Lauryn Higgins is a native of the Tarheel State and currently a graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she is studying...
Photograph by Gustina Photography
It’s an overcast Tuesday night. Tourists have crowded around the “Before I Die” wall, and I’m doing my best to get into the door of Doc Chey’s, dry and unbothered to take pictures of out of town soccer teams. After five minutes of fighting lines and saying hi to a friend, I meet my talented dinner date, Tricia Ellis, and we take a seat. I have to mention, Tricia is dressed in all black, hair perfectly quaffed, as if she just couldn’t be bothered by the rain, and the most bad ass earrings you ever saw, dangling perfectly by her cheekbones. The hostess seats us, informs us about the specials and immediately compliments her hair, while I, a wet mop of blonde strands, chuckle and slide into my seat. Our waitress appears a few minutes later, reminds us of the specials, and gasps in excitement, “I love your shirt!” Tricia smiles and politely says thank you. Meanwhile, I’m sliding further into my chair. Ellis is just too cool for this town.
We order and quickly begin to catch up on life and what each of us have been up to. Tricia and I attended the same small liberal arts college – I graduated last spring; she has one more semester. We harp on the pitfalls and reminisce on the memories, until we get to the real point of our dinner.
Ellis is the youngest fashion designer in the inaugural, Asheville Fashion Week. At twenty-two, she will be presenting her first line, a collection of ten looks all stitched and designed entirely by her. After beginning an internship with Sarah Merrell, community director of Asheville Fashion Week, Merrell approached Ellis about creating a line, for the upcoming show, with fellow colleagues and students in her college courses. Due to scheduling conflicts and students being absent, for summer vacation, Ellis then approached Merrell with creating her own line, made entirely by herself. Merrell immediately gave her the green light and Ellis was off to the races.
From Ellis's portfolio
Once a theatre and dramatic arts student at Penn-Griffin School for the Arts, a magnet high school in High Point, NC, Ellis had always had a love for fashion. Her earliest memories of fashion involve her mother and magazines. She recounts, “My mother was a seamstress. She let me cut out everything I loved from fashion magazines. She would then recreate those looks for me. I always enjoyed fashion, but I put it on the backburner. For the longest time I wanted to be a neurologist or a professor, so fashion was just a second thought.” Well, that second thought has led Ellis to style photo shoots for Mountain Style Magazine, as well as monthly WLOS morning television segments, to work alongside Asheville’s prominent designers, and learn from her heroes.
Her new line will premiere on the second to last day of Asheville Fashion Week and will have a cohesive theme of a neutral base palate with pops of color – primarily blue. “I want the clothes to speak for themselves. I’m keeping the silhouettes clean and constructing clothes that I would wear. I am putting a lot of pressure on myself to create the best work possible, because this is my first chance to show everyone who I am and what I am capable of.”
And as far as being the youngest designer in Asheville Fashion Week, Ellis cringes at the thought of it. “It’s very intimidating to be on the same stage as these designers, but given this opportunity, is incredibly exciting. I’ve been able to meet so many new people and through that I feel so blessed.”
“We miss out on so many opportunities and connections by not saying hello, or extending a hand, and that really frustrates me. I hope by doing this, I’ll make at least one connection that can carry me into the next phase. Or at least inspire someone to chase their dream and believe it can be a reality.”
You can find more information about Asheville Fashion Week and check out Ellis’s portfolio.