After a self-imposed five-year hiatus from designing, Sherrita Davis has returned with her new menswear line, Mable Grahm. This triple-threat is a designer, writer, and amateur photographer. The collection named for her maternal grandmother will make its debut next month. The twenty-something designer has certainly not been resting on her laurels, a published fashion writer, she has already penned several fashion reviews and two books [Big Phat Fashion Resource Guide, a comprehensive directory of fashion on the internet and Professional Garment Production 101: A Guide for Beginners] the latter of which has been incorporated into many design program curriculums. I was recently invited to her Upper Manhattan studio to get a sneak preview of her collection for Spring 2007.
From the forward of Professional Garment Production 101: A Guide for Beginners, 'Confidence comes from knowing what you're doing.' The Philadelphia University alum who studied fashion design, participated in beauty pageants as a child. A former Little Miss Rochester, Ms. Davis was trained to be ladylike with etiquette lessons. A self-professed girlie-girl to the third power, the precocious youngster was armed with her first sewing machine at the age of six. She learned to sew from her mother who was a master seamstress. To think, it all started in grade school, while her mother designed her pageant costumes; she created patterns for her Barbie® dolls' clothes. As a student, many of her designs were featured at her Alma Mater; one of her collections was shown in the school's annual fashion show. Her professors dubbed her 'the tactile designer' due to Ms. Davis' implementation of texture in many of her designs.
In 2001, Ms. Davis debuted Ita*Slick, her highly-anticipated collection of womenswear and menswear. Shortly thereafter, she left for London. She says of her return to the design world, 'It's been an organic process.' When I asked her why she chose to design a menswear line at this juncture as opposed to womenswear, children's or accessories, the young designer told me she's always had an interest in menswear. She explained, 'It was more of a challenge' in school the emphasis was on womenswear,' she likes this side of designing. It challenges her to think outside of the box and regular design philosophies. 'The thought of being inspired inspires me,' confides Ms. Davis. Citing photography, another passion, as a source of inspiration for her collection, she is also stimulated by books, programs, or just walking down the street, 'just feeling good and building off that feeling' when approaching her design aesthetic.
I asked her if there's a starting a point, i.e. fabrics, cuts, themes. She elaborates, 'yes and no,' a starting point for this line was her desire to create something which combined, layered if you will, all the elements of creativity' different shapes drawn from her love of sewing, incorporating images from her photography, employing her sense for textures, giving things a handcrafted feeling, e.g. hand-painting images instead of using a silkscreen. Encompassing all the elements of literal and visual textures is the designer's signature detail.
For the most part, menswear tends to be rather traditional and straightforward, so I ask what makes Mable Grahm so unique. 'Embracing all of the classic elements while adding details, another dimension, a classic cut with unexpected details,' expounds the designer. 'My customer is an arty professional, someone who has the ability to be more creative in his dress, maybe the guy who would wear puma sneakers with his suit.' Ms. Davis hopes to design for a customer that will grow with her. She's currently scouting boutiques, with targeted locations in SOHO, Chicago, and D.C. The collection of 19 pieces includes an assortment of casual suiting, shirts, outerwear, and tailored accessories with price points from $35 to $220.
Highlights from the new collection include her snap front twill safari jacket, the luxurious cashmere hoodie, and graphic tees. Ms. Davis updates conventional pinstripes, chalk-stripes, seersucker, and jacquards with asymmetrical pockets, appliques, contrasting shirttails, and kangaroo pouches and uses print-shop technology to enhance images. She wants to create a vintage-feeling with her designs, meshing traditional elements with innovative design details, such as denim with white cross-stitching and double satin v-neck vests. Even her accessories have clever accents, from her crisscross shantung ties to her monogrammed pocket squares. She said she wanted to imbue the classics with her subtle details without becoming to costumey or gimmicky.
To quote an excerpt from Big Phat Fashion Resource Guide, 'Knowledge is the most fashionable accessory.' Ms. Davis has combined her photography, graphic and design skills to create pieces of wearable art. Her goal is to further expand her abilities to combine her many artistic talents into a provocative, aesthetically pleasing mixed media project. Following the fashion industry's lead to raise awareness and funding for social causes, Ms. Davis has pledged to donate 5% of the revenue generated from her collection to breast cancer research. It's a cause near and dear to her heart, her grandmother [the collection's namesake] is a breast cancer survivor. The Mable Grahm Spring 2007 collection will officially launch September 7th on the eve of New York Fashion Week at a private gallery space in New York.
For more information, please visit www.mablegrahm.com
Photographer Jay Sullivan
Images provided courtesy of the Davis Group.