I am so excited to spotlight a beautiful young designer who is making a debut at Full Figured Fashion Week in NYC later this month. She’s 19 years old, creative, driven, and full of vision. The Nebraska native is sure to inspire you too and make you feel proud to call her a curvy sister. Let’s welcome Hannah Olson from Hannah Caroline Couture to Mama Muse Me Blog today!
I have a wonderful Q&A session with Hannah to share with you, but first I want to give you a sneak peek of the collection that she will be showing at FFFWeek. It’s called Gilded, and the complete designs are still top secret until the fashion show.
The bead work is pretty spectacular, and I like the feeling of elegant drama that Hannah is evoking. Hopefully you are intrigued too. Hannah does custom designs for women of all sizes, and the prices on her site are reasonable. I really believe Hannah Caroline Couture is going to become a well-known brand, so keep your eye on this young woman. Now here’s our Q&A to let you into the world of Hannah.
1. What made you decide to show at Full Figured Fashion Week?
I decided to show at Full Figured Fashion Week because I love the idea of a whole week devoted to girls our size. In almost every other fashion week, we are lucky to see maybe one look in a collection, or even luckier, one designer that does plus-size garments. I love being part of a community with FFFWeek that isn’t about competition, but about cooperation and building an industry together. I researched FFFWeek for about a year and realized it’s where so many women go, whether customers or media, to find out the trends and emerging designers in the industry. Once I realized it was the place to be, I knew I had to apply and figure out a way to get there if I got accepted.
2. What process did you go through to be included there?
After I did all my research, I came up with the ideas for my best collection yet and compiled them in my application. I had to include information about my online presence and lots of photos of past work. It was a really long application so I was super nervous after I submitted it, but it made the acceptance email even sweeter!
3. What are you looking forward to the most, and what scares you the most about it?
I’m looking forward to getting more press about my brand outside of Omaha. People know about me and my company here, but I am excited for the huge boost that will hopefully come from being associated with FFFWeek. I’ve already been discovered by a few blogs, and I was asked to submit photos after the show to be featured in a fashion/lifestyle magazine. I hope it keeps coming! I think I am the most scared of not leveraging everything to the fullest. There are so many opportunities during the week and I want to make sure I network as much as possible, stay organized, and not miss anything. I’m not sure I’ll be able to come back every year, so I’m really trying to make sure that this trip was worth all the fundraising and all-nighters (I know it will be!).
4. How did you get started in design?
I got started in design when I was sophomore in high school, after I took a sewing class. I created a couple accessories in there and ended up selling them to friends, which started my accessories company. Then junior year I started making clothes for myself based on what I could teach myself from Pinterest, and friends starting asking for clothing too. So my business really started out of a necessity for myself, and then I realized that lots of other people had similar issues with clothes fitting right. Now I’m going to be a junior in college and I’m 19 years old. College has really helped me so much with the business side of things. I’ve been applying all my business administration classes directly to my business with things like accounting and marketing, so it’s really helping, but business school can’t necessarily provide me the kind of exposure that FFFWeek will, so I’m very excited for what will come from this week. I believe all the shows I had done here in Omaha have really prepared me for this one.
5. Why did you choose to focus on plus size women with your designs?
My company makes clothes for women of all sizes, but offering plus sizes is really what makes me stand out in the custom-clothing world. I’ve always been bigger, so it was really to meet my own needs first, and then I realized I had a business in it. It has proven to be so rewarding along the way though, because I’ve had plus-sized women just come up to me before and hug me or have tears in their eyes and thank me for making clothes for women their size. That’s something that has really kept me going and trying to build this business.
6. What is your design aesthetic, and what inspires you?
My design aesthetic is pretty dark and edgy. Most of my collections are black with some kind of accent color, usually a shade of red or purple. The collection I’ll be showing at FFFWeek is called Gilded, and it’s very true to that aesthetic. Most pieces have a vintage applique on it and there are cool patterns and textures involved. There’s leather, rhinestones, studs, and beading throughout the collection and it’s the most sophisticated collection I’ve done so far. I usually do casual everyday wear and party wear for my shows, but this is more cocktail. One of my favorite fabrics is a silver textured material and I’m really excited to see it under the runway lights with all the beaded appliques.
7. How is your business going so far?
My business has picked up a lot in the past year or so. Last April I won the business plan competition at my university and I received some funding and a lot of confidence and validation from the community. That really helped spur my business along. One of the five-year goals I presented in that competition was to be in FFFWeek, so I’m blowing a lot of my business goals out of the water! I focused my business on custom clothing and that has brought in a lot of business, especially with things like prom. I’m excited to see where things are next year and in five years, because I just stopped planning more than 6 months in advance based on the rate I’ve been growing.
8. What has been your greatest success?
I definitely think getting accepted into FFFWeek at 19 is the biggest thing that has happened to me and my company so far. It was my big, scary, five-year goal just a year ago, and now it’s going to be a reality before the month is over. I keep joking that it won’t really hit me till I step off the plane, or maybe when I come out with my finale model on the runway, but it still feels like a dream right now. I went straight to work preparing for it the day I got the acceptance email and my family keeps trying to get it through my head, but it hasn’t sunk in yet.
9. What makes you stand out from other designers?
I believe offering plus sizes continues to be what differentiates me from other designers. In the shows I’ve done in the Midwest, I was the only plus-size designer. Now, I’m anxious to see what will set me apart from the other plus size designers in New York. I’m excited to learn from their businesses and successes.
10. What is your biggest dream?
I want to be the person that people are willing to drive in to from all over the country to have a piece made by me. I don’t necessarily want to be a true couturier because I like producing custom clothes for people more than producing collections twice a year. But I would love to be the name that women get excited about when they get asked to prom or get proposed to or have a special event coming up.
11. What’s your favorite thing you have designed?
I don’t have a clear favorite, but more like several things that I like better than others. That comes with every collection I make. But there was a prom dress I really loved that I made for a friend this spring, and there’s a piece in my Gilded collection that I made for a model with my same measurements, so I’m secretly hoping it doesn’t sell because I would wear it so often!
12. Which designers, models, actors, or other muses have influenced you?
I like the music and aesthetic of the singer Lorde, but otherwise I gain most of my inspiration from materials rather than people. I like architecture as well, but mostly I like to take general ideas and complete them with whatever I discover at my favorite fabric store in Chicago. I usually let that determine what the collection will be like beyond a basic idea. For instance, I found a bin of vintage beaded appliques at that store this spring, and the concept of Gilded was born.