Three Local Designers on the Art of Wearing It Well
The concept behind this story was fashion: Predict the trends for fall and suggest some must-have items to update your wardrobe. Conversations with several local artists soon suggested that this was beside the point. Sure, presenting an updated look is important. But the real star of this story—and your closet—is individuality and the timeless beauty of personal style.
By design, the American t-shirt is personal, iconic and classic. Concert, vintage, sports, political and comedic—they speak of who we are and where we’ve been. Plus, let’s face it, they’re just cool.
Frange Abaraka, artist and owner of Yakitoko, says, “The t-shirt has been there in the past and it will be there in the future. It’s part of everyday life.” As such an integral part of modern life, he feels that it should be extraordinary.
“Yakitoko means ‘something beautiful,’” he explains. “Many people think it’s Japanese, but Yakitoko came from Lingala, a dialect from Central Africa.”
Abaraka, who was studying aerospace engineering and graphic design at University of Maryland-College Park when his clothing company took off, focuses on the conflict and balance between science and nature in designing his screen6printed tees, dresses, hoodies and more. His out-of-the-box ideas result in detailed and
colorful designs. “Two Worlds,” his first
design, presents the natural world and man-made city captured in a light bulb outline. Look carefully below the screw thread and you’ll find the outline of an upside-down cityscape.
Past, modern and Metro all provide Abaraka with inspiration. He cites artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, ‘80s culture and technology, and people interacting on the Metro as catalysts for his art. He thrives on experimenting and trying new styles. And—really cool—“the shape of the shirt is part of the design,” he says.
You can tell.
Take the “The Painter.” Inspired by street art, the shirt features an artist spray painting his way up from the tee’s lower right corner. Or “No Pain No Gain” that was inspired by comic books. A blocky comic book-style narrative plays in three dimensions as a man doing chin-ups swings out at you from the strip.
Also by design is the quality of Abaraka’s shirts. “I like to do things the right way,” he says. “You need to balance the money and the art.”
Screen printed on strong shirts like American Apparel, Yakitoko tees are shipped in special packaging that Abaraka designed himself. The box is functional and perfect for repurposing as a container for pens, buttons, change and more. “I wanted something that would not be thrown out,” he says.
“Following the trend is not always
the best thing to do,” he advises. “I like to be unique.”
Silvia Huezo just might be one of Montgomery County’s best kept secrets. Where can you go for a designer, boutique dress that costs, on average, $60? In fact, nothing at the Red Hue Boutique with locations in Rockville Town Square and Kentlands retails for more than $150.
But Red Hue offers many more
important reasons for skipping that trip to the mall.
Thirty percent of clothing in the boutique is Red Hue label, Huezo’s own line. Vintage-inspired with an updated ‘50s and ‘60s flair, pieces are sewn in Huezo’s hometown in El Salvador at a family owned and operated atelier. Huezo explains that seamstresses there maintain an almost old-fashioned attention to workmanship and “understand the styles, the silhouette.”
For her, the silhouette is what creates perennial style.
Huezo came to the U.S. when she was six years old and grew up in Takoma Park. In high school, she fell in love with vintage clothing and spent lots of time at area thrift and antique stores and vintage shops like PollySue’s and Rerun in Takoma Park and Venus on the Half Shell in Frederick.
Styles from the 1950s and early ‘60s are her favorite. “What I love most about the clothing from that era is that it’s very feminine and ladylike,” she says. “It accentuates a woman’s body—our shapes. The essential silhouette of a woman is so present in the clothing with the full skirts and small waists.” The detailing and texture of the period—scalloping, eyelet, beading, buttons—also captures her creative spirit.
Huezo grew up seeing her grandmother and great aunts sew their own clothes. She asked her aunt to teach her
to sew and began designing her own clothes when she was a junior in high school. After graduating from Marymount University’s fashion design program, she opened Red Hue in a small basement shop in College Park in 2010. She relocated the boutique to Rockville Town Square in 2011, and last year she added a second location in Kentlands.
Huezo says that the boutique only carries clothing that will last. “Try to go for items that have classic cuts,” she advises. Avoiding trendy or out-of-date items and choosing classic looks will “always make you look polished.”
This fall will feature plaids, but you won’t find them at Red Hue Boutique. That’s because plaids “don’t make a comeback every year,” Huezo says.
She advises concentrating on staples and then mixing in new seasonal items for an updated look. Great staples are a pair of slim-fitting slacks, a simple black pencil skirt, a good blazer and brown riding boots. New wardrobe additions for this fall might include a chunky knit sweater in a neutral color that can be worn over a long or short dress or alone with tights or leggings. A fun statement necklace is also a good purchase, as well as anything with leather detailing or brocade.
And to add a little drama? “We’re bringing back our cape,” Huezo says. The black Anastasia cape is thick knit with buttons down the front and a Peter Pan collar—the stylish alternative to heavy fall and winter coats.
Behind Blue Eyes
“The colors are meant to live in harmony on that piece of fiber,” Denise Karbassi says of her vibrant clothing. They’re also meant to harmonize with your skin.
“There’s no one right jacket for everyone, and the right jacket waits for the right person,” she says. Karbassi is uniquely qualified to marry jacket and person. A color analyst and makeup artist before embarking as a clothing designer, Karbassi knows how to complement a person’s coloring. “I work with the customer to figure out what’s a good match for her skin tone,” she says.
Behind Blue Eyes you’ll find a tropical vacation. Karbassi, who studied at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, took her background in art and color to Hawaii. There she discovered the Asian watercolor technique of Sumi-e brush. “Only I use textile paints instead with a contemporary Western approach to color,” she explains. “It’s an East meets West art form.”
Each piece is unique, but they are bound by a common thread. No matter the color scheme, Karbassi uses the same tones for each color. This way, the customer’s skin tone and choice of shirt worn under the jacket will highlight the color in the jacket that best suits her.
“You’re not going to find this in the mall,” Karbassi says, observing that her sales pick up in a challenging economy. “In a bad economy, the malls are showing the same thing—neutral colors and plain, safe pieces.” Karbassi’s jackets, which come in tailored and kimono styles, add individuality and flair.
This fall, Karbassi adds dresses and tops to her popular jackets. Her multi-piece line is easy care—washable, hang dry and resistant to wrinkling. It’s also lightweight, making it ideal for travel.
And her fall palette? “Watermelon
red, Tanzanite purple, peridot green, pumpkin orange and azure blue,” she says. Wearing a Behind Blue Eyes piece, you might give nature’s autumnal glory a bit