Sarah Merrell serves as Community Director for Asheville Fashion Week and directs fashion shows in the area. She is the Digital Media and Production Manager for Mary Beth West...
A shot from Rachel's Lookbook
By Sarah Merrell
When I saw a Facebook post by a new Asheville designer, Rachel Weisberg, seeking "fit models" for her Spring/Summer 2016 clothing line, I didn’t know what to expect. Although I have worked in the modeling industry in various cities for over 12 years and had definitely heard of it, I have never actually been used as a fit model. Fashion designers often seek fit models to use in their design and manufacturing process because they basically act as a live mannequin, ensuring the garment will fit a real human being. It peaked my interest, so I responded to the post and landed my first fit modeling gig. Little did I know what an amazing experience it would be. Unlike other types of modeling, being a fit model allowed me to experience the entire creative process of fashion design and production from start to finish. As a fashion fanatic, this was a dream come true.
At the first fitting, the designs were like first drafts and were very basic and unfinished. As the fit process went on, I was able to see the garments transform with each visit to her studio. While there, I loved seeing the other parts of the process unfold – like the sketches, the naming of the garments, and the design of the hang tags. By the last fitting, I could see her line taking shape and could envision her stunning finished products. With a propensity for natural and sustainable fabrics, her garments are handmade using materials like organic cotton, flax silk, hemp denim, bamboo, recycled muslin, and voile, and then hand dyed to produce stunning colors like sky blues, vibrant yellows, and creamy whites, just to name a few.
Model Taylor Dallis
Once the garments were finished, it was time to photograph them for her Spring/Summer 2016 lookbook. Designers use lookbooks to show their collections, and since Rachel would be showcasing at the Axis Show in New York, it would allow buyers to see what the garments look like on an actual person as opposed to just on the hanger. For the lookbook shoot, Rachel enlisted some of the best talent Asheville has to offer: Hair styling by Amy Day Dougherty of Nebula Beauty Lab, makeup by Leigha Beck, and models Patrice Wilson, Casey Puhr, Nichole Martinez, Aubrey Huntley, Taylor Dallis, Amy Elizabeth Shreb, and myself. Her photographer for the shoot, Tom Clark Photo, traveled all the way from Miami to capture it all. The shoot not only included Rachel’s Spring/Summer 2016 apparel, but also jewelry designs produced by Amy Elizabeth Sreb. The overall look for the shoot reflected her aesthetic, with models’ hair in sexy, natural waves and makeup complimenting the colors of the pieces. The models went barefoot and struck graceful poses that showed off the features of the garments. At the Axis Show, Asheville designer Tracey McBride joined Rachel since Tracey’s collection of bags, hats, and accessories pair perfectly with Rachel’s apparel.
Model Casey Puhr
While being part of the design process was memorable, getting to know Rachel was a great experience too. She’s creative and visionary while also being a savvy business woman, and has a personality that is funny and likeable. As a designer that is still fairly new to Asheville, and her lookbook images going public, I asked her to share some information on her background, aesthetic, inspiration and goals:
Sarah Merrell: What brought you to Asheville?
Rachel: MOUNTAINS and fresh air.
Sarah: What was your inspiration for your Spring/Summer 2016 line?
Rachel: My inspiration for this collection is the snow melting into spring and the beginning of a new whole Earth cycle. The feeling of being awakened. When the trees grow back and things begin to evolve. With an ethereal feeling and mystical beauty. Color has become a recognizable element to my style. The natural characteristics of the hand dye process causes the fabric to slightly vary which creates an aspect of individuality to each dye lot.
Sarah: What was your favorite moment from the Spring/Summer 2016 look book shoot?
Rachel: The love and good energy that was present. Being new to Asheville (having moved here in February 2015) and having so many beautiful inspiring women like models, the hairstylist, and the makeup artist, be a part of my look book was surreal.
Sarah: You're showcasing your designs at the Axis Show in New York. What are the benefits of doing this show? How will it help grow your business?
Rachel: This show will help me expand my brand in a more realistic sustainable way. Switching to wholesale production allows me to keep up with my orders and branch out to different stores and parts of the world.
Sarah: You participated in the Catching Dreams Bohemian Fashion Show. Do you plan to do more fashion shows in the future? If so, which ones do you have in mind?
Rachel: I love fashion shows, styling models and watching them dance down the runway. Most likely, I will end up showing this Spring/Summer 2016 collection downtown at TWIST boutique, presentation style, to celebrate!
Sarah: What is your ultimate dream or goal for your designs?
Rachel: My dream would be to create a living wage, ethical garment factory located in Asheville. The garment industry has an ugly history and I think the creation and production of each piece is ultimately the most important aspect...I believe creating with intention and purpose, employing and contributing to the community. Ultimately I would love to just keep designing and making clothing and products – pretty much my favorite thing to do!
Sarah: Your designs are absolutely stunning, where can your designs be found or purchased?
Rachel: Locally you can shop my full collection downtown at TWIST boutique, as well as boutiques across the country and online at rachel-weisberg.com
- Designer: Rachel Weisberg
- Jewelry: Designs by Rachel Weisberg | production by Amy Elizabeth Sreb
- Photographer: Tom Clark Photo
- Hair: Amy Day Dougherty of Nebula Beauty Lab
- Makeup: Leigha Beck
- Models: Patrice Wilson, Casey Puhr, Sarah Merrell, Nichole Martinez, Aubrey Huntley, Taylor Dallis, Amy Elizabeth Sreb