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Fashion through the eyes of Stephanie Schultz

By STEPHANIE S. BEECHER
Photos by Matt Haas

September 2015

In a city better known for its T-shirt and jeans apparel, Stephanie Schultzís Edwardian-meets-Lolita fashions are an awe-inspiring spectacle to behold. Since launching her bespoke clothing line, Silversšrk, 10 years ago, her growing band of fans have scarcely given her room to breathe. And itís not just her corsets.

When sheís not hovering over her sewing machine, Schultz parlays her whimsical creations all over the country, in photo shoots, arts and craft fairs and other fashion events. This season proves no different. The Racine native is not only at work on her latest fall collection, but is also serving as the designer coordinator for the inaugural Milwaukee Fashion Week, held Sept. 24-26.

So while we could blame her languor on all the work that goes into making those exquisite corsets ó and skirts, hoops and neck collars ó by doing so we may never see them again. And that would be such a shame.

M: A lot of fashion reality shows glamorize the life of a designer, but whatís it really like?

SS: I design, cut, sew ó everything that an entrepreneur does. I typically work two to three part-time jobs on top of this. I usually book one event a month. For example, I am going to Illinois because they have a summer art series and Steampunk. I am going to be vending there. I do commission work, two collections a year and events. I did eight fashion shows last year, and this year I am doing five or six. Itís still too many, but any exposure is exposure. You have to have a madness to you.

M: What inspires your whimsical designs?

SS: I was originally inspired by Japanese street fashion (Lolita). Growing as a designer and expanding my horizons, I am trying to encompass many different genres that inspire me. A little bit of goth, Steampunk, high fashion. Some of my favorite couture designers include Alexander McQueen and Jean-Paul Gautier. Those are the people who do all sorts of different things. You kind of have to give yourself a label in some way, so people know who you are, but I donít like labeling. I just like to make beautiful things.

M: Milwaukeeís fashion crowd has attempted to put on a fashion week before. Why is this fashion week different?

SS: Thereís a lot more fashion than in years past. We have 23 incredibly talented designers, and they range from Mount Mary University student designers all the way up to well-known local staples. Each night is going to be a different aesthetic. There are more designers that are going to be participating and vending. We can go to fashion shows until the cows come home, but how can you get those products to the customers if you donít have a platform to do it? This event is a great way to bridge that gap for our designers. Weíre also benefitting a nonprofit (the homeless youth advocacy group Pathfinders).

M: Milwaukee has such a vibrant arts community, but many people say our fashion scene is lagging. Why do you think that is?

SS: It needs more exposure. We need representation in boutiques. Maybe itís our nine months of winter that makes us not want to wear cool clothes. Iím sure itís a mixture of things. A lot of the problem comes down to mass manufacturing. How do we justify our costs (as designers) when itís OK to buy eight T-shirts in different colors instead of investing in quality? We are a great city for the arts, but we want to shed more light on the fashion thatís here in Milwaukee. There are a lot of fantastic products.

M: Youíve been brought on as the designer coordinator for Milwaukee Fashion Week, but youíre also a designer. Whatís it like to be straddling both fences?

SS: Well, I definitely have experience in event planning, but itís tough because Iím coordinating and making sure I have enough time to create product ó there is no such thing as being bored.

M: What do you hope people get out of this event?

SS: I hope they gain a better understanding of how many talented people we have here in Milwaukee and that they need peopleís support in every way. Fashion does not have to be for the vain or uppity ó fashion is for everyone. I think in Wisconsin especially, people are afraid of making waves with their fashion. If I am leaving my house for any reason, you better believe I am dressing to the nines because ĎWhy not?!í Itís (about) dressing to the person who you really want to be. Sometimes I donít feel like myself without wearing ridiculous platform shoes.

Milwaukee Fashion Week will bring the cityís fashion scene to the limelight Thursday, Sept. 24 through Saturday, Sept. 26. Venue and ticket information can be found at milwaukeefashionweek.com.

 

 

 


This story ran in the September 2015 issue of: