Sloane Lenz is a 21 year old avant-garde fashion designer living in Austin, TX. Growing up mostly in the rural town of Athens, Texas, she began creating unusual pieces for herself to wear, made from materials she could source at her local hardware and grocery stores. She creates striking garments utilizing many unconventional materials, with a preference for plastic and canvas. Sloane has been sewing since just 8 years old. But in addition to her love for designing, Sloane is Co-Creator of a blog called ALLUMER, which focuses on music, style, and culture, and she also enjoys creating films and hand embroidered pillows in collaboration with her brother, who creates the custom graphic designs.
She showcased her debut collection at Austin Fashion Week in April 2015 (at just 19 years old), then her second collection at Dallas Fashion Week the following September. She premiered her third collection during New York Fashion Week in February of 2016, as well as Atlantic City Fashion Week the following week. This 24 piece collection, which also showed at Austin Fashion Week April 2016, is receiving an enormous amount of critical acclaim. She premiered her 4th collection in Dallas this past September, and was asked to show it again in Florida during SWFW in October, as well as Houston Fashion Week later that month. Drawing most of her inspiration from music, she incorporates elements she picks up into her collections. Her runway is comprised of wearable art, avant garde clothing pieces, and she even creates custom garments for musicians’ stage wear, as well as made-to-order pieces. Sloane has been described countless times as “a modern Betsy Johnson”, and has even had her work compared to that of the late Alexander McQueen. Recently she was named the “Andy Warhol of the night” by the Houston Chronicle after showing her Collection 4 at Houston Fashion Week in October. Collection 5 just debuted in April, premiering in Memphis during Memphis Fashion Week, and then in full (24 pieces) in Austin at Fashion X Austin. There’s so much more fun on the horizon…
ANON: What it it like being a fashion designer in Austin, Texas, or even Texas in general?
SLOANE: I’m not sure how it really compares because I’ve never lived anywhere else, but I really enjoy being a part of an industry that’s somewhat in the growing process. Especially in Austin, I feel like the fashion industry is really experiencing a lot of growth right now, which is exciting to be a part of. Austin has such a history for creativity and innovation in so many areas, so I feel like it’s only natural that it would have a really solid community of designers as well. Obviously the resources you might have in like New York or L.A. as far as fabric stores, etc. aren’t as diverse, it really forces me to be creative, and see new aspects in materials or things I might not think to work with right off the bat.
A: What sparked your interest in fashion?
S: I’ve always had an interest in fashion as long as I can remember. My brother and I were in theatre growing up, and so costuming was always something that seemed so magical to me. My brother and I used to make little films with our friends, so I was always the one to glue-gun together the costumes. When my brother was like 11, and I guess I was 13 or so, he won this dance contest and we got to meet Katy Perry after her show in Dallas. We found out like two days before the show, and it was her candy tour so of course we had to make something to wear. We went to Goodwill and bought a bunch of candy at the discount grocery and just started covering these pieces in it. I made a dress out of Pop Rocks packages, and my brother made a peacock hat covered in Twizzlers and fake cotton candy. When we walked in the meet and greet she turned to me and said “oh my gosh, take that off I want it!”. I was like “I totally would but I don’t have anything else to wear!”, haha. From then on we always dressed up when we went to shows, and it became this little challenge for us.
A: What materials do you like to work with? What is your favorite creation so far?
S: I work a lot in canvas. I like how stiff it is, and it’s really a great blank canvas for embroidery or painted elements. I like using found fabrics, or vintage fabrics I can sometimes find various places. I like coming across a piece of fabric and letting it sort of tell me what it wants to be. I’m not sure I could pick a favorite creation so far, but I’m a bit partial to my Walmart plastic bag dress I made when I was 15 to wear to the Lady Gaga show. It has like 400 plastic bags stitched onto it, and it ended up being my first finale dress when I showed on the runway the first time during Austin Fashion Week in 2015.
A: Describe your style in two words:
S: Ever changing
A: What artists/designers do you look to for inspiration? Where else do you find inspiration?
S: I find a lot of inspiration in vintage design. I love the silhouettes of 60’s minis and renaissance revival. I really love the 70’s and all the sort of gender blurring that went on. I try to pull inspiration from music and film, or things like that that inspire me, and not so much current designers or artists. I really want to create things that aren’t influenced too much by anything that’s already out there. I want to create something that’s a blend of all these different elements, so that hopefully it looks like something you’ve never seen before.
A: Many artists and designers like to collaborate from time to time – who is your dream collaborator?
S: Oh wow… That’s tough. If it could be someone who’s passed on, I would probably say Isabella Blow and/or Alexander McQueen. I’d love to time travel and dress the New York Dolls if that’s an option? Or maybe collaborate with Zelda Fitzgerald on a project of some kind, which is actually in works
A: Are you a full-time designer, or do you still have another part/full time job? If you are a full-time designer, how did you make the leap to designing full-time, especially for being so young?
S: I do a lot of things, haha. My brother and I are filmmakers too, and so we make a lot of music videos. He’s an amazing animator, and then I love being behind the camera and editing. We run a music blog too, which just sort of pops up when we cover shows or come across something amazing we want to share. We teach film a bit to younger, private students, which is really fun. I do some styling, too, for bands and photoshoots as well. And then I embroider pillows that my brother draws the patterns for. We make custom pillows for people, and then sell some on Etsy as well. I love making clothes though, but I also really enjoy having a blend of things I do, so I never burn myself out on one thing for too long.
A: What has your biggest struggle been as a fashion designer?
S: I would say the technical aspect of making clothes. I don’t really make patterns. I have my base pieces I know and love, and then I sort of experiment off of those to create what I see in my mind. I’ve had to make patterns for some projects in the past, and I really just enjoy the more experimental side of making garments. It would be amazing to learn tailoring at some point, but right now I’m just enjoying experimenting.
A: Do you sell your runway garments, or are those currently one of a kind pieces?
S: The pieces I send down the runway are samples that I keep to travel with and show, or to loan to musicians or for editorials. I can make a custom version of each piece (except a few that incorporate vintage fabrics or details like that), and then the runway sort of serves as a little catalogue, and then I just make one special for you.
A: As you continue to gain popularity, do you think you will stay in Austin, or will you move somewhere else?
S: I really love Austin a lot. I love being on the road as well though, so I always enjoy traveling to show other places. I think I’ll probably always have some kind of tie in Austin, but it could be really fun to spend time different places if opportunities came up. Who knows what the future holds? I don’t want to put any kind of box on it. I know for now Austin is where I’m meant to be, and no matter where I am I always find myself missing Austin a bit and all the magic there
A: Now that you’ve showcased your designs at various fashion weeks, which [fashion week] do you think was your favorite so far?
S: I was asked to show in South Walton, Florida last October, and randomly it was a really amazing experience, haha. I met some really lovely people, and everyone was so incredibly nice. The production of the event was top notch, and the way the team worked together to make it all happen was really fabulous. They treated me so amazingly well, and really rolled out the red carpet for me, haha. I showed alongside Christian Siriano, who was like my 8 year old self’s Project Runway Idol. It seemed like everyone in town was really excited about it too, which is always fun, sort of that “circus came to town” feeling which is fun.
A: Did you attend a fashion school or take any courses? Or are you mostly self (or untraditionally) taught?
S: I was homeschooled with my brother the majority of our growing up, so when I was like 8 or 9 my mom found a lady in our town who had sewing skills, and I took classes with her for like a year or so. She taught me the basics of operating a sewing machine and reading a pattern, and then from there I just sort of figured out what else I needed to know, either through Youtube videos or just working with it, haha.
A: Do you ever face any difficulties with being taken seriously, due to your age or location?
A: No, I would say if anything my age has made people more willing to help, or interested people to see what I could do. I’m a virgo and I’m relatively detail orientated when putting together shows or organizing shoots. Being homeschooled I was always around people who were older than me, and I think that really helped instill a sense of equality in me. I’ve never felt like I was too young to do something, or felt like I couldn’t communicate with adults because I was somehow beneath them. I think as long as you take care of whatever it is you’re supposed to take care of, age should never be an issue or color people’s thinking of you. I’ve worked with some adults who have been so immature and unprofessional it’s crazy, so I think age should never be an excuse for someone’s behavior.
A: Do you think you will ever work for a big fashion house, or will you stick with your own brand? If you were to work for a fashion house, which brand would it be?
S: I’d really love to continue building my “brand”, but occasionally I think about how fun that could be to sort of help re-imagine an older house at some point. I really love Schiaparelli, and I feel like her amazingly innovative spirit and whimsical approach to how she made clothes was so amazing. Who knows? I’m totally open to new ideas and projects
A: What big events do you have coming up?
S: I have a bunch of photoshoots coming up in the next few months, and I’m currently on the road delivering some pillows to the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Muesum in Montgomery Alabama, as well as showing a few plastic pieces in the Memphis City Beautiful fundraiser show. I’m starting to dream on Collection 6 and what all it will hold, so I’ll be able to share more on that soon. There may be some international travel next year coming up, so that’s a really exciting prospect. We’ll see I have some pieces coming soon to a shop in Austin that will be available to pop in and pick up off the rack, incorporating embroidery and some fun graphic detailing that I’ll be able to share about really soon too, so stay tuned!
A: Can you give us any hints as to what your next collection will be like?
S: Ooooh… Have you ever seen “Orion: The Man Who Would Be King”? It’s a documentary… There’s gonna be some of that in there. Kinda like a time warp to a reality where Elvis still reigns king 😉 We’ll see how it all comes together…
A: What advice would you give for other aspiring fashion designers?
S: Just go for it. Don’t overthink it. I feel like a lot of people get in too far over their heads really quickly, especially with production and things like that. Just start with what you have, and it’ll grow organically if it’s meant to be. I don’t think you can force fashion, and it really has to be something you put your life into if you want it to speak to people. I feel like if that’s what you want to do, then go for it and don’t care what anyones says along the way.
A: Celebrities tend to gravitate towards certain brands…like Bjork and Lady Gaga with Iris Van Herpen, or the Kardashians with Balmain, etc. …who would you love to dress in your designs?
S: Oh my gosh… I love dressing musicians. I feel like my work really lends itself to stage wear and that sort of thing. I’m open to anyone who wants to wear my work really Obviously I think Bjork is amazing, and it’d be an honor to dress her. I think it’d be really fun to dress Miley Cyrus at some point too, haha. I love working with independent artists too, and really getting to see what they’re trying to put out there, and sort of help that vision come to life.
To check out more of Sloane’s work:
To view her collections:
Collection 1 // Collection 2 // Collection 3 // Collection 4 // Collection 5