Designer Profile: Carissa Melendez

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Age: 21
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
Occupation: University of Texas Textiles and Apparel Design, Business Foundations

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Carissa and I have had a few classes together, but hadn’t ever really talked that much. Recently, she was a TA for the Little Black Dress sewing course that I took last month, so I got to know her a bit better. She has been a huge help to me about planning for my own senior collection. I had really liked her collection for the fashion show and knew I had to feature her on here. I contacted her about it and we met up at Whole Foods awhile back to talk about it. Turns out, we have tons of things in common! Carissa truly has a passion for fashion. The minute we started talking about designing and her senior collection, her eyes just lit up. It is so obvious that she loves what she does. By the end of the evening, I not only felt confident in knowing she had been a good choice for my blog, but also that I had made a new friend (cheesy, but true).

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RS: What does fashion mean to you?

CM: To me, fashion is a way for you to wordlessly express yourself. With your style, you get to show your personality, your fierceness, and your level of boldness. You get to paint on an outfit everyday and show your canvas to the world! I mean, how fun is that? I find it sexy and exciting! Your fashion should describe you. Your fashion choice gives you a chance to really express yourself to the people you are surrounded by. So no, don’t feel lazy and just put on “whatever”… Put on YOU—what makes you feel great and most importantly, what makes you feel like yourself!

RS: How did you get into fashion design?

CM: Oh gosh, I have always been very interested in clothing and how it’s made. I always found it quite intriguing how different fabrics fit the world’s variety of body types! I always loved playing barbies or American Girl Dolls with my sister Nikki and changing their outfits! Dressing up myself was one of my favorite things to do—shopping was always fun because I enjoyed trying on a variety of different items to see how they looked and draped on my body! Being a 5ft 2 in. “curvalicious” woman has always been a little task… I struggle what every curvy woman out there struggles with—fit.

We can find things that fit nicely, but we want items to fit PERFECTLY! (Both on the hips and the booty!!) It’s difficult to find items of clothing that fit absolutely perfect. Finding a pair of jeans that hug great and actually could be pulled over my booty is a journey, and finding dresses that can be pulled over my hips and booty is sometimes a nightmare. But at the end of the day, I love my body that God gave me. So, I decided to make my own body my canvas, and create “new art” for myself. I want to design clothing for the women out there who have the curves and want to (professionally) show them! I want women to be able to try on my garments and it fit exquisitely over all the curvy areas and highlights their beautiful figure. But most of all, I want to create garments that make other curvy women feel gorgeous, confident, and sexy!

I love slim fit clothing, and that is my aesthetic—slim fit, but not too tight. Just enough to show the curves, but loose enough to be modest. And as for menswear, my aesthetic is similar in which I like a European style fit, but again, not too tight, but tapered. And you can’t forget the “Man Butt”—that’s prime when it comes to all my menswear designs. Everyone in the Textiles Program knows that the booty is my favorite part, and the fit on that will always be exquisite! I mean hey admit it, that’s what you’ll be looking at when you see someone from behind, right? I’m being completely serious! So these design aspirations led me here to the Apparel Design Program at the University of Texas at Austin. I have the freedom to created the clothing I want for the body type/customer I choose. I get to pursue my dream of creating customized clothing for both men and women and get to bring a smile to people’s faces when they have clothing that ACTUALLY FITS THEM!

My passion IS fashion. And I do fashion because that’s what makes my heart happy. Now that may sound cheesy, but that’s the sole truth. If I can create clothing that makes men and women feel confident and sexy, but most importantly themselves, then I am doing what I believe I was put here on earth to do. My father always said “Choose a job/career where you can wake up every morning and be excited to go and work.” So I did. I picked what I had the most passion for—Fashion Design. And there hasn’t been a single day that goes by where I’ve regretted that decision. I decided to be a risk taker, and follow my heart.

RS: What are your favorite things to design?

CM: I have two favorite things to design and make: WEDDING GOWNS and MEN’S SUITS.  Ah, I just love taking measurements, and customizing and tailoring those to perfection! Each time presents a new challenge, but nothing is more gratifying than designing super sexy, flattering garments such as those.

RS: What does a typical class day look like for you as a design major?

CM: Oh dear… A typical class day as a design major? Holy moly. Well, first you wake up (if you even actually got to sleep) and get yourself some sort of caffeine—for me and a lot of my friends, it’s coffee. COFFEE IS YOUR BEST FRIEND IN
THIS MAJOR. And if you don’t drink it or like it prior to becoming a designer, haha, honey you will learn to accept it and love it. Once you get to the design lab you claim your space on one of the working tables and immediately get started on
what you need to get finished. You could be working on a variety of things: designing an outfit, draping on your mannequin, pattern drafting, or actually sewing and constructing your garment. Honestly, everybody is usually working on
something different during lab. But most importantly is working on the sewing I think, because that is the chance where if we have questions, we are able to ask our professor or other classmates for advice or guidance. That is the time where
all designers are together, so you want to take advantage of that so if you have questions, there are actually people there who might be able to help you and answer it! Our labs usually last 3-4 hours, then we continue on with our school days. Since we are based in the College of Natural Science, most of us are off to calculus, biology, chemistry, etc. and those of us who are part of UT’s Business Foundations Program (I am) run off to finance, statistics, etc… People sometimes think that all we have are design classes, but they are so wrong. We also have several other classes besides our textile courses to work hard and maintain good grades in! But, after we finish those classes (and we’ve gotten more coffee with a shot of espresso in our system) we head on back to lab! That pretty much sums up our life: design lab.

RS: How do you spend your free time?

CM: Honestly, I never have “free time”… I am always busy, either taking measurements, sewing, or studying. But when I do, I spend a lot of my free time designing things in my head—and on paper— for people I come across that day. I really enjoy making little closets and collections for these “people”. Also, I enjoy spending times with friends, trying new coffee shops, and reading a good book about love, relationships, or romance—ain’t nothing better!

RS: Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

CM: I always get stumped when I am asked what/who is my biggest inspiration…Honestly, it’s my family and close friends I surround myself with. They inspire me to be, well, me. Each and every one of them are so uniquely different. I analyze each individual—their personality, body types, and individual styles—then create them personalized clothing, both in my head and on paper. I find this helpful because I then get to design for a variety of different people with a multitude of styles. This allows me to learn about contrasting fits, patterns, and fabric types (which work on the body type and which don’t). Therefore, I have several imaginary “mini closets” for my friends and design portfolios for myself that showcase a variety of different styles yet with my own take and design aesthetic.

RS: How would you describe your own personal style?

CM: Oh la la… Great question! My style is currently a mixture of things, but definitely a classic, preppy look. I absolutely love wearing dresses, tops, skirts, with some nice classic heels or wedges. Accessories are always simple for me, never taking attention away from the outfit! And I love colors—ALL COLORS! And may favorite part is putting that perfect shade of lipstick for the extra POP to make the outfit 100% complete.

RS: Where do you like to shop?

CM: I have my top three stores I shop at, then I have my casual shop stores. My top three consist of Nordstrom’s, Anthropologie, and Lilly Pulitzer. Those three places that always have what I’m looking for! Then my casual shop stores are Brooks Brothers, Zara, H&M, BCBG, Ann Taylor, J.Crew and White House Black Market. I shop here and there at
Neiman’s, but that can get pricey! My absolute favorite store in the world is Burberry though,—everything from there is the absolute best!!! And when it comes to exercise clothing, you can’t go wrong with some LuLu Lemon! Always a faithful brand, and makes us ladies look H O T when it comes to workin’ out!

RS: Who is your favorite designer or label?

CM: Okay that’s not fair, how can I only pick ONE designer?!?! My top three are Christopher Bailey (Burberry), Zuhair Murad, and Galia Lahav. I am in awe with the creations that these designers and companies have made! But if I had to pick just one… I would go with Burberry. Burberry is my favorite designs for professional clothing (both men and women), hand bags, shoes, scarves, and watches! I love how slim fit the clothing is, and the materials the company chooses to use. They made the trench coat happen, and I will forever look up to that! Their plaid pattern will forever be the pattern of my heart! The colors they use within their collections are all my favorites and I believe my design aesthetic fits perfectly into theirs. When it some to mens suits, the exquisite fit and tailoring is amazing! And let’s not forget the butt—they always make sure the fit on that area of the body is nothing short of flawless!

RS: What’s your favorite fashion trend right now?

CM: I am really liking all the cute, but dainty, cutouts in summer dresses and rompers this summer! Showing a little skin is super cute and flirty! I also am very much into the mid calf length skirts and matching crop tops. Those are always a great option!

RS: What’s one item in your closet that you can’t live without?

CM: Ohhh goodness… This is a tough one! There is this Polo dress I have that I bought with my sister, and I would have to say, it’s probably the most worn dress in my extensive closet! I have this weird rule where if I wear this outfit once, I try not to repeat it for quite awhile… But that dress is my go to! It’s cute, preppy, and all I have to do is whip my hairup in a bun, slide on some Tory Burch sandals, and BOOM, I’m ready to go!

RS: Who is your style icon?

CM: I actually don’t have a style icon. It’s just me, myself, and I. I pick out and create my own style, just to represent me. Soo, I guess if I had to pick, I’d pick me? Haha, sounds kinda weird saying that out loud, but it’s true!

RS: What is your dream job?

CM: I would absolutely love to one day work for Burberry in London, Brooks Brothers, Tom Ford, Vera Wang, Galia Lahav, Alice Temperly, Ralph Lauren… I would satisfied with a job from at any of those design companies! But my absolute dream job would actually be living in Austin, making customized bridals gowns, suits, and tuxedos. Now that, that is what I would love.

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