All in Auld
Local fashion designer defies odds
By Holly A. PhillipsPosted Jun 13, 2012
Two weeks ago, Anthony Ryan Auld did something in Baton Rouge that’s never been done before – he hosted a fashion week. A series of events that are normally reserved for bigger, posh cities such as New York, Los Angeles, or even New Orleans, Baton Rougeans got a taste of the fashion world. And it was delicious.
Auld made early impressions when he became the first design student from Louisiana State University to win “Best in Show” at Fashion Group International’s Dallas Career Day, which earned him a full scholarship to the Paris-American Academy. It was a huge accomplishment, especially for a guy who thought he was meant to do graphic design.
It wasn’t the first time Auld would defy the odds.
He continued to soar in the fashion scene, taking first place in the Vitamin Water Competition at the Shaw Center, and showed a full collection at New Orleans Fashion Week, all before graduating with a degree in textile merchandising.
But the world hadn’t seen him yet. Then came season nine of Lifetime’s Project Runway. Auld appeared on the premier of the show, with more than just his designs to tell his story.
Project of a lifetime
The first episode opened with Auld meeting the judges, fashion consultant Tim Gunn, fashion designer Michael Kors, Marie Claire fashion director Nina Garcia, and wonder woman Heidi Klum, who quickly fell in love with Auld’s unique style.
Between showing them his designs, he casually mentioned he was colorblind and that he had beaten testicular cancer. He was determined to let his sewing speak for itself.
For the first challenge, the designers were told to create a garment using their pajamas and bed sheets. Auld created a tank top and shorts, keeping him in the contest. In episode two, Auld grabbed the judges’ attention when he created a cocktail dress out of birdseed.
“I kind of just really took it upon myself to not pick something that was a textile,” Auld told the judges. “So everything is seeds. This is the result: a human birdfeeder, I guess.”
The third episode called for teamwork, as Auld was paired with designer Laura Kathleen. The two combined their aesthetic, creating a red floor-length gown fit for a model on stilts (literally). Their design won, and Auld graciously gave Kathleen the win. He was quickly becoming a favorite among viewers and the judges.
In episode six, Auld claimed his first win with the avant-garde challenge. He worked with a student from the Harlem School of the Arts, who was the inspiration for his blue and green gown that had the illusion of being painted.
But it was the challenge in episode 10, to create a modern look inspired by ‘70s fashion, that sent Auld packing.
“I feel really good about my time here,” he told the camera, in his exit interview. “Just from being on the show, coming from Louisiana and coming to New York, it has done nothing but reinforce who I am as a designer.”
Auld returned to Baton Rouge, ready to embark on the goal he’d always dreamed of, dressing the everyday person.
“I love to design for everyday people,” he said. “If I were to start a line and actually see it on someone on the street, that would be a perfect moment for me.”
Off he went, trying to make a career in an industry that no one knew existed in Louisiana.
Fashion for the masses
“We don’t have a reputation of good fashion,” he told me during fashion week. “But we can change that one person at a time.”
Prior to Project Runway, Auld created the Rock One movement to spread cancer awareness and bring a positive light to fighting the illness. After the show, he was provided with a larger platform for the movement and has since awarded two local women with makeovers, courtesy of Rock One.
I ran into Auld for the first time about three months ago. We passed each other on the sidewalk outside of Anthropologie in Perkins Rowe. At first, I wasn’t sure it was him, but his amazing mohawk and tight, colored jeans gave him away.
“Ryan?” I asked. He acknowledged me like a longtime friend. Although we had only spoken through phone and email, I suppose seeing someone on a reality show sometimes has the feeling of being more.
“What are you up to?” I continued.
“I’ll show you,” he said, walking briskly toward Paris Parker. He waved his arm in front of an empty store. “I just got the keys yesterday.”
Auld had done the unthinkable, yet again. He got a prime location for a store, but instead of making it a boutique, he was simply going to sew there, for all to see.
“It’s very ‘do not feed the designers,’” he said. “I will work in there during the day and then at night, if people want to stop in and look around, they can.”
It was a genius idea to get the community involved. Weeks later, Auld and Scene magazine hosted an opening at the once-empty store. It was there, among Auld’s interns, family, friends, and fiancé, that I realized what a talent we had right here in our little city.
The room was packed with fabrics for his upcoming collection, on the walls there were inspiration boards with some of his drawings and works from one of his favorite designers, Alexander McQueen, or as Auld calls him, “The Queen.”
It was a night to celebrate Auld, but it was also the start of a marketing push for the next big thing – Mode Fashion Week.
Fashion Week, Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge’s first ever fashion week promised to be five days of events, including seminars, parties, designer previews, all capped off with a runway show featuring the collections from Auld and three of his fellow Project Runway season nine designers.
Aside from a minor scheduling glitch, Mode Fashion Week delivered. A week before the events started, I stopped by Auld’s studio to pick up my pass (a black card hanging from a bold yellow lanyard) expecting to see an intern. But no, it was Auld himself, sitting at a card table, crossing off names on paper amidst fabric scraps, naked mannequins, and cups of colored pencils.
It’s one of many things I’ve come to admire about Auld: He’s never too good for the dirty work. To top it off, he always seems to be in a good mood.
Mode Fashion Week started with two seminars, Going Green (the importance of being ecofriendly) and Being Pretty Isn’t Easy (fashion merchandising). The official launch was Tuesday night, marked by a party hosted at Splash.
The week followed with additional workshops, a cocktail party at Hello Sushi, a night out at The Office, and a viewing of work from local designers including Jill Unis, Natasha Miller, Molly Stackhouse-Emst, Christopher Rogers, and Lauren Weiner.
One of my favorite parts of the week was a seminar on handbags, “It’s All About the Bag.” Hosted at Kiki, Auld taught us the sure-signs of a quality bag, from topstitching to the lining. As a bag lover (not a bag lady), I was so in awe of this moment I could’ve drooled. We were in the presence of work created by the greats – Marc Jacobs, Rebecca Minkoff, and Anya Hindmarch – precious things I will never be able to afford. But in that moment, I could touch the rare purse made of stingray, gasp at the beautiful alligator clutch (costing nearly twice my monthly rent), and judge a wall of quilted Marc Jacobs designs, in a hue called “concrete.”
“I really just think everyone should carry around clutches all the time,” Auld said. “But if you’re going to invest in a bag, pick a neutral, something that you can carry a lifetime. Fashion is cyclical, so until we’re wearing rocket boots, every trend is just going to come back around.”
During the last seminar of the week (“Don’t Overdo It”) on styling tips, Auld discussed the balance of shoes, accessories, and shape that will complete a look. But as the hour came to a close, he reverted back to his original mission.
“Most people can’t afford clothes from Marc Jacobs or Karl Lagerfeld,” he said. “Those are the people I want to dress, the every day people. I’d rather see someone walking to work in something I designed than on the red carpet. When you buy ready-to-wear, you live your life in them.”
Later that evening, Auld joined his Project Runway designers at Perkins Rowe for a meet and greet. It was the last event before the finale, the runway show. Saturday evening, hundreds of locals gathered in the Belle of Baton Rouge Atrium for Mode Fashion Week’s main event.
Once again, I was in awe. A 90-foot runway split a neat square of white chairs, surrounded by booths of food and wine. It was my first fashion show, and I was giddy. After the sun went down, the show began with Kathleen’s collection, followed by McKinley, Keeter, and finally Auld.
The looks were the same style we saw (and loved) on Project Runway, creative patterns (made by Auld himself, magnified images of rock) mixed with textures. It was a bittersweet moment, as Auld was already packed for his next big thing: New York.
Between downing booze and stuffing my face at the after party, I got to thinking. Auld deserves a big, fat thank you. So here goes.
Thank you for creating such a fun week for those of us who love fashion, even if it’s just in the magazine pages. I will probably never be the woman people look to for clothing advice, but if they do, I can share some of your tips. Thanks for claiming Louisiana as your state, even though we might wear the wrong things sometimes. You are an inspiration to this city. You have shown us that living in Louisiana, a place that isn’t known for big city dreams, doesn’t mean amazing things can’t happen. You’ve broken several stereotypes, and are living proof that cancer is beatable, fashion is everywhere, being gay doesn’t have a certain look or list of characteristics, and that nothing is beyond reach.
So, thanks. And don’t forget about Louisiana, because we won’t forget you.
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