Designer Profile — Sheila Frank (New York)

Tell us a little about you and how you became a designer.

As a child I was always drawing and creating.  I would tape together toilet paper on my barbie dolls, to fashion a dress. I would illustrate ball gowns, not realizing they were inspired by the 18th century. I would assume this would have something to do with all the old movies I watched with my Mommom (my mother’s mom). Mommom taught me how to hand sew at the age of 6.  I didn’t initially think I would fall into fashion.  I studied Dance and Fine Arts. I went on to College for Fine Arts, and my projects began to revolve around fashion. That was the aha moment, so I transferred and graduated from Moore College of Art and Design with a BFA in Fashion.

What came first, the RTW or the Swimwear?  Do you work on these collections as one, or as separate collections?

In college, my Senior Collection was resort wear. It had bits of RTW and Swim.  Upon completion of graduation, I launched my Swim Collection from two of the suits that were in the Senior Collection.  I didn’t want to be thought of as a one note designer, so I jumped into RTW. I love RTW, there is so much you can do with it. RTW and Swim are both under my Sheila Frank label. My swim collection is available mid July at EVA.

What’s the inspiration behind your latest collection?

I am drawn to the idea of telling a 3D story. I like to blend fashion and art to create the overall concept. In the Fall 2011 Collection, I pulled my ideas from the Industrial Revolution.  This is when hand and home production was taken over by factories. I couldn’t find a fabric that I fully wanted to commit to, so I sort of created my own.  With the silhouettes I designed, I pieced together linear panels on the bodice.  I hand pin tucked a dot fabric, added sheers on top of solids, etc.

What’s it like working in an atmosphere where fashion moves so quickly?

As a young designer building a brand, I would say it is scary, unpredictable and exciting.

What’s the difference between trends and style for you?  What comes first when you design?

Trends are disposable. Style is timeless. My steps for designing, is concept first.  I day dream a lot… and my mind makes up incredible stories.  I visualize the overall look and feel of the photograph my garments will create.  From the concept, I think about season, then color story, then I pull fabrics, and start designing.

In this era, fashion is dictate in large by the conglomerates.  How can independent designers compete?

As an independent designer, I would say, stay true to your vision, but know that not everyone will like it.  In order to be successful, you have to sell. You will have to compromise with ideas at times. Not everyone can be an avante garde designer. Find a happy medium where you can be different and marketable.  If your are a womenswear designer, think about real women, not just the 6′ tall runway model.

You are vocal about not using animal furs, etc., how much do social causes effect what you do?

I am not an activist and will not push my views on anyone. It is just something I feel. I feel no desire to skin an animal and wear it.

What’s next for Sheila Frank?

We are closing sales for Fall 2011. Whilst working on Spring 2012, which I can’t wait to launch! And there is talks of a collaborative new label. Exciting things on the rise.

Swim Collection available at EVA, 355a Bowery, New York, NY 10003,

Visit Sheila Frank’s website for more information.

“Sweet Love Story” (pink background) photos by Quintin Perez and Ron Erick Odehigue

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