

 

Q: what does fashion mean to you?

A: Fashion is a way for people to express themselves in any way they’d like. We love an ethnic touch.

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in being a part of the runway event?

A: We can’t wait to show the Cleveland audience what Pakistani fashion is all about! 

 

Name: Aimon Ali

Business Name: Nomia Studios

Insta: @nomiastudio

Q: How do you differentiate yourself from other boutiques?

A: We're dedicated to providing the very best of everyday luxury, with a focus on quality over quantity. Our pieces are carefully selected by Aimon Ali, our founder and certified stylist with over seven years of experience in the Canadian and American fashion industries.

 

Q: What is the vibe of your boutique? What’s your specialty?

A: We specialize in classic everlasting pieces. We only release a clothing collection once a year - a limited edition for the runway. 

 

Q: Tell us about the collection.

A: We are showcasing some beautiful pieces that are feline and accessories that are the perfect addition for any event! 

 

Q: What does fashion mean to you?

A: Fashion is something that should make every woman confident in who she is and not be afraid to dress up every day no matter what the occasion! 

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in being a part of the runway event?

A: We are excited to showcase a diverse show, not only with our pieces but also with models! 




Stylists:

 

Name: Parrish J. Purnell Jr.

Business Name: Jamard Styles

Insta: @ParrishPurnellJr

Q: What’s your vibe or specialty?

A: I don’t personally design (yet), but I am a wardrobe stylist and image consultant. My specialty is all things menswear, with a special interest in men's suiting. My vibe is typically to incorporate street style with classic menswear suiting. I’m often inspired by brands like Fear of God and Aimè Leon Dore. 

 

Q: Tell us about the collection.

A: I’ll be showcasing some local Cleveland brands that I love. I think it’s essential to show love to local designers, some of whom I even consider friends. I’m excited because, as a stylist, I get an opportunity to explore themes from my stylistic perspective. That’s what I love about fashion — it’s subjective. It’s living, walking art and I’m the curator.

 

Q: What does fashion mean to you?

A: Fashion means being authentically yourself with what you wear and how you wear it. I am a style curator and one of the biggest misnomers regarding fashion is wearing a specific name brand and you must always be on-trend. That couldn't be further from the truth. Wear what you want, whatever brand you want, but make it yours. That's what I teach my clients — how to develop their personal style. I'm not a designer, but a curator. 

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in being a part of the runway?

A:  I’m really excited to see my stylistic ideas come to life on the runway. I work with people on their style for events and day-to-day living and I’ve had some success with athletes on the NBA level, but this is my first fashion show being a headline stylist. I’m honored that Aimon and the Fashion Talks team would even consider me to be a part of this show. They’re geniuses in their own regard and I’m excited for the city to experience this level of fashion. Shout out to Aimon!