Junior Brooke Ullman never imagined that she would be standing backstage at Asheville Fashion Week, about to watch models walk the runway in her own designs.
“The ‘wow moment’ definitely came when it was our time to go and we heard our music playing, and were watching our first model go out on the runway. It was such an amazing feeling,” Ullman said.
Ullman was one of approximately 15 designers to participate in the inaugural Asheville Fashion Week, which was held Aug. 5-8. Ullman, who had heard about the show through Roberson apparel teacher Mary Smith, originally applied to help out as a volunteer; however, through her connections with Mary Grace Larson, a senior at the North Carolina School of Science and Math (NCSSM), she secured a spot.
“Mary Grace also signed up, and she put in her description that she had been in a fashion show before at NCSSM. They were like ‘we have an extra slot… do you or a friend want to show anything?’ She told me about that, and we decided that we would put our stuff together and be in the show together,” Ullman said.
Though they had not worked together officially prior to the show, Ullman and Larson had worked together once on a dress for fun. Now, the two are collaborating on a new collection to be shown during spring fashion shows across the region.
“We are collaborating with the same type of fabric, so the outfits correlate. We’re not planning on making anything together, it’s more similar ideas. We collaborate a lot, like ‘oh, do you think this will look good or that will look good.’ That is really helpful,” Ullman said.
Ullman first began sewing when she was 10 after attending a summer camp held by Asheville Cotton. However, after taking apparel classes her freshman year, Ullman learned the skills needed to create more complex clothes. Smith feels that Brooke has the potential to make it far as a designer.
“She works really, really hard and has a good eye for things. I just see something different in Brooke. We would watch Fashion Week on the smartboard [in Apparel], and she was glued. You could tell she loved it. She would get ideas and send me pictures,” Smith said. “She’ll get on a dress form and start putting stuff together, and I’ll watch her keep trying to change it. This summer, she said she couldn’t find a cape sleeve. So we went back and forth a few times until I found one for her, because she had an idea in her head for a top she wanted to make.”
Ullman believes one of the hardest aspects of fashion design is coming up with new ideas to make.
“I always have a bunch of projects going on at once. I’m really trying to come up with my complete own ideas, so a lot of times I’ll see something that I want to make but can’t, and I have to come up with something else,” Ullman said.
As a three-sport athlete, member of a clogging dance team, and an AP student, Ullman finds it difficult to balance her time and make room for sewing.
“I’ve always been super-motivated in school, but now with all of this happening, I just want to [sew] and not do [homework]. If I need to work on a specific outfit I would put off homework to get the outfit done, so I definitely need to learn how to scale back.,” Ullman said.
Junior Olivia Berry participated as a photographer for a photoshoot featuring Ullman’s designs on several Roberson students.
“We worked together, and she told me what she wanted and what her ideas were. I went off of what I thought would be good. Her clothes are very colorful, so we tried to pick places that would fit the clothes,” Berry said.
Since the show, Ullman has been approached by several photographers and designers in the area in response to the collection. Ullman believes the feeling of recognition is well-received.
“It’s really cool that all of these people are willing to work with us even though we are only 16. It’s a really good feeling to know that people believe in me, especially when before fashion week I didn’t believe in myself as a designer that much.,” Ullman said.
Smith feels that Ullman’s work ethic and dedication is what sets her apart.
“She doesn’t take no for an answer, and even though (the business)is very competitive, she works so hard because she loves it. If someone tells her they don’t like her stuff, she just keeps right on going.. I can’t wait to see where she ends up,” Smith said.