We can't get enough of this month's Women Who Inspire Us feature! Meet Shernett Swaby, Fashion Artist and founder of SWABY, a showroom that carries couture women’s apparel designed by Shernett, herself. Shernett was born in Jamaica, grew up in Canada and is now based in Chicago. She was a top 5 finalist on the television series, Project Runway. Read on to learn more about her journey as a designer!
1. You grew up in Jamaica, moved to Canada, and now reside in the United States. How were those transitions influential as you were learning how to become a fashion designer?
All of these moves were apart of my journey in becoming a designer. Jamaica is where I first learned to sew from my mother who was a seamstress. When I moved to Canada I was presented more opportunities than I would have in Jamaica, like attending school for design. At the International Academy of Design I learned how to start my own business. After having several Swaby locations in Canada me and my husband moved to the United States. Coming to Chicago was an exciting new step for my business and allowed me to bring my clothing in front of a larger market. Chicago turned out to be a great fit for me. The city has a more open minded audience that wants one of a kind avant-garde pieces that my work represents.
2. Your work is known as “edgy with a wearable artistic flair.” How did you create that aesthetic and why?
I use my collections to express myself as an artist and create something original and interesting. I like to use a lot of leather, and play with different fabrics to make three dimensional shapes for architectural details. I ended up with that style because all of those things represent a more androgynous aesthetic that describes my personality.
3. Elaborate on your mission statement which is to use a detailed oriented collection to promote and celebrate individualism in the fashion industry.
With all of my collections I focus on the detail whether it is flowers, origami, or bubbles. Those interesting details are what makes it special and different. I think my creations encourage people to think outside the box. The people who wear my clothing see my work as an opportunity to celebrate their individualism and embrace being different.
4. How do you stay inspired?
My dream of seeing my clothing on the runways in Paris keeps me inspired. I am continuously thinking of ideas to get my work around the world, and that is the motivating factor that keeps me creating everyday.
5. What is it like being an entrepreneur in the fashion industry?
It is very challenging! It is such an over saturated industry that is very competitive to make it, so it is valuable to have something unique to set you apart. However, it is an opportunity to earn a living doing something that you love.
6. Tell us about the SWABY showroom.
The showroom is open by appointment only which gives each customer one on one time with me as your own personal shopper/tailorist. We offer free alterations because it is important to me that each piece is a perfect fit to your unique body. We host open door events monthly at the showroom listed on our website. The first Friday of every month are “Fashion Fridays” for customers to enjoy discounts and complimentary wine while you shop!
7. Tell us about your Canada Project Runway experience! Why Project Runway? What did you learn? Do you have a favorite garment that you made on the show?
The Project Runway experience was very intense and fast paced, but I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to be on the show. I loved watching the show and when it came to Canada my husband encouraged me to apply for it. The show taught me the importance of being true to your own style. You have to believe in what you're doing and your point of view as an artist. My favorite garment that I ended up winning was for the Bratz doll challenge.
8. For someone looking to break into the industry, what advice would you give him/her?
My advice to someone looking to be a fashion designer is to know all sides of the industry. Creative talent is important but it is also just as important to understand business. If you want to have your work out in the world you must know how to get it to the marketplace, and make a profit to sustain a business.