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.
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
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
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.
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.