With a fashion career that has been going strong since 1969, Stephen Burrows is not only an inspiration, but also a mentor. The fashion design seniors at the SCAD-Atlanta campus had input from Burrows throughout the process of building their collections. With much excitement, he traveled to Savannah to witness the 2012 SCAD Fashion Show. District seized the opportunity to interview this fashion icon.
District: When did you first become interested in fashion?
Stephen Burrows: In college, actually. I was going to college to be an art teacher. I went to an art school for high school and I used to sketch dresses for my mambo partner. I’d sketch dresses that I thought my mambo partner should wear because I was big into the mambo, but I was actually going to be an art teacher. I changed my mind when you had to pick your major the second year. I thought I’d try my hand at fashion design, just because an illustrator just illustrates someone else’s dress and I wanted to be the one to think of what the dress was. So I left the Philadelphia Museum College of Art and switched to FIT in New York.
District: So fashion was often influenced by music for you?
Burrows: Yes. Music, the human body, dancing and moving.
District: What direction do you think fashion is heading in now?
Burrows: Oh dear. Well, it’s unfortunate there’s so much trending going on, because it makes everything look so uniform and everything ends up looking alike. I’d like fashion to go in the other direction, because fashion is putting together pieces that you find from everyone and how you put it together is what makes fashion, so I’d like to see more of that than just following the trends.
District: What are common mistakes that you see new designers making?
Burrows: Just doing things that aren’t necessarily wearable and only caring about that. You have to care about wearable and the artistic side. You’re trying to marry the two things together so you can have a healthy business, because that’s your ultimate goal. If that’s what your business is and how you plan to make money, you need to compromise a little bit to make things sell-able and still hopefully have some fun in it, a sense of humor, and some fashion to it as a component for you to play with. As an adult, our clothes are our toys.
District: Here at SCAD we learn that being talented isn’t enough these days. Emerging designers need business knowledge and the ability to network and successfully market themselves. If you were to be graduating this year, what would your first step be?
Burrows: Making sure that my CV or resume, coverbook, my portfolio was up to date and modern and concise and exciting, hopefully.
District: What catches your attention when you see other designs?
Burrows: Well, first of all, if I like it. You find things you like from different people, not necessarily the whole thing, but you find pieces that you like and that, to me, is what makes fashion. It’s not necessarily one person that you go to all the time. Although, if that’s what you like, that’s what you like. It’s just mixing different components of your wardrobe together and sometimes the bums on the street, the homeless people, dress better than regular people. They put things together and they don’t even know what they did and it has a sense of humor, and that inspires me a lot.
District: What has been your impression of Savannah?
Burrows: It’s a beautiful town, this is the first time I’ve been here. It’s just so green, beautiful, quaint, quiet and nice.
District: Is there anything else you would like to say to the SCAD students?
Burrows: Take some business classes and learn something about the business you’re going to be in and what it takes to have a healthy business. You should know something about it even if you don’t really care about it … I didn’t care, it’s too complicated for me, but it’s good to know.Contact Jaquelin Gasc .